Archived Stories
from the Road

 


 

August 10, 2006
Santa Fe, New Mexico

It was exactly eight years ago today, August 10, 1998, that I began my book tour for PRECIOUS JEWELS OF TIBET here in Santa Fe at The Ark Bookstore.

Earlier on the day of the book signing, my dear friend, Judy Margolis, the owner of Origins, one of my favorite clothing stores in Santa Fe, hosted a luncheon in my honor at the India Palace Restaurant that was attended by Losang and some of Judy’s women friends she wanted me to meet. I woke up that morning with a sore throat and the warning signs of an oncoming cold. The last thing I wanted to do was eat curry and sit around with a lot of people I didn’t know. Showing up half an hour late, I made my apologies and was seated at the head of the table at the opposite end from Losang, who was graciously entertaining the ladies.

Seated to my left was Peggy Hitchcock, a woman I knew by reputation for her good work on behalf of Tibet. She had organized the Arizona Teachings given by the Dalai Lama that I attended the year before my journey to the roof of the world began. The moment I sat down at the table, we began an intimate conversation.

During lunch, we talked about Peggy’s two daughters, and I told her the story of my Tibetan daughter, Namgyal. She hadn’t read Precious Jewels, but was planning to get a copy that night at the book signing. When I told Peggy that my search to find Namgyal in Tibet the previous summer had failed, tears welled up in her eyes.

She touched my arm and said, “I know two women doctors from Tibet who are here in the U.S. Lhasa is a small town, and they’re bound to know Namgyal’s father. I’ll try to help you find your daughter.”

Having traveled halfway around the world, with good political connections and friends in high places who had tried in vain for three years to help me find Namgyal, I felt I had done everything possible to find her. I was touched by Peggy’s empathy but didn’t give it much credence.

Through the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, I had come to realize it wasn’t meant to be, and in facing the loss of this child, I had learned one of life’s greatest lessons: the true nature of reality--impermanence. Everything in life is constantly changing, and the only thing we have is the present moment. The past is history, and the future is unknown. From a Buddhist perspective, grasping and clinging are the primary causes of suffering, and in writing Precious Jewels of Tibet, I had been able to let go of my longing to be a mother. It had been a huge catharsis in my life.

The book signing event was a great success. I was all aglow from the warm response of the audience to my talk (as well as a low grade fever), and a lot of books were sold. As Peggy was leaving, with a copy of Precious Jewels in hand, for the airport to catch a late flight back to her home in Tucson, she again declared her intention to help find my daughter, but I was caught up in the excitement of the moment and didn’t give it a second thought.

Much too early the following morning, the phone rang in my room at the El Rey Inn. It was Judy. We went over the magical moments of the night before, and she mentioned she had some herbal medicine for my cold which had by this time come on with a vengeance.

“I’m sorry I can’t bring it to you, but throw on a bathrobe, drive downtown and just double park in front of the store. The pills will be waiting for you at the counter,” she said.

I really didn’t want to get out of my sickbed to pick up some herbal remedy. What I needed were good old-fashioned American antibiotics, but something told me to go. I got dressed, parked the car in a nearby lot, and went inside the store. Judy greeted me with a glass of water and the pills, and I sat down in the lounge to take my medicine. Less than five minutes after I arrived, one of the sales clerks rushed over to where we were sitting, saying Judy had an urgent call. She hurried to the nearest telephone, and I overheard Judy saying, “Jane is here, she’s here right now,” as she motioned for me to come to the phone. It was Peggy Hitchcock.

“Jane dear,” Peggy said, “I talked to the Tibetan women, and not only do they know your daughter’s father, they are her aunt and cousin.”

I couldn’t believe my ears!!! Peggy went on to say the younger woman, Dr. Dickey Nyerongsha, who had been traveling around the U.S. for six years consulting on Tibetan medicine, wanted to talk with me. Peggy had a telephone number in San Diego where Dickey was working for the next few days. My head was reeling.

All I could say in response was, “Thank you, Peggy, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Is it really be true?”

With telephone number in hand, I raced back to the hotel to call Dickey. When I finally reached her later that afternoon, I kept asking question after question. “Was this the Namgyal Youdon who had been at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala who had been forced to return to Tibet by an edict from the Chinese Communist government in Lhasa? Is she the Namgyal who had an older brother at TCV when she was there? Would she be about fifteen or sixteen years old now? Did her mother die when Namgyal was a baby?”

Dickey responded, “Yes, it is our Namgyal. She came to live with us when
her mother died.”

Dickey asked if I had a picture of Namgyal. Namgyal had sent me a school photo from TCV, but it was at home in California. Then I remembered the photograph in Precious Jewels of Namgyal and me together the time we first met in Dharamsala. It was blurry because it had been taken from the video, and because I hadn’t wanted the Chinese to recognize her if they ever got hold of the book. I told Dickey I’d FedEx a copy to her overnight.

The next day, which happened to be my own mother’s eighty-seventh birthday, and just two days after meeting Peggy Hitchcock, Dickey phoned my hotel. She had received the book, and before reading my letter telling her the photograph of Namgyal was on Page 78, Dr. Tinley, Dickey’s mother, opened the book to exactly that page and began to cry when she saw the picture. Dickey said, “It is our Namgyal who we raised after her mother died when Namgyal was only nine months old.”

After all my searching for Namgyal, it turned out some of her family lived in Berkeley, only a few miles away from my home in Marin County. On Labor Day, I went over to Dickey’s apartment and met Namgyal’s aunt and cousin for the first time. Shortly after arriving, Dickey picked up a cellular phone, dialed a long series of numbers and, handing the phone to me said, “She’s been waiting for your call...”

And in that exquisite moment, through the divine grace of the universe, I was reunited with my Tibetan daughter.

“Namgyal, this is your mom, Jane. I’m so happy to talk with you again.” For a moment, I could only hear her softly crying, but finally she spoke. “I’m happy, too, Mom.”

We talked for a few minutes, mostly my asking questions about school, her health, and her family. Finally, I asked if her father was there with her, could I speak to him. She immediately called him to the phone. I had been concerned that Namgyal might not have told him about me, and if she had whether or not he would want me to be involved in her life in Tibet.

Namgyal had told him everything. With Dickey translating since her father didn’t speak English, I said, “Dr. Namgang, I would like to continue to be Namgyal’s foster mother as I had been when she was at TCV, and I’d like to financially support her education, and help with her daily needs of clothing, food and housing.”

Dickey said, “He wants to thank you and says he thinks Namgyal’s mother would be happy that she has found a mother like you.”

And thus began my renewed relationship with Namgyal Youdon. Over the next five years we forged a bond as deep as any mother-daughter relationship I have known, and we focused primarily on getting the Chinese to issue Namgyal a passport so that she could come to the U.S. which she wanted more than anything in the world. She now had a mother of her own, and I had the daughter I had always wanted. I told her we would never be separated again in this lifetime. I could never have imagined her life would be cut short, just ten days before coming to the U.S. for the first time.

My new book, LOVE & LOSS – A Story About Life, Death, and Rebirth is something of a sequel to PRECIOUS JEWELS OF TIBET in that this book begins where PRECIOUS JEWELS ended. It is the story of my relationship with Namgyal and the consequences of her life and death on my life.

LOVE & LOSS is written as an “Email Diary” based on emails I sent out immediately after Namgyal died, replies I received from my “Dear Friends,” emails from Namgyal’s brothers, one in Tibet and one in India, before and after her death, and emails that Namgyal and I exchanged during the last two years of her life. I’ve written brief narratives that are interwoven throughout the emails to complete the story.

For months after Namgyal died, I was unable to talk openly about the sorrow I held in my heart, but I found I could express the depths of my emotions by writing about my experiences. It created a safe place, a sanctuary, a container to hold the pain. Who could ever have imagined that through the relatively impersonal medium of email I would be able to come to the end of mourning, celebrating the gifts of grief I had received by loving and losing my beloved Namgyal.

Serendipitously, tomorrow, August 11, 2006, I will kick-off my book tour for LOVE & LOSS here in Santa Fe at The Ark Bookstore. I’ll be writing “Stories from the Road” from time to time during the coming months as I travel around the country, and hope that you’ll check-in often.

With love & gratitude,
Jane Bay

 
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