Antonio Salvatore Di Giammarco died on February 14th, 2014. He was 52 years old. His death came suddenly and unexpectedly. He died like the Dzogchen practitioner he was, with great simplicity, ease and grace. There was a palpable presence of light and softness around him as he passed.
Antonio was kind, compassionate, generous, intelligent, funny, playful, adventurous, active, talented, deeply spiritual and philosophical. It is impossible to write a complete list of his qualities and activities, because he was a true Renaissance man. An actor, a counsellor, meditation master, Katsugen practitioner, master carpenter, furniture maker, and a magical chef. He could throw a party for a hundred people without blinking and he cooked every day of his life, combining ingredients that never repeated themselves. He was creative and a free spirit. He would dance and sing and play games every day. In this way Antonio did so much more than exist – his life was a celebration of existence.
He was a wonderful husband: attentive, loving, nurturing, fun. He became an elemental part of our family almost instantly – such was his capacity to care for others and fill our lives with happiness, opportunity and new joys.
Antonio grew up in a small village in Abruzzo, where his ashes will soon be placed beside his parents. They were in their forties when Antonio was born, and taught him the old ways of life. His mother was a professional seamstress and his father had survived a traumatic time in a Nazi prison camp. He learned cooking from his father, and many lessons about human nature from his mother. Antonio’s parents appreciated his special energy, loved him dearly and allowed him the freedom to fully become his mischievous and playful self.
Antonio met Norbu Rinpoche when he was in his early twenties and felt he had found his teacher – an energy that could guide his way of living. Antonio was one of Rinpoche’s original students. He was deeply involved with the community. He was a caretaker at Merigar for two years and a contributor to the building and sustaining of it.
Antonio’s practice was joyfully integrated into each day of his life. He bounced out of bed every morning to do his meditation, Katsugen, Song of Vajra and some secret practices he would smile and not talk about. His mediation room was at once full of energy and peace.
Like his spiritual practice, the routines of Antonio’s life were carried out with zeal, dedication and honesty. He read the newspaper every morning and loved to debate the chaotic state of Italian politics. He spent his days meeting people, designing and creating in his workshop, buying wood, setting up new business, running errands and helping others. He may have led a busy life, yet the beauty of Antonio’s nature was that anyone who encountered him received his fullest attention and care. His far-reaching network of friends and acquaintances around the world stand as a testament to this warmth, generosity and charisma.
Of Antonio’s many insightful philosophies, one which resonated so deeply amongst his family and friends was his capacity to embrace circumstances. This was always evident in his cooking. Antonio believed that the most important thing was to base a meal upon what was available, seasonal, and your mood of the moment. Rather than impose a form, his approach to food was to let the characteristics and quality of ingredients guide the meal. He cooked instinctually, and anyone who enjoyed a plate of his food knew how extraordinary his culinary touch was. The food of Antonio, even the simplest of dishes, was brimming with love and creativity. You always needed a second helping.
This ability to turn life’s ingredients into extraordinary projects is evidenced by the great mark he left across Amiata and beyond – from the many doors, floors, kitchens and tables he constructed, to the stories, memories and experiences he built with others. He was a man of action and great accomplishment, yet he remained humble.
There will be a wave of change over Amiata with Antonio’s death. It is our wish that his passing will draw this community together in compassion, humour, integrity and love – just as his life did. These are the circumstances now, and in finding the beauty amidst the sorrow we are honouring the lessons Antonio taught us: live with fullness, embrace change and continue to grow.
He will be forever missed and loved by his wife Alice and his step-daughters Charlotte and Gina.
[These words were written by Alice, Charlotte and Gina Simmonds]