While all of this was happening, I couldn't help but feel a strong sense of gratitude and contentment. It was a warm 77 degrees. The sky above us was filled with ancient stars - the bright North Star just to our left. A crowd of other people (mostly adults!) oohing and ahhing at the spectacular view from this vantage point. And, me and my significant other, safe and sound and having a very enjoyable evening.
Then my thoughts shifted to my Uncle Joe, who passed away and transitioned from this life a few days ago on July 1st. Interestingly, the sadness that came over me was not really for him, per se. I had spoken with him a few weeks ago. His weak heart, which he had been dealing with for decades, could no longer beat to sustain him unless he were to stay on a heart defibrillator and take a ton of medication. The diabetes that he suffered from had also escalated, requiring more frequent insulin and medication dosages. My uncle decided that he did not want to continue living if it required such assistance. He had lived a long life (into his 80s) and had suffered much of the previous year in pain, being poked and prodded while doctors tried so hard to figure out how and if they could help him to go on with life.
Uncle Joe ended up in hospice, and he (and I put this lightly) hated it there. He was lonely. The sound of beeping machines and the spirit of imminent death brought a cold feeling over him. If he was going to die, he wanted to die in a way that he felt was dignified, warm, and loving. His final request was to go back home and be with his family for his final days. His wife, my aunt Dolly, and his children and grandchild obliged.
Once home, Uncle Joe was at first energetic and excited. He talked to me on the phone a lot. Family visited every day. His hospice at home regiment was to come completely off of any life sustaining drugs - this included insulin, blood pressure medication, the heart defibrillator, etc. He could still eat, drink, and take any type of medication that helped to alleviate pain and discomfort, and a nurse visited daily to see to this.
As the week went on, Uncle Joe became weaker. He talked less and slept more. He stopped eating, and his daughter had to give him water via an eye dropper in his mouth. I was heartbroken to hear that my little cousin, his granddaughter, said to him, "Poppa, there is always hope. You'll get better," her young heart not fully comprehending the gravity of the situation.
His wife of 46 years (46 YEARS!), my Auntie Dolly, was hanging in there - being so strong on the phone. Then, I got the call on July 1st. My mom called to tell me. I then called Auntie Dolly, and for the first time, she broke down. I told her she would see him again, and she agreed. Now, I had cried during this whole scenario, but when I heard Auntie Dolly break down, that's when I *lost* it.
My heart completely went out to her. Her companion of 46+ years - the person she did everything with and celebrated every holiday and every moment of life with, was gone. He was suddenly and forever - no longer in her life the way he had been for so very long. His physical presence would be no more. I cried for her. I mourned for her. I mourned for his immediate family.
And, last night at the fireworks, the thought that crossed my mind was that this was the very first 4th of July that Auntie Dolly and the rest of the family would be without Uncle Joe. He wasn't sitting outside with them watching the display of colorful sparkles in the sky (though perhaps he was amongst them). It just made me sad for her...and perhaps for me.
Auntie Dolly and Uncle Joe in 2007
I think that whenever some dies, and we've felt some type of connection to them, it reminds us of our own mortality, and the fact that the people around us that we love so dearly are also mortals, and none of us knows the day or time when any of us will leave this plane.
I began to weep, and I told my partner why. He said, "Every thing ends sometime. If you make friends with this statement, you'll be alright." It was a profound thing to say at that moment. This world and this life are all about being impermeable. The only thing certain is that things change. It doesn't necessarily make it any less difficult to cope with the loss of someone you love, but it can ease it a bit.
Some of us can also take comfort in our spiritual perspectives about life after death. My thoughts on the subject have evolved over time, and at present, I believe in reincarnation...though I feel that we likely do not reincarnate from spiritual bodies and onto the planet again until everyone we've personally loved or who has loved us has also passed on. Others believe in heaven, or that we are in a state of sleep until God calls us again.
Whatever your belief system, may it bring you peace and strength during times of loss. May our hearts be open to healing and to ways in which we can assist, love, and show compassion for those who are suffering loss. May we take the peace of mind, the residue that is yoga, off of the mat and into situations that require calmness, acceptance, and balance.
Debbie aka Sulilo