I could go on and on about how great my job is, and how rewarding it is to help people and how fun it is meeting new people but today, I won’t. Let’s be honest; there are things we all dislike about our careers sometimes right? Whether you work from home, have an office job, are outside all day, or you get to travel for a living, there are aspects we all could go without. Yoga teachers too! Recently I have been surrounded by death and instead of pretending to be Miss Happy Go Lucky, I thought I’d get real with you and share my true feelings on the matter. Today, as I write this, I should be teaching my regular client of three times a week, 95-year-old Arthur who never fails to tell me a “new” tale in the storybook that is his life. Arthur was in two wars, he has traveled the world, he had moved from Brooklyn to California where he met his now deceased wife and they raised three very successful children. He has been involved with the state department and was in the Navy and was on the front-lines in the Korean War. His home is filled with antiques and artifacts that he has collected from his years abroad and I swear we do as much chair yoga and we do “yoga chatting” as Arthur likes to call it!
Last Friday, I noticed Arthur seemed weaker than normal and we didn’t do as many exercises out of the chair as we normally do. But he was in good spirits as always, cracking me up and asking me “well, what have you been doing that’s exciting?” like he always does when I come. I even snuck him a piece of leftover Valentine candy that I had in my pocket. When we finished stretching, I told him I would see him Monday and to enjoy Jeopardy that evening and then he shook my hand and as always said, “wow you have a firm and strong shake!”
His daughter contacted me on Sunday to let me know that Arthur had deteriorated over the weekend and was now on hospice. My heart was/ is broken. “How could this happen when we were just doing chair yoga on Friday?” is all I keep thinking until I talked to my 92-year-old Gram and she said “he was 95 that’s how that happened.” Very wise and blunt woman that Cecilia. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree on that one. And wow 95 years of living! That is an incredibly long time to live and Arthur lived an incredibly fulfilling life if you ask me.
I know I am always preaching non-attachment on this blog but my gosh, I am attached to people. Like very attached. Like- I can’t bear to loose my elderly clients and it makes me ugly cry when it happens- attached. It’s painful watching bright and energetic elderly people change in the blink of an eye like with what happened with Arthur. I went to go see him Monday and he was laying in a hospital bed, very peacefully I might add, and although he’s wasn’t talking much anymore he was responsive to my voice and my touch. He instantly smiled and of course I lost it and tried to keep the tears to a minimum for his sake. He doesn’t need to see that but it is so hard to be strong when just three days earlier we were practicing like we always do. Arthur passed away last night and was surrounded by his loving family and dog Patches. There won’t be a day that goes by for sometime that I won’t think of him and his infectious laugh.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I have been feeling surrounded by death. Just two weeks ago my very favorite chair yoga couple, Jan and Marion, both passed away without anyone knowing that anything was wrong. This sad fact broke my heart. Although they never married, Jan and Marion were together some 30 plus years after they met working at a hospital. Jan was a very small women who always had an oxygen tank with her although that wasn’t gonna stop her from doing her yoga, as she would say, while Marion was a very tall man, with a booming laugh. He would always ask me, “have anyone ever died in your class Niccola?” and “do people fall off the chair often?” He also would never say Namaste, the traditional yoga salutation used at the end of the class, instead he would say “Peace be with you!” They were both very strong in their faith and Jan told me that she had prayed for me to come into her life. She actually told me that she came home from church after praying on it, and saw my flyer at her door announcing that I would be teaching yoga in her mobile home community. I mean how sweet is that?
And if people die in threes, is it the same for dogs? I take care of and walk some elderly dogs and it is just as hard watching them get old as it watching my students. If you don’t have a dog than you wouldn’t understand but it is said that dogs give and receive love with their eyes and I couldn’t agree more. My little Corduroy sometimes stares into my eyes for minutes at a time and I can only guess what he’s saying to me. (In all honestly he’s probably like, “When are you going to feed me?” but that’s ok!) I think it’s safe to say I am just as attached to animals as I am people and in some cases, probably more. If you haven’t read my blog about how I pretty much like animals more than most people, you’ll have to read it here!
So as you can imagine I was again devastated when I learned that not one, but two of the older dogs I take care both passed away from weird stomach issues. Both of these dogs were lovely but the exact opposite. Where Foxie was a Malamute over 200 pounds, Brodie was barely seven pounds. Foxie would absolutely take me for a walk when possible, while Brodie had a hard time keeping up with my long strides! Foxie had the most gentle presence and I took care of her for much longer than some of the other dogs in my care. I ran into Foxie’s owner at the gym last week and she could barely speak about it and I totally get it because I have been down that road before and it was the worst day/feeling/experience of my life. No joke. I hope Foxie and Brodie are in doggie heaven where there are an endless amount of tennis balls and lint lifters!
But the grief I’m experiencing now is good grief, or so I’m calling it. I’m trying to look at the other side of the coin and feel lucky that I was able to introduce Arthur and Jan and Marion to chair yoga even if just for a short while, at the end of their lives. The conversations and laughter I shared with them will stay with me forever just like all the time I spent walking Foxie and picking up after her never-ending shedding coat! People and animals come into our lives and they impact us even if they don’t think so or can’t necessarily express it. The best piece of advice that I got from Arthur was this, “Don’t wait to live your life after you retire. Live your life now. And travel. A lot. And keep a journal and write everything down because when you’re my age you’re going to want to reread all that and remember those people’s names that escape you now.” Well said Arthur. I’ll do my best!
Alright I’m changing the subject now… I completely forgot to post the winners of The Yummy Yogini Kitchen Yoga Contest that I held two weeks ago. If we aren’t friends on social media than you might not have seen these cool shots! And I’m leaving you with two 3-minute videos for those of you who suffer from low back and neck pain so pass them along if you know someone who could benefit!