Fragility. Impermanence. Gratitude.

A convergence of life settled upon me like a big cloud from October through November.

I was really a supporting cast member but at the same time the events affected me greatly, challenged me as a human being and friend and deeply reminded me of the fragility of life.

A friend of mine got a phone call one morning that set her on a remarkable and scary new path. A kidney was available. Someone died and offered her a new life.

She took it, despite the risks and her fears. Life is too sweet to turn down the possibility of it being sweeter. But stepping into this new life posed and continues to pose new challenges (life ain’t never easy, huh?).

My yoga guru had her fifth neck dissection Nov. 9 for radiation-resistant Level 6 cancer in her thyroid. The weeks leading up to the surgery were tense. Anticipation and uncertainty on the part of friends and family contributed, and in no small way mortality’s impermanence weighed  heavily as well. Still through each class she encouraged lightness among others and commanded humor to do the work a serious yogi couldn’t at the time. On surgery day, what was to take six hours took one. A voice, so sweet and yet tenuous and raspy – was left intact.

Another friend has been struggling for more than a year with her father’s Alzheimer’s. She needed to come to grips with the erasure of a lifetime even as the person stands and breathes. Endless comments were going unsaid, conversations between a daughter and father that needed to be had. Fear dominated her reluctance to sit with her emotions, to inspect her role and what it meant to her, to tell her dad she loved him. “He doesn’t know who I am anyway.” Well her dad ended up having an infection that rapidly eroded what was left of the storyline he had written over 87 years on this earth. In that final week she found herself alone with her dad. The eldest sibling and primary caregiver out of town. The other two too far away. She spent his last days knitting by his side as he either blinked or appeared to sleep, talking to him and giving him permission to let go. She was there to share his last breath beside him, as she had enjoyed countless lifegiving ones on countryside truck rides as a child.

This trifecta of life stories whirled and rotated in each others’ orbits like a tornado over a span of three weeks. I was a shoulder for tears at the last breath. I was a smile for one as “Sid the Kid” took the hold but we feared organ rejection. And I’m on the food tree for guruji as she heals – taking her her favorite coffee drinks and just sharing laughter and life.

I share this because nothing is by accident. I’ve felt overwhelmed at the enormity and weight of life these past few weeks and wondered at the whys of it all. But I’ve also noticed the storm cloud and respected it. There are great lessons within.

You see, I’ve encountered an unmatched anger and sadness at one friend for what appeared to be a lack of gratitude for new life being given. Sometimes she would lash out at people with a viciousness that was hard to forgive all the while she was more vulnerable than she’d ever been.

I didn’t act on this anger verbally or outwardly. I’ve cried over it, feeling horrible to be angry at someone who is so sick. And I’ve sat with it, inspecting it humbly.

Patience – Zogyal, my Tibetan name. Doesn’t mean I have it. Means I needs to be workin’ on it. So I sit.

The other has me meditating on a strength of character and will of being I’ve only had the fortune of encountering two or three times in my 42 years in this skin. I wonder if I have inside me what she has. I feel as though I’m in presence of a higher spiritual being. I know it. I am in awe of the grace of some sentient beings and blessed to recognize them when they are sent to me.

The last I honor sweetly in my prayers as I realize that leaving this life is just as blessed an event as entering it and we rarely get to do it eyes wide open or want to. One of the greatest roles we can have in life is not only to usher life in but help it to another realm. I have fulfilled that role before and it is transforming.

I honor the fragility of each day. Each breath. It is fleeting, impermanent.

And I am left with mindfulness, compasssion – gratitude.


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