Happiness/Freedom ~ Andrea, the real deal

“How do you tell everyone you love how important they were to you when you were alive?”  Andrea Walker, August 20, 2011

Last week, August 21st, I found this blog: Happiness/Freedom.

I had in fact come across it a few months ago but didn’t have time that day to read it at any length, and although it moved me I did not notice that it was actually written by an old student and friend of mine from San Francisco. As soon as I realized this, I tried to get in touch with her. But she had written her last words. On Friday August 26, at 2.32pm, Andrea died.

Andrea’s writing was already poignant, and now with her death it has become to my mind like a masterpiece of reflections on impermanence and love. I keep wanting to go back to it. She is unflinchingly honest. Her style is light and devoid of self-pity — despite her tremendous pain she found humor and also life in every situation, and was touchingly grateful for the smallest happinesses. And she remembered and applied Buddha’s teachings in her own inimitable style throughout all her ghastly treatments, inability to breathe, unbearable discomfort and final passing.

Although it was frightening and unknown, Andrea still faced her sickness and death head on, with the adventurous spirit that had served her so well in her life. Andrea, I wanted to say as I was reading her blog, you are so brave, and everyone who knows you must be so proud of you. We can learn so much from you. So I’m going to share your blog. As your friend Eva said: “Beautiful to think that she will have such an impact on so many lives. She would love that.”

In a series of writings that are eminently quotable, I will quote randomly a few of the things Andrea said to give you a glimpse in case you don’t have a chance to visit her blog itself today, and in the hope that you will remember this beautiful young woman in your prayers.

Ramblings of a shocked woman

When Andrea first received her diagnosis in February:

“I’m Andrea the adventurer, “a.walker not a runner”, the jumper, the athlete
I’m Andrea the fit, the strong, the tough
I’m Andrea the happy, the smiling, the laughing
I’m Andrea the INVINCIBLE!!!!!”

A mother’s love

“My mom is so worried — so every cough, every groan, every itch she jumps to make sure nothing is wrong or that she can’t help… I feel so bad for that…. if my mom had her way I’d be sleeping on her lap or curled up in bed beside her. It’s sweet, but too much for me.”


Today Mrs. Ellison, my neighbor, came over in tears. My sister told her on Saturday that I had puffler’s. Mrs. Ellison is 80 something years old and crying said “This should be happening to me, not you – you have so much more life to live.”

Taking and giving

Today I meditated on taking. Just imagine if every cough I have, every fear I feel, every discomfort or painful experience I have from this disease is taking away the pain of other living beings. Imagine the dolphins in Japan being killed less and less; the incidence of AIDS decreases in Tanzania as I experience more pain; courage rises up in those being oppressed as I go through a bout of fear that paralyzes me. I must keep thinking that, because that’s what a Buddha is able to do and that’s what I need to imagine I’m doing with every ounce of my being — it’s the only thing that will make the pain OK. Now I can feel the joy of knowing that less children are being abused, less people are getting irritated, people are becoming peaceful and truly free.

Feel that joy?


Yesterday I thought ‘Gosh, I am just really dying. Fast.’ I’m OK with dying because Geshe-la says he’ll be there – just like during festivals and he says ‘If you cannot do it, don’t worry. I’ll do it for you’. But it hurts to think that my friends and extended family won’t know how much they mean to me.

I hope you find a chance to read more.

In memoriam

Andrea was a giving and loving person who never made a big deal out of anything. Her close friend Cindi just wrote me: “There are so many words I think of to try and describe Andrea was but they all seem to fall short of truly capturing the beauty, the essence, and the love that was Andrea. I think we all understand how much of a gift we had in our friendships with her. As you are aware from her blog, Andrea found great strength in her spiritual beliefs and they provided her much comfort and solace at a time in her life when very little else could ease her pain.” Eva also just wrote: “When I was Admin Director at Saraha Center, Andrea was always happy to give generously at every opportunity. She helped sponsor people, she volunteered at animal shelters. Any chance to benefit others, she was there. She was the real deal. And she loved salsa dancing.”  Lori just wrote: “She was such a beautiful person. She had a wonderful laugh. Such an incredible blog. The world has lost a sweet soul.” Sarah said: “You blessed everyone who was in your presence with a beautiful smile and a loving, warm heart.” From Victoria, who never met her: “Her words really touched my heart.” I have a feeling this is just the beginning: Andrea’s family and friends will be hearing a lot more testimonies like this.

Please pray for the permanent happiness and freedom of Andrea, her beloved mother and family, her many good friends, and all suffering beings who were never far from Andrea’s mind even as she was preparing for her death.

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

12 thoughts on “Happiness/Freedom ~ Andrea, the real deal”

  1. Her blog is very moving. We just don’t know when or how our end will come about. Until it does. It makes me upset that soo many people suffer like she did with disease. This human life perdicament is awful. Using outrage at sufferings like hers as motivation, and completely purifying my own karma so that I can assist others to do the same – seems like the only way to ultimately help. It just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Especially for those who don’t have much time left. How can we be happy while this is the experience of soo many?

    I suppose considering the emptiness of all phenomenon, and how our karma determines our experiences; one day everyone will feel as if they have just woke up from a dream. Their bodies will be forever painless, their minds always happy, and all this present misery will seem like it never even existed. That will be a great day. But to experience that will take some doing from each of us: overcomming our own negativities, and becomming intimately familiar with virtue. Recognizing everyone’s potential in this way makes me happy. Seeing suffering breaks my heart, but can be a reminder to see the pure, happy potential we all have and strive for that.

    Thank you for sharing her blog. And many thanks to her for being so open, and also to those meditators who courageously stay the course, keeping the door to freedom and happiness wide open for the rest of us.

  2. Luna, thanks for sharing passages from the life of Andrea, I feel so moved by what I hear, my eyes do not stop to cry, a mixture of gratitude and admiration in all forms ….. poured beauty his heart … a beautiful and sincere practitioner, she leaves such a clear faith in Geshe-la and in the Dharma … a vivid example of Sangha jewel …. I am sure she is enjoying in the pure land .. .. May all beings be able to face death with such courage, strength and wisdom ….

  3. So many times people are saying how we should be as Andrea, bless her, showed us.

  4. Although I didn’t know Andrea, I am touched to know about her. She is an inspiration and a teacher, demonstrating how to prepare for her own death, with compassion and wisdom.

    My thoughts and prayers are with her family, may they have comfort in their loss from knowing that Andrea is in a Pure Land.

  5. I have been reading Andrea’s blog since February… & to be honest she was the first Kadampa blog I ever read at that time & I don’t even know how I stumbled upon it. Many nights I stayed up reading & retracing her words so that perhaps I’d find strength of my own. Even though I never met her face to face, she forever changed my heart <3

  6. What an amazing girl…I only read a few of her blogs but she reached right into my heart. When I saw the post on facebook, saying that she had died, my heart exploded with tears. How connected are we all to each other? How can words on a computer screen by someone you have never met, touch your heart so much. Reading about her “taking and giving” meditation was amazing. Thanks for doing this Luna, and introducing her to us.

  7. So many postings on Facebook, but amongst them all was a ‘must read’ Luna Kadampa posting. I saw what i can only describe as a picture of a *Dakini* i was then to find out, it was Andrea Walker. Inspiration indeed of the highest order resulting in the *ground sprinkled with perfume and spread with flowers*. The Pure Land welcomes such as Andrea.

  8. Luna,
    You have done Andrea proud. She is on her way to a pure land I know. We are all praying for her and her family. I am forever changed for the better because of her.

  9. This is just an amazing story. It is so important that we can learn from the Dharma that others practice. So to Andrea “The Real Deal” I send my prayers and positive thoughts!

  10. Truly inspirational!

    How wonderful that thoughts and actions from a person aware that she was facing the most frightening “end,” would demonstrate that each moment (without our knowing) could be our last.

    Something to absorb — and emulate.

    Thank you for sharing.

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