On Monday August 22, word reached Spirit Rock that Gail Seneca, our dear friend, fellow dharma practitioner, and Board member emerita, had died unexpectedly of an embolism a few days after receiving a routine knee replacement operation. She was 62, in good health and very active. As the news spread through our community, it was met with shock and sorrow —shock, because it was unexpected in a person with such vitality, and sorrow, because a bright light had departed this realm of existence, leaving her devoted husband Hal and many friends bereft of her caring presence. Gail was a much loved and admired woman who contributed generously to Spirit Rock over the last 20 years as a student, leader and financial supporter. Jack Kornfield described her perfectly when he said, “Gail was a remarkable woman, deeply dedicated to the dharma, and had a spirit that was infused with honesty, support and vision.”
Gail fought fiercely for what she believed in. She served as Treasurer on Spirit Rock’s Board of Directors for many years and was instrumental in raising the capital that allowed for the recently completed buildout of the lower campus. As a Board member, she never hesitated to take an unpopular position or to directly challenge what was being said. More than one person left such encounters shaken, but her style and her organizational experience made us a better Board. It was Gail who helped us develop a sliding scale fee structure for residential retreats, which has allowed Spirit Rock to offer a large number of scholarships. Now, more than 20 percent of all those who attend retreats are scholarship recipients.
It is not enough that we appreciate Gail’s many legacy. To truly honor her, it is incumbent on us to receive both her life and her unexpected death as dharma teachings. Knowing her as I did, nothing would please Gail more. The Buddha invited us to contemplate the temporal nature of life in this realm and offered these reflections: All those we hold dear will die and the time of their death is uncertain; we too are subject to death and the time of our death is also uncertain. Therefore, we are called to live each moment from our deepest understanding. This is the teaching of the Eightfold Path that leads to well-being in the here-and-now and to full liberation as we continue to walk the path. I cannot imagine a more befitting tribute to Gail’s great spirit than taking a moment to reflect on this teaching and set an intention to manifest it in our own lives.
We miss you Gail, and we celebrate how you manifested in your own life.
— Phillip Moffitt, Spirit Rock Co-Guiding Teacher