All-American Hero, Kevin Broils
by Maria Bardino
I met Kevin early, very early, in my practice of this Buddhism. We were scheduled (quite often) to do toban together. It's funny, but it seemed that we did toban together quite often at the (former) Miami Training Center as well as the (former) Miami Community Center.
Kevin did not have a car many times in those days ... the one he did have looked like it would self-destruct at any given moment — and actually came close to it quite often! Which is the reason why Kevin often took the bus to the Miami Community Center. He lived in an unincorporated area of Homestead in those days, and so it often took him a good 2-3 hours to get to the (former) MCC just one way! (As opposed to 45 min to an hour by car.)
Gentle-natured, tall, African-American, I sensed that Kevin was a sensitive, loving person, and I always hung on his every word as he would share stories with me from his life and his Buddhist practice. I also, surely, yadda yadda yadda'd to him, complaining bitterly about my love life, etc. I am now quite annoyed with myself in realizing that I never picked him up to do toban ... but, as I remember, whenever I offered, he turned me down, and said "That's OK. I really don't mind."
Kevin shared with me the story of how he met his wife and their stormy relationship — I suppose in part to encourage my sorry life condition. He told me that he had been in the Air Force. He had been a Christian, and had not gotten on very well with his family. He told me about meeting Cindy. She was a bartender where he hung out with his friends and went drinking, near the Homestead Air Force Base.
Cindy was Taiwanese. He fell for her right away, but she was kind of aloof towards him. He really wanted to "get on her good side," so little by little, he started to accept her "strange" practice of repeating some words and chanting to a scroll in a piece of furniture. At first, he really did not want to chant, and had numerous arguments with Cindy about her Buddhist practice. But when he realized that it might be a way to win his beloved's heart, he started to practice ... and enjoyed it so very much that he became an incredibly active member in the Young Men's Division!
But Kevin became quite discouraged when the YMD leader for this area passed away (he did not "like" the new leader), and he stopped practicing. When Kevin told me about this, he looked at me in a very focused and heartfelt manner. He said, "Maria, please don't ever stop practicing if a leader does something that you do not approve of, or that you do not like." What wisdom and compassion my beloved friend always had! His words still bring love and encouragement into my life!
In any case, when Kevin stopped practicing, his life started heading on a downward spiral. He started taking drugs, and had a relationship with a woman that was most disastrous. All along, he emphasized to me, Cindy just chanted for his happiness. After a humiliating experience with that new "love" relationship, Kevin saw his mistake and returned to Cindy. He was hesitant to practice with the organization again — afraid of being laughed at. But Cindy assured him and said, "Don't worry! (SGI) members are not that way!" And she was right.
It was upon his return to the SGI, that I met my beloved Kevin. Every time he saw me, he teased me by humming or singing "Maria" (the Leonard Bernstein composition from West Side Story). He was in a transitional period in his career back then, as I recall.
When he had left the Air Force, Kevin only knew that he was mechanically inclined. After Kevin's abundant daimoku to find the best job, Cindy's former boss offered him a job doing something that Kevin knew would help him advance towards his dream of working at Motorola. Indeed, not much later, he got his dream job.
Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Andrew struck, and virtually destroyed Kevin and Cindy's home. While working hard to rebuild his home, Kevin also struggled hard to assist very many whose lives and homes were devastated after the storm. In fact, his selfless assistance brought him to the hearts and attention of many, and was chronicled by the World Tribune.
Among the many who began taking an interest in Kevin, were the Miami-Dade Commissioners from his area, who were totally in awe of Kevin's efforts. Kevin was now not only a valued employee of Motorola, but a tireless advocate of the citizens of unincorporated Homestead, and, eventually, a tireless fighter for the homeless, too.
It was in the height of all this activity, that my friend came into the (former) Miami CC, and when he saw me became all emotional. "AH, my dear Maria!" he said to me. "How I always remember doing toban with you!!!" And then he started singing the "Maria" song again. It is in shame to realize that I was a bit cold to Kevin that night. He had seemed so strange to me, so very emotional. Maybe part of me was scared.
Gohonzon always mystically answers our questions, and it was not too long before I found out the "why" of Kevin's behavior. Kevin was scheduled to go into exploratory surgery sometime in early February for a possible tumor in his kidney. When I saw him at New Year's Day Gongyo, it was my turn to run up to this noble, kindhearted Hero of Kosen-rufu. I apologized for my coldness, I told him how much I loved him, how I would be praying for him. I did not really know what else to say, since he seemed kind of surprised and slightly annoyed that I had found out.
Kevin died a day or two after his surgery in early 1995. He seemed healthy and fine. Five leaders had been in to see him that morning. He was lying on his back. A nurse came in, but saw everyone, and said she'd be back later. Not even five minutes after they left, the nurse came in again, Kevin sat up, said, "I feel dizzy," and died of a blood clot to the brain on the spot.
During Kevin's funeral, I met and connected very strongly with his family. He looked so much like his Mom. He was at the funeral home for two days. I attended each day, and did the most heartfelt Byakuren I had ever done.
Kevin's service looked like a funeral service for a grand statesman. The two Miami-Dade Commissioners from his area were in attendance and spoke. A representative from Motorola spoke. It was "standing room only," with people spilling over into two additional rooms.
The external sound system which filtered in the music was not working, and it was just as well, because so many people had so many wonderful things to say about this great and humble man. The guests in attendance were all ages, all colors, all nationalities, from all walks of life...
I wanted to stay to the very, very end and say goodbye to my friend alone. And so, I said an emotional farewell to Kevin's family — especially his Mother, and then walked in to say goodbye to my friend.
The external sound system was on again, and music was just starting to play, as I stepped into the room. It was a lovely sound of violins. Very sweet, very tender. A very loving sound, I thought. As I continued my walk towards my beloved friend's casket, I recognized the music that was being piped into the room — which had started the very moment I walked through the door.
It was "Maria,"
Leonard Bernstein's composition from West Side Story.