Losing and Lessons

It is fair to say that every human on the planet has lost something or someone. We have all had events or people in our lives that invited us to feel loss. For some it has been the actual loss of a person, or perhaps the loss of an opportunity, or even the loss of a dream.

For this past month or so I have circled back as I do so often every year around my daughter’s birthday.

In my own process of evolving and working to be the best version of myself that I can be. I have given myself permission to feel anything and everything when it comes to her birthday. For years I stuffed the emotions that I thought some might see as an ungrateful and resentful mom. I have since learned that nobody’s opinion really matters when it comes to how I feel. My feelings are valid and real whatever they are.

I am able to now openly share with myself and others that there is indeed a loss when it comes to her.

She was born this little perfect sweet little baby girl but within a few years was identified with multiple developmental disabilities and the reality that my relationship with my only daughter was not going to be that of my friends you had a “typical” daughter. We were not going to have typical conversations and mother daughter outings. Instead, I would forever be her mode of transportation and decision maker. There would not be the moments to plan her dream wedding, but instead I would be arranging where she will live when I am too old to care for her. I wouldn’t be celebrating her college degree and career path. Instead I will be finding appropriate day programs for her to feel some resemblance of purpose and meaning in her life.

That is a huge loss.

Through the process of my wakeup years ago, I realized that within the loss is a great lesson.

I am now able to see all that I have gained. Learning to take the loss and create something amazing and powerful through the lesson of acceptance and grace has been amazing. You can hear my whole story here on this awesome podcast. I chose to accept and do something with this amazing gift I was given, through her and as her.

The point is the lesson I have learned was that life doesn’t always give us what we may see as the ideal, but if we open our hearts to seeing the lesson, it may just rock your world.

When my children’s father died in 2014 I experienced another huge life changing lesson through the process of loss. I had already lost him in many ways as we divorced when things got too much for him related to our daughter and the vastness of what our life had become. To be completely honest, he wasn’t the greatest dad and he definitely was not able to show up for himself, or the kids, however I was willing to see the lesson in his unfortunate death. One of the greatest days in my life as a mom was witnessing my boys show up for him, regardless of his inability to show up for them. You can read about that pivotal day in my life here.

When he died, he was alone. He had made decisions in the last year of his life that prompted his last few days to be that where he was not surrounded by anyone as he transitioned. The painful reality of his last few years was just too much for my kids once they had said their beautiful goodbye days before, and he was estranged from his friends and family.

That was a big loss. Not just for him, but for my children, and in a way myself.

The lesson I learned from that loss has become a huge part of my life and service work. Within a few months of his death, I had a mystical and powerful yearning to volunteer in hospice. Knowing that I had to serve those dying and that nobody should die alone became my mission.

This week, one of my yoga students whom I have been spending time with every two weeks fell gravely ill and when I arrived at his group home I was told he was intubated and in the ICU. Due to his previous injures our yoga sessions are essential me rubbing his feet and moving his paralyzed limbs. When I heard about his his current condition, it didn’t not occur to me to NOT go. I jumped in my car and off I went with my magic hands and open heart.

The smells of an ICU and the sensory overload within the space can easily overtake you, if you allow it. Tubes. Alarms. Machines. So much to be distracted by.

I walked in and he was awake but obviously unable to speak. Grabbing his hand I watched as his eyes twinkled with recognition. When I went to say goodbye a single tear fell from his eye.

All alone.

The lesson of acceptance and regardless-of-what-someone-did-or-didn’t-do-you-show-up came from those two losses in my life. I know with every fiber of my being that had my girl been born not as she was and had their father not been who he was and not died the way that he did, I would not have been there for my student, and the countless other strangers who I have had the honor to rub their feet.

I know that.

Loss? Yes, for sure.

Lesson? Absolutely.

Simple Kindness

About six years ago I had a new student come into my classes who later proved to become a sweet friend who never asked for recognition for his mysterious, and always anonymous generosity. He was the example of simple kindness.

If you knew him, you may have not been able to recognize that he was a person living with a traumatic brain injury or that he struggled with all types of pain. His outlook and hash tag on life was #lovemylife. He never complained and was always up for a positive spin on things.

Through the years, I shared yoga and mindfulness with him. I schooled him on the proper way to eat cold chicken (only with mustard). I proudly sent him pictures of my garden bounty and the hikes I took. He returned this with endless versions of simple kindness; countless bags of chocolates delivered to my door, things for my shoes so I don’t slip on ice, he would send his own pictures of amazing hikes, and we often compared notes on Saturday steak nights.

Our friendship was based on simple kindness between two people.

Despite very different lifestyles we connected. What was most intriguing was our communication was only through texting. We disagreed politically and on issues we are both passionate about. Rather than attempt to convince each other that our view was the right view, we chose instead to focus on kindness. We chose to share things with each other that embodied what it meant to live your best life. He cracked lame jokes and always asked me about my health. I made sure he knew I was around and that he was on my mind from time to time.

Simple kindness was the theme of our friendship.

A few weeks ago, I went to see him in person in the hospital as he battled for his life. I rubbed his feet and brought him lemonade. Words were minimal and not needed.

His illness, injuries and life of pain came to an end recently. I know that what he was facing was not living his best life. He also knew it. His need to escape society and head to the woods for months at a time was not something he would be able to do.

I knew his fear and his pain.

Taking a much needed a hike in the trees, I had little chat with him and wished him well on his soul path. As I finished saying my goodbyes, I snapped this photo of the hill I was climbing and the light beam was such an obvious sign.

Nicely done, Scott. I will treasure your spirit and the gift your life was on my path. Enjoy the trees, the hawks and the views.

The Privilege

The air was difficult to breathe; heavy with tension and with a denseness of uncertainty.  The fear of the unknown and the anxiety stifling our very breath.  We stood in unity, hands held, watching with anticipation. As the following moments unfolded, I witnessed something so beautiful it is hard to capture in written words.

Yesterday both of the boys were with their dad as he was removed from life support. After each boy said their goodbyes we stood in unison and watched the process through a window in the ICU unit.

The heaviness in the air was suffocating.

As we stood together, I reminded the boys that their father was there to help them enter this world, and now together, we get the opportunity to be there as he exited.

Moments following his head turned, sedated and confused his eyes shifted our way.  We all held our breath in stillness.

As if the time has stopped, I watched as my youngest son walked towards the window.  He placed his hands on the glass and gazed into the room.  With purpose and poise he re-entered his father’s hospital room.  I watched through the window as he spoke directly to his dad. I saw his dad look at him.  The space became still and light.  Slowly my older son joined his little brother. Side by side my two young men comforted their dad. They held his hands. They leaned over the bed fearlessly. With their hearts wide open they spoke to him and they loved him. Completely setting aside any of their own heartbreak that spanned years of disappointments, they gave their father the gift of unconditional love.

I witnessed my two boys elevate beyond any fear and open their hearts–wholeheartedly–to the space of compassion and of love.  They each faced this experience with courage and with grace.  In the following thirty minutes, I watched as they fully embraced their dad and the experience of death.  I felt the lightness in the air.  The peace enveloped all three of them and the healing between them happened.  I saw with my own eyes an affirmation of each of my boys integrity, love, compassion and true grace.

I watched as they were each heroic in their unwavering support and compassion for their dad, and for each other.

And what a privilege it was to see.