In Memory ~ Justin Ripley, 1975 – 2011

17 January 2012 - 7:17pm Comments Off

In one of the chapters in his book Peace, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche advises us to think about the impact we leave on others:

“Think about how you feel when you go near some people. There are people who make us feel happier after we have been with them. It is not a happiness which arises from just joking around and having fun but a real happiness, which arises because they have given us something new to think about or a new way of thinking. If we usually feel happy when we leave a person, it is because that person’s mind is focused on bringing happiness to other people.”

Justin Ripley, a most beloved member of Kechara who passed away in late December 2011 leaves behind thousands of people who have had thousands of happier moments because of him. It was impossible to leave Justin feeling anything but happier, lighter, more at peace. Quiet he may have been, but he made up for all the times he didn’t talk by his smiles, his funny faces, his love for the world, and his just-being-there.

On 23 December 2011 Justin suddenly fell, and was gone in a matter of minutes. We found out later, after a detailed post-mortem report, that his heart had been failing for a long time. His heart had grown too large to work efficiently and it had finally failed him that evening. He died, literally, because he had a big heart – a sad metaphor perhaps, for his unending capacity for love, care and kindness. At the time when he fell he had been helping some friends who were doing manual work outdoors. That would be just like Justin – to be doing something to help someone, up until his very last breath.

Justin during happier days with his oldest brother Jason, and H.E. Tsem Rinpoche

Materially, Justin didn’t have much; he was a quiet guy, an unsung hero that made a point to stay well out of the limelight. But what he gave to the world was tremendous. As a member of Tsem Ladrang and, more recently appointed into Rinpoche’s Private Office (PO), Justin has spent thousands of hours working directly with Rinpoche to make so much Dharma, teachings, hope, love to the world through the Internet. Rinpoche’s blog (blog.tsemtulku.com), Rinpoche’s official website (tsemtulku.com) and Kechara’s website (kechara.com) have all benefited from Justin’s contribution to them, bringing Dharma to people everywhere.

Hailing originally from New Zealand, Justin began with Kechara first as a volunteer across almost all departments. He contributed his time to Kechara Soup Kitchen, when it was just starting up, to Kechara Saraswati Arts, and even to designing books for Kechara Media & Publications. The stunning cover of Rinpoche’s iconic book, Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale was designed by Justin, and the first edition of If Not Now, When? was entirely done by Justin and his wife Joy.

Justin then joined Tsem Ladrang, as one of the first staff of the e-division. The beginnings of this very website you’re reading now would have begun with Justin. He then moved to the kitchen of Tsem Ladrang, where he cooked up many a storm for both Rinpoche and the many staff of the Kechara organisation. (And boy, did he cool a mean meal!) As well as that, Justin also served the Ladrang in many other aspects, from caring for the Ladrang animals to housekeeping to computer work – there wasn’t anything Justin wouldn’t do.

With the e-Division team

Finally, and most recently, Justin was elected in as one of the POs, working very closely with Rinpoche on the many online initiatives that we have available to us today.

For every person who has benefited in some way, gotten some little happiness from reading even one of our Kechara articles online, one tweet, one of Rinpoche’s blog posts – so much of that is because Justin made it possible. You will never know how much time, effort and energy he put into his work, because he will never tell you – he never saw it as work, he saw it as service, a way of life, a happiness he could bring to others. His every action was so that he could relieve a burden from someone, no matter how small, or bring a little extra happiness to them.

Justin’s marriage to Kechara member, Joy Kam, was almost among the most memorable occasions for our Dharma family, this being the very first wedding to be held in Kechara, in our old prayer hall. Sadly, we did not ever anticipate that his would also be the first memorial we would hold. Together, Joy and Justin did much Dharma work together, living their lives together in the service of others – there are not many other young couples who would dedicate their work and lives in the way that Justin and Joy did.

Justin and Joy have been Rinpoche's students for many years

The last few years of Justin’s life were entirely devoted to the service of Dharma and his Lama. He would do anything he was requested to do – no complaints, no ego, never a black face. So much of the Ladrang’s work – nay, the whole organisation – would not have been possible without him – from the kitchen, to looking after the aviary birds, to cleaning, to extensive website work, to just opening the door with a big smile and making sure every single person he met that day was well. You’d be hard pressed to find someone more helpful, kinder, more sincere and giving than Justin.

He may have been quiet and you may not have noticed him in a large group, but now that he’s gone, the silence of his absence is deafening. The world is a sadder place without him; his leaving is a tremendous loss for the world for very, very, very few people can be like him and bring happiness to so many in such a quiet, unassuming, peaceful, happy way.

Justin, I hope you hear all our prayers for you from where you are. You are so dearly missed and so deeply loved. Rest in peace, man, but not for too long! I know it’s not in you to sit still for long – there’s so much waiting for you here. Many more lasagnas to be made, many more website codes to fiddle with, many more pick games to play and RuPaul videos to watch at 4 in the morning, many more silly faces and jokes, many, many infinite more moments that you will bring happiness to someone, just by being you. We miss you and memories of you will always be cherished in our hearts. Until we meet again…

Kechara’s four pastors praying that Justin may be reborn quickly and perfectly near the dharma again soon

Andrew was someone who worked closely with Justin in Tsem Ladrang… he was also the person who was with Justin till his last breath

Dr Lanse, the person who performed CPR all the way to the hospital, places a white rose into the bowl of flowers for the first and last time. Dr Lanse tried very hard and continuously to resuscitate Justin in the car on way to the hospital until the ambulance people took over. Thank you Dr Lanse for trying so hard

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche with Alice Ripley, the woman who gave birth to a wonderful person

Rinpoche greets Justin’s oldest brother, Jason Ripley

A thank you letter from Joy, Justin's wife

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