Michael Yukon Grody: In Memoriam

· In Memoriam

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Senior Monastic Michael Choke Yukon Grody who left this life on Wednesday, February 28th, following a six month ordeal with brain cancer. In the end, it was a peaceful death with family and one of his monastic brothers at his side. The following morning, Yukon’s monastic and blood family gathered at dawn to perform the liturgy for the newly deceased, which included caring for his body and dressing him in his robes. Afterwards, everyone joined in the zendo for a morning service in his honor. The sangha gathered again the following Monday at Wiltwyck Rural Cemetery in Kingston for a liturgy service that accompanied his cremation. His funeral took place on Sunday, March 31st at Zen Mountain Monastery.

Read about Yukon’s journey and watch a slideshow of his life.

Funeral Service on Easter Sunday For Choke Yukon:

Scroll down to read tributes to Yukon and perhaps to even add your own.

Written by zmmadmin · · In Memoriam

82 Memories

Please click below to share your memories and reflections of Yukon, even if you already posted them elsewhere. You can include photos, video, and audio.
  1. Shugen Roshi

    for Choke Yukon

    Dancing on water
    clouds scatter in laughter

    Slipping into night
    there is mystery beneath this surface

    You have just now
    hidden your face
    hushed your voice
    released your mindstream

    As we let loose our mourning song
    Where should we turn to find you?
    How will we know when we meet again?

    One robe, one bowl
    Clouds & Water
    Dancing

    Tenkosan Doshinji
    March 3, 2024

  2. Hojin Sensei

    For Choke Yukon

    Outside the cold window

    A bright moon hangs full

    I see you lying there, 

    Beautiful enfolded husk 

    On a bed of purple satin 

    In a river of rose petals

    —sudden strangeness together

    I stare with soft eyes…. 

    waiting  for an announcement
    of a mistake—

     that was not made

    AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    Ambassador of Love
    Beloved Grody-Sattva
    Sometimes wearing a god mask
    Sometimes wearing a devil mask
    singing gospel over the top to enliven
    living beings.

    I have no more words  for this —this!
     
    Only hearing  your voice ring out:
    “ Knuckle—Now,  get on with the living”!

    Immeasurable gratitude
    Immeasurable loving

    Fucho Hojin
    Brooklyn NY
    March 3, 2024

  3. zmmadmin

    “Be Careful What You Ask For,” a talk by Yukon given on March 1, 2020 at the Zen Center of NYC.

    Senior Monastic Yukon makes us a gift of his perspective on practice after 37 years, focused on the skillful means we employ to maintain our practice. Be careful what you ask for, he says: This is a constant practice of releasing what we cling to, and we cling to everything. Practice dismantles both hopes for the future and thoughts about the past, and to have peace we have to open up to the gifts of the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and all that helps us release the anxiety of not knowing who we are.

  4. zmmadmin


    A tour of the Monastery garden from the summer of 2020, with Mn. Yukon Grody and Laurel Johnson.

  5. zmmadmin

    A talk given by Yukon in August 2020 on “Garden Dharma”

  6. Joe Raymond

    [lights out in the bamboo grove office]

    a content orange temple cat perched on a rusty legged table
    in the bamboo grove office at dawn’s light
    Ether-Rudy swished his tail excitedly
    just like he did in life when
    stalking the garden mice
    but this hunt was for
    another light –
    ————————
    -which manifested as a subtle shifting of shadows in the fabric of great reality
    revealing a gently shimmering radiance from the Jizō House:
    that giant of a cheerful man smiling freshly liberated
    from the final winter of his suffering –
    thus old friends again were
    well met in this familiar
    bamboo grove office:
    “Hello there, dear one…” said the cheerful giant
    whose bright eyes matched his ear to ear grin.
    Rudy purred – his tail up twitching lightly
    he arose to nuzzle his man clad in white.
    Then Rudy said to Yukon: “Look…!
    All of our friends have arrived
    to see us off…”
    ————————
    All the glimmering morning stars chatted excitedly behind cloudy shrouds that
    swirled above the misty heights of Tenkōzan along with the tall mighty pines,
    the wild animals, the garden, and Mother Earth herself bore witness
    to the ethereal formlessness of temple cat and monastic human
    and many dharma siblings and friends sitting in the zendo
    (and also in private homes and hearts near and far):
    This was no ordinary kaddish, to be sure!
    Then the grove office lights went out,
    and as I blinked my eyes…
    the bamboo grove office
    was just a grove.
    —————————
    And now the concentrated light of the former feline and his dear keeper
    slowly dispersed, rising to the vast sky to light the newly born day:
    this brightened the hearts of many friends and dharma siblings
    awash in the radiance of memories old and recent
    comforting words of encouragement
    sustained by practice and the gifts
    of compassionate engagement
    that saves countless
    sentient beings.
    —————————
    Though my tears now well up like a flood
    (Even our time together was short)
    I am deeply grateful
    my dear Yukon,
    to have met you
    in this life.

  7. Meiju

    GROWTH

    It’s been a long time.
    We catch up at the Japanese place 
    With the menu that never changes.
    Everything’s from scratch. 
    I don’t check my watch.
    It’s been 25 years. 

    You tell me about a friend’s pregnancy
    And stories about your dead orange tabby.
    We joke how you get down on all fours
    When you meet pets and babies.

    I say, “You over-water and over-feed every living thing.”
    You say, “I’m a simple monk. I love my simple life.”
    I order us everything on the menu.
    You say, “I’m a pig” and smile, which means: “Thank You.”

    During dinner, a quiet tumor grows in your head,
    Pushes against the edges of words,
    And imperceptibly stretches
    the pauses between them.
    In the coming days the doctors will name it.

    Meanwhile, I tell you what I have learned
    about lotus root.  
    Because of its many seeds,
    Eating it is a prayer for the next generation.                      

    It looks like a potato on the outside.
    But cut open— it’s lacy,
    A wheel with cogs.
    They say the holes offer 
    A view of the future.    

    It is crunchy salty sweet
    Dipped in vinegar and mirin.
    I hold up a slice and
    Peer straight through to you.
    You giggle,
    Looking back
    Through the pickle.

  8. Kyudo

    Dear Sweet Yukon, 
    I’m recalling you in your bamboo grove office, inviting all of us in, to sit and chat and listen.
    With Love, and gratitude,
    Kyudo
    OX

  9. Keimu Kristin Adolfson

    -For Yukon-

    Yukon with the chicken suspenders.
    “I’m from the city! I didn’t know a thing about gardening!” And then you told me how you just fell in love with the petals of a dahlia.
    Yukon with your dramatic, playful boisterousness; introducing me to his “snappies”
    …snappies! of which I then planted last summer; those flowering dragons of towering jaws.
    Yukon your joyful exuberance heart spilling over and out – where did it all come from –
    Just spilling over all of us, I have such gratitude – !
    I have such gratitude.

    Yukon sitting on the bench in his bamboo grove vibrating with birds, respite from the heat
    Looking upon the garden, being with the garden, seeing.
    And the successes, the failures.
    The living and the dying.
    Season after season.
    The bamboo grove.

    Birds filling up the spires of green, filling the air with their voices,
    you were not able to join them.
    I heard them raise their voices.
    Yukon saying to me when I recently came back at the Monastery: “Welcome home.”
    Is it possible I had never felt more welcomed and at home in that moment.
    And yes, Yukon welcome home.
    Welcome home.

  10. Chase Takusei Twichell

    This past July, Yukon and Hokyu came all the way up to our small town in the Adirondacks to perform the memorial service for my husband, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Yukon charmed the audience with his mix of goofiness and profundity, and many, many people afterward spoke of his warmth and directness. One person said, “I never knew a monk could be friendly and funny!” I think my favorite memory of Yukon, though, dates back to Miami Beach about fifteen  years ago, where my husband and I had a condo. Yukon came down and spent a week with us on his vacation. One day we decided to take a ride on the Duck Boat,  a ridiculous tourist attraction. It was an amphibious vehicle that began with a tour of the town’s old deco hotels and then drove down a ramp into Biscayne Bay (guests were asked to quack as this happened), to explore the various islands and homes of “the rich and famous.” Yukon loved it. He laughed the entire time, and occasional quacking became part of our conversations from then on. I have a picture of him beaming in front of the Duckmobile. Silliness aside, we spent many hours talking over the years, mostly about our childhoods,  gardening, and the Dharma. I loved him, and miss him with a mix of pain and joy that such a person existed in this darkening world.

  11. Kaido Nash

    When Choke Yukon visited Aotearoa, he fell in love with the Piwakawaka (Fantail)
    Fantail by Haare Williams (for Yukon)
    “I see you now
    Preening in the kowhai bough
    teasing flick of tail
    dancing a merry hail
    flirting, dancing side to side
    Cheeky you taunt the solemn pose
    of haughty kereru and tui
    mischief and curiosity
    makes you flick and flee
    from those who would chastise you.”

    To be enfolded in a Yukon hug, who could ever forget this……….
    Hoki mai ano
    Ah- come and give me a hug

  12. Mona Zamfirescu

    Choke Yukon 

    good morning to you 
    dear greeter of souls
    today you are moving 
    like a cloud amongst us 
    the trace of your garden
    in the morning air
    the light of your eyes
    sunflowers still a dream 
    in your calloused hands
    it’s cold in the mountain 
    still, you are here, warm
    by the fire, talking honey
    with us weary strangers
    gentle reminders
    in the flickering flames
    no rush, no rush, no rush
    the greenhouse flowers
    line the dining hall
    here we move slowly
    with the morning shadows
    as cherry blossoms
    bud in your smile
    by the gate… 
    we arrive
    whether here or not
    dear greeter of hearts
    we are no strangers
    to your soul

     Mona Zamfirescu

  13. Nick Suido Nash

    Dear Yukon the Grody,
    (Vaster than the Candian territory by far!)
    It was in the depths of the winter of 2003
    (That got to -27 degrees Fahrenheit!)
    At Zen Mountain Monastery,
    That I first met you dear man,
    After flying into New York from Aotearoa New Zealand,
    A Kiwi desperado desperately wanting to be free!
    ( As free as Jack Kerouac’s ‘bee inside he”!).
    There were two parts of me….
    One was keen to stop and sit and practice
    The “dropping away of body and mind” in the monastery,
    The other was keen to “beat” down the road
    With the ghost of Neal Casady
    His fingers thrumming on a big old driving wheel,
    Racing from the East coast to the West, and back again,
    Chanting: “Yes! Yes! Yes!
    With this head full of ideas
    and the Clash’s mantra, ‘Should I stay or should I go?”
    Tearing me apart.
    Suddenly there you were,
    Laughing eyes and laughing heart!
    And your open arms…
    and there was nowhere to go but right into them…
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
    Right into your big compassionate embrace!
    Your wonderful way of so easily being yourself…
    ( Like the “bee inside he!”)
    I love you so much Grody, you jolly old elf you!
    Your voice, your song, your “ju ju”
    ( Really good “ju ju”! )
    I love you dear Yukon,
    Yes! Yes! Yes!
    Dropping away of body and mind,
    (Dropped!)
    Aieeeeee!
    Still beating down the road that never ends…
    See you soon dear friend
    Dear Heart!
    Your last dharma words to us . . .
    (In the letter you sent with those beautiful autumn leaves) said:
    “I saved these fall leaves for you –
    snow now replaces the spot where I found them…
    I carry you with me always.”
    I carry you dear Yukon, I carry you too. . .
    Maringi ringi noa nga roimata…
    (The tears flow unchecked! )
    Arohanui
    Kia kaha kia kotahi ra!
    (Our strength lies in our unity!)

    Love always,
    Suido the Nick.

  14. Seikaku

    .

  15. Shobon

    I came to the monastery because my life had fallen apart, big time. I was in such a depression that it was hard to talk. I don’t mean a conversation; it was hard just to open my mouth and say simple things to people.

    One day early on I came to the monastery to register for a program. Yukon was sitting behind the desk downstairs. I walked up to the desk, carrying my stuff, and he looked up at me and saw my face. Without saying anything, he got up, walked around the desk, came up very close to me, and grabbed my shoulders. Then he shook me, firm but also gentle, not saying anything, just looking into my eyes. He paused and then shook me again, all the while looking into my eyes with the most loving expression, not saying a thing. He did this a couple of more times, telling me without words that it was going to be alright.

    Shobon

  16. noah mease

    (29 Feb ’24)

    an onion moon for Yukon’s passing
    waning, rising
    low and gold and startlingly large
    in the clear air between city blocks
    higher and less yellow in the slow zoetrope –
    my late cab home crawls north

    the calendar pretends this is an extra day

    i only worked his garden once
    july: flowers swelling into squash
    i brought him plants i didn’t know
    “are you cultivating this?”
    “no” i ripped them out
    shook dirt from roots
    like from a child’s hair

    we sat side by side and looked at frogs
    and younger people pulling weeds
    someone found a fat white grub curled up in fear
    and threw it in the woods beyond the deer fence

    the weeders are now asking about “do not kill”
    but life and death embrace in garden beds, with limbs entwined
    “you did the right thing,” Yukon says,
    “you gave it a chance to live”

    (and 4 March ’24)

  17. Sankai Lemmens
    School is delayed two hours.
    A pile of dishes wants my attention.
    Your radiant heart touches mine
    With the warmth of the
    Morning sun.
    Straight through the kitchen, the living room, the zendo.

    When your hurt, he’d say
    take on the pain of all those who hurt.

    Oy. Oy.

    With these tears,
    I can’t help but smile

    Still, who will do the hugging now?
    Come close, brother. Closer still.
  18. lou procaccino

    One time after work practice in the Garden I told Yukon that I get nervous prior to Dokuan or Daisan. He gave me some suggestions but the most important was “Don’t ever pass an opportunity to see you Teacher”. Thanks, Yukon.

  19. Creature

    What a beautiful welcome

    The twinkle in those eyes

    Met

  20. Ikyo

    “Your munk” was how Yukon would sign his emails. And he was my munk – from the person who gave me beginning instruction at the Temple in Brooklyn in 2004 to the person on the phone from his vacation in August 2023, already showing some signs of confusion with language comprehension. My sweet munk.

    He also was everyone’s munk. He loved to give me love life advice – and he was good at it, despite being a celibate munk. He used to say, “Why do you want love from just one person when you can have love from everyone?” His life was the example of how to do that.

    When Yukon had to have his first eye surgery, I went with him and we stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn so he could have his post-op appt the next day. On the drive there, he shared that he was scared to go blind. The surgery was a four-hour procedure. Despite whatever fears he had, he had the entire nursing and front desk staff laughing and promising to come to the Monastery to visit by the time I returned to collect him. He was high as a kite from the pain drugs and I had to herd him into the car and from the car to the motel because he was chugging around the parking lot singing. I remember laughing and laughing with him while we ate Thai food and watched home renovations shows on TV, no doubt in direct contradiction to his instructions to rest and not get stirred up. His amazing big appetite was undaunted by eye surgery. Later, I also took him to get a tumor removed from his finger (which he loved to force people to touch). He had a big breakfast after that too. Such a giant, joyous appetite for life!

    Some random memories: Laughing til we cried and our stomachs hurt so many times – a true bond through laughing. Looking at the tender little plant sprouts in the Jizo basement and crying together at their fragility and optimism. Coffee, biscotti and a bit of gossip in his room over hosan. Him teasing me when I started taking myself too seriously – doing an exaggerated imitation of me that guaranteed a laugh. The way he turned every song into its Ethel Merman version, “Yukon, sing it for real!” And so many more.

    My munk, I love you so much!

    (I am attaching some pictures of him doing one of the things he loved best. And a picture of his dear Rudy, taken about a week before he died.)