I haven’t been writing much lately, because the requirement for living this week hasn’t left space for anything else. I spent the weekend at Swami Satchidananda’s Ashram in Yogaville with my teacher Logan’s teacher Lisa. I’ve been missing Logan so much since she left for California and felt so much of her with us this weekend. Logan is so much of Lisa and Lisa is so much of Logan and her teacher is my teacher and everything is one. On the drive back on Sunday I found out my friend Nancy had been killed in a tragic car accident by a drunk driver early that morning. I came straight to the hospital where Nancy’s body was resting on life support to sustain her organs until the time she could give her final gift to this world as an organ donor. There were so many people there and the pain was palpable, but so was the love. I kneeled by her hospital bed, held her hand and cried onto the sheets and prayed. I hugged the people who’ve held her closest and then I left.
This week is also the final week of my OB/GYN rotation and we have our end of rotation shelf exam scheduled for Friday morning, so of course I’m supposed to be studying but I’m not. I drove to the beach on Monday and sat by the water with my dog who knows nothing about pain. It was beautiful, but the sun was too bright and the air too warm and the noises too happy for any of this to be real. It hasn’t really hit me yet that a person I held in savasana just last week and spent the afternoon discussing how she would take over the yoga program at EVMS next year, like any of that mattered, no longer walks this earth.
I planned to cancel Sunset Yoga this week, because how could I not? But Nancy has been to almost every class I’ve taught since I created our pop-up yoga collective, the Bhav Brigade, and she loved that class something fierce. Her friends ask me to teach it, not in spite of everything that’s happened but because of it, so of course I say yes without really knowing what that means. Nancy planned to bring her mom to the class with her for the first time and I know she wouldn’t miss it for the world, so I know we’ll be practicing with her. I have no idea how to teach this class, but I take comfort in knowing that it’s not about me at all. It’s not even about the yoga really either—people are coming to feel Nancy and to take part in something that she loved together with the people who love her. So I pray and I ask Nancy to help me teach this class and I leave it at that.
If I had to guess I’d say over 150 people showed up, maybe close to 200. The amount of love that was present on that pier is too much to put into words. We chanted the liberation prayer together in Sanskrit and then in English. “Lead us from the unreal to the real, lead us from darkness to light, lead us from the fear of death to the knowledge of immortality. Peace for the body, peace for the mind, peace for the soul. May the universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light.” And then we meditated. Nancy’s favorite meditation is Loving Kindness, so we did it for Nancy’s passing and all the people who have been touched by her life and crushed by her death and also for every human being that has ever experienced loss. And then when things got too heavy, I cracked jokes trying to lighten a mood that could never be lightened, and we laughed a little too. We held her in our hearts and cried onto our mats and physically moved through the grief with each other. At the end we threw the flowers from Nancy’s memorial into the water and sea otters surfaced and it was beautiful. Over fifteen hundred dollars were donated last night for the creation of a permanent memorial at our medical school and the donations keep on coming.
And now it’s over and things are quieter and I’m driving down to Charlotte tomorrow to stand by my friend Alex’s side as she marries the love of her life. The range of emotions I feel in this moment is almost too much to handle. There is so much joy but also the worst kind of sadness and I wonder how all of this can coexist in a single week, in a lifetime even.
As I drove home from the ashram on Sunday and finally stopped sobbing enough to hear my thoughts, I said to myself, “What a shitty fucking way to end such a beautiful weekend.” But I realize now that this is why I ended up there in the first place, it was all preparation. Preparation for Sunday, for last night, for being present with all the people that Nancy loved in the earthquake of pain that was left behind when her spirit left this earth. I’ve been struggling lately, really, really struggling more so than I ever have before and I think God knew I needed to take the time to heal before I could take any of this on. I needed to retreat into a place that was loving and safe—to close up old wounds to make space for what is now a gaping hole in my heart.