Friday, January 14, 2011

Being here in Chiang Mai to be with Ted and Amina Vorster and Tony over the last couple of days has been an amazing gift.  Emily and I, together with Tony, Ted and Amina wanted to have a forum to share what is happening here as Soraya prepares for her next journey.  We know that there are countless people all over the world who would do anything to be here for her and her family, so hopefully this forum helps you all feel a bit closer and connected to the ceremony we have already begun.

In Thai Buddhist tradition,  it is believed that the deceased does not understand that they have passed until they have been told.  Last night, the first of four days of ceremony began.  The purpose of this first ceremony was to tell Soraya that she has passed so that her soul doesn't wander and she can start the process of moving on.  Five monks chanted the message that death is universal and unavoidable.

Soraya's beautiful white and gold coffin had been surrounded by tons of flowers donated by Khun Vit, the owner of the Sri Pat Guesthouse where Soraya religiously stayed (even though our stipend barely covers it, she insisted on staying here).  A gorgeous picture of her was placed in a wreath of carnations, orchids and lilies.  The first thing Tony noticed upon walking in was that they forgot the 'A' in Pandola on her name card.  Ghing quickly penned one in with a sharpie - evidence that it is important to always have one on hand.  Some of Soraya's favorite foods had been laid at the foot of her coffin so that she could enjoy them.  The mood was light, we were all able to enjoy a meal with her and crack a joke here and there in her honor.  Everyone lit incense and said a prayer to her.  After the chanting and ceremony, we all had some food, hung out and joked around.   Ghing playfully toasted her photo.  As we were leaving, Tony realized he still had half of his desert left.  As we all know, Soraya had a healthy appetite, so in memory of her stealing half his food on a regular basis, he left the remaining half by her side.  Whataguy.  In attendance were Ted and Amina Vorster, Tony, Emily, Linden, Ghing, Boom, Piak, Oye, Khun Vit and his wife, Yunn, and Holly Mattos and friend.

It is very important to Tony that it be communicated to all of you out there that the mood here is light and full of love and support.  It feels like one big family and we are being embraced by each other, our Thai friends and the Thai culture.  We are constantly reminiscing about Soraya  - her love for cats, her love for food (yes, we are eating LOTS of it in her honor), her passion for ritual, her ability to be 100% in the moment at all times, her passion for capoeira, her insistence that everyone else love what she love and much more.  We are celebrating her love for life and her genuine kindness and compassion.  Her parents are so happy to finally be here in Chiang Mai which had a special place in Soraya's heart, pulling her back year after year.

Standing with tradition, we all returned to the temple this morning to bring Soraya breakfast and share another meal with her.  Tonight we all return to the temple to celebrate her story and spirit.  Spreading this ritual out over four days gives everyone a chance to slowly let go and become prepared for the cremation ceremony which will take place tomorrow.   Soraya's cousin Ibraham just arrived from Singapore and Nik will be here later tonight.  We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of Linda, Maeanna, Steve and Laurel.

Lots of Love and Big Hugs from CM,
Linden and Emily


Emily Zelman said...

If you would like to post a comment, click on the "comment" link at the bottom of this entry. For profile type choose name and enter your name if you would like.
We want to turn this small local gathering into a global celebration of Soraya's life.
Tony, Ted and Amina are drawing strength from all of the emails and calls they have received so far, so keep 'em comin!

Lynley said...

Thanks so much for setting up the blog! I remember she always used to make me pick letters of the alphabet and she would sing all the Simon and Garfunkel songs that started with that letter.

Sail on silver girl...

Much love,


Anonymous said...

hello SUSU; just want to tell you how much I was happy to know you for 33 years now; Anaïs is sad that she'll never see you again but I told her that you are now and angel and will look after her (after all you are and always be her god mother,aren't you?)
Thanks for being just you all these years
Wish you a safe trip on your last journey and don't come tickling my feet at night because I'm still afraid of god ,even if it's the most beautiful one
Love you so much ,my little cousin
phira,Anaïs and Daniel

Molly G said...

I am Tony's aunt, Carol's sister. This blog is such a blessing. I have forwarded it to all I have been in touch with. We feel so helpless so far away, but this helps ease our pain. Please give Tony and Ted and Amina a BIG HUG from us. Our hearts are with all of you.


Tanya Nygaard said...

To Soraya My Alps and Thailand companion,

Your love of The Alps was contagious; discovering Thailand with you was an incredible, albeit freezing, adventure. I still have the funny hat we bought and wore night and day for 10 days straight! You were full of vivacious energy every step of the way, enjoying your path and convincing everyone along the way to enjoy it too…actually to enjoy it even more. I know you will brighten the next place you land and of that I’m envious.

I will keep your bright smile, kindness and love in my heart and try my hardest to make this world a better place and to keep your spirit alive in all I do. I am so lucky to have experienced your joie de vivre. Je t’embrasse tres, tres forte “mon petit chou-chou”.

Know that I’ll cheer for the French to win the next World Cup and yes I will plug my nose and eat Durian in your honor! So much love, Tanya Nygaard

Florent and Anna said...

Tony, Ted, Amina and family,

With lots of love and thoughts to you and the beautifal Soraya....

Some flowers and insence sent into the sea as we sent you our love and remembered some of the times we were lucky enough to have shared with the girl who made us all smile...


With love from a Costa Rican beach,

Xx,Florent and Anna

tavismoses said...

Below is a beautiful poem that was brought to my attention when a close friend passed away just less then 2 years ago in January of 2009. The poem is a great reminder of making sure you live your life presently. If there was one person that I could think of, who lived their life presently, it would have been Soraya. With her all inclusive spontaneity, to get people to go out & hike, explore, ride, eat and play. I believe she truly embodies exactly what Robert J. Hastings would have used as his example for how to live your life. When he wrote this poem in the early 80's, if he would have known her, he would have said "if you don't fully understand my message, model your life after Soraya, she gets it"!
I miss you so much Soraya, you have been in my thoughts and prayers daily.

To Tony and everyone with you, much much love.


By Robert J. Hastings
TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We're traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damming the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
When we get to the station that will be it!" we cry. Translated it means, "When I'm 18 that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage that will be it! When I win a promotion that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!"
Unfortunately, once we get "it," then "it" disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.
"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

Anonymous said...

To Tony, Soraya's Parents and friends and family, our hearts break for you all and we pray God will give you strength and healing and that her passing into the next life will be as beautiful, peaceful and serene and as she seemed to be. God bless you all, Hugs and love Tony!!!
Peter and Donna Watson

d$wanders said...

Dear So-So,
I think we first met in working in the office. We both had a penchant for making Richard laugh hysterically and avoiding the seriousness of "office work." Many remarked that we looked alike, which was an incredible compliment because I could see your inner and outer beauty. You would ask me for advice about how to become a model. I remember how everyday you would ask me what models should eat because your agent told you to lose 10 pounds and you were sick of eating just plain chicken for breakfast. I told you to give up cycling & lose the muscle in your butt and thighs. You vehemently cried out, "No WAY! I gotta RIDE!"

Somehow, you figured out how to do it all: modeling, family, friends, adventures, eating delicious food (and not just chicken!), laughing, and falling in love with Tony.

Over the years, we've been separated by oceans and miles, but your spirit has and always will live on in my heart, especially when I hear you whisper, "C'mon D, let's go for a ride!"

Farewell my friend and enjoy your journeys...bring peace to Tony, your parents and your friends.

With Aloha, Soroya, much love, Diane Sands

katie said...

I feel very fortunate to have had some fun times with Soraya...she had a presence that was infectious. She successfully cracked me up on a ridiculously tough climb in Slovenia and made me laugh so hard at breakfast in Chamonix that I had to leave the room. Soraya could make anyone feel like they had known her for years and could definitely make anyone laugh.

My father just recently passed away suddenly and I just hope that she can find him and share her warmth and humor in the next place the way she did with us here. Her life inspires everyone to laugh more often and live everyday with conviction and an open heart.

Anonymous said...

To Tony and family,
There is so so much I wish to say and express to you, but wouldn't even know where to begin, or really, how to say what's in my heart. But I do want to tell you this, and I hope it brings you more peace and solace:
The capoeira memorial for our Bate Palmas was so so beautiful. Mestra and many caporiestas took time to cover the school in flowers, rosemary (for remembrance), and candles. A vigil was created with a lovely photo of our gal, a table was set out to write notes to you and her, and a sheet was laid out for us to write messages to our Soraya.
When Sabia and I arrived, folks were sitting and sharing stories of Soraya (I shared my two favorites - her love of spanx, and her insistence that I carried a litter of kittens while I was pregnant).
Aimee and Xange's slideshow was perfect - while it ran above a wall lit by candles, mestre, recruta, indeed a whole bateria, began to softly play music. Many people, myself included, had a lot of trouble watching photos of our beautiful silly soraya go by, but as the music grew louder, and people began to play (clapping their hands mid-game as often as possible, of course :), we couldn't help but find comfort and joy in being in a space and playing a game she loved so much, watched over by her lovely face. People would often pull back to cry, but just as often come together to laugh and share stories, and eat food, and drink.
Although I still can't stop and think about our loss of our amazing lady without being overcome with tears,the memorial, Tony's letters, this blog, all help make a little more sense and bring a little joy into what is an incredible heartbreaking loss. Sabia and I send you every ounce of love and strength we can muster.
Erin aka Vira Lata

Peter said...

Thank you for this wonderful blog. Technology can make us closer and it helps share the pain of the loss and the joy of SuSu's life. I am so happy for my brother Ted, Amina and Tony that this mutlti-day ceremony and the supporting and loving community in CM are able to help them say good-bye in a place that I am now learning was where SuSu felt so much at home.

SuSu- When you were much younger, you needled me for not somehow convincing Ted and Amina that they should have provided a brother or sister for you so you would not be alone. I can see that you went out and made your own brothers and sisters from a world of loving friends and communities of support. You will never be alone.

When they played the Michael Franti song Say Hey(I love you) in my NIA class today, I am almost lost it because it brought back memories of SuSu and the wonderful wedding on the beach in Lake Tahoe. I pulled it together and channeled the joy of SuSu and joy of movement into the song and the rest of the class knowing that is what she wants for all of us. Be joyous, dance your own dance for her!

Peter Vorster

Joanne Lynn said...

Thankyou so much for starting this blog, it is helping us know that Soraya, family and friends are involved in such a meaningful way to let go, and allow us to emotionally be a part of it all as well. Sending love, hoping you can especially pass on hugs to Ted, Amina and Tony from me and Bill. Joanne Lynn(Ted"s cousin)

cristiane said...

I would like to thank's Soraya for the moments we had together .. good to have this space to talk ... kisses!! From Brasil!!!

Anonymous said...


I had a immense pleasure to meet you in Thailand. Thank you very mucht for the wonderfull days we stayed toguether
I'm so sorry!
Chris, always the last one.

EOPayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EOPayne said...

Soraya, thank you for coming into my life - even if it was only for a brief Backroads moment! I will always be glad that we had the chance to get to know one another and bond over wearing silly hats, eating pig boob, and missing the mountains. I'm glad that your Thai family was able to help send you off on your next journey.

Looking at the photos on this blog, I'm struck by something: there are so many smiles. I think that says a lot, not only about your life and the impression you left on those who knew you, but also about your faith. It's nice to think of someone's passing as an opportunity for something greater, rather than as simply a tragedy (though we surely all feel your loss deeply).

I read something the other day that reminded me of you: "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make a mistake." Seems to me that you didn't regret the choices you made, and that's something we all should aspire to. I was going to email it to you, but it seems appropriate to say it here.

Thanks, Soraya. Safe travels.


Dave & MC said...

Emily & Linden - thank you so much for this blog. We had the immense pleasure of spending just one week in Thailand with Soraya on our recent Backroads journey - and she touched us deeply. We are so blessed by her joy for life and by her love and passion for all things Thailand. . . and food and fun. Thank you Soraya for "picking me" to play with you. And Tony, we learned so much about you on our trip. Our hearts and prayers are with you. Love Dave & MC

Barbara and Jim Joye said...

We feel we've had the rare opportunity to meet and learn from this incredibly talented and beautiful woman. We are so blessed that our paths crossed when they did as it has enriched our lives. At the last minute before we left for our Backroads Thailand adventure we decided to take our video camera. As a result we have captured Soraya doing what she loves best. We have watched the clips several times over these past few days absorbing her love and her passions. We have also put together an 8-minute DVD of Soraya clips if Tony or anyone else would like to have.
All of our love to everyone,
Barbara and Jim Joye

cher said...

I had the wonderful privilege of working side by side with Ted for 20 years. It is no accident that, with parents like Ted and Anna, SuSu was such a wonderful, much loved, young lady. The shock and sorrow we all feel is palpable and painful. This blog helps a LOT in easing that pain. I am comforted in knowing now that family and friends were able to say goodbye and see SuSu off in the fashion she desired.
I can still hear SuSu's voice via telephone..wanting to speak to her father and hear Ted patiently deal with whatever issue SuSu was confronting at the moment...smiling thru sadness here.
SuSu was much loved by all and she made her parents so very, very proud. We were all blessed to have been a part of her life.

Cher Howe

Karelia said...

I met Soraya on the Backroads biking tour through the Golden Triangle during mid December of this last year. I remember the morning of our first initial group meeting as she bounded energetically to greet each of us. What radiated from her was a passion for life and a smile that lit the room up. I remember thinking this chick is going to be way cool!

Over the next couple of days, I was drawn to her not only because of her warm and engaging personality, but because we had so much in common in the way we led our lives. Our mutual passion for travel and adventure led to many conversations about how important it is to live in the present and truly embrace what you are passionate about. I remember one conversation in which we talked about the best education was one acquired through traveling where you were able to embrace and engage in different cultures and ways of life. Her passion and love for Thailand was evident through her extensive knowledge of the culture and the way she interacted and showed immense respect for the locals.

Although, Soraya's presence only briefly entered my life, I feel incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with her. I truly got the sense that she lived her life to the fullest and had done more than most people could dream of. I felt so encouraged to have met someone who not only endorsed my nomadic travel lifestyle, but truly understood and encouraged me to keep living the life I wanted.

I will never forget the last day of the tour when Ghing, Emily and Soraya gave me a ride back to Chiang Rai. As I got out of the van, Soraya helped me put my back pack on and radiated with joy and excitement for my upcoming weeks of travel to India. I will always remember her standing there and waving goodbye with that beautiful smile and shining like a very bright light.