A few dishes left in the sink, an empty wine glass on the table, small gifts intended to be shared, but since Tyler and I forgot to bring them, I ended up taking them all — hey, friends, sorry I didn’t think to let y’all do an exchange without us! Discarded wrapping paper, tissue, and newspaper that had covered said gifts. Cotton balls and peroxide left out to remind me to keep cleaning Pooka’s wounds (she was mauled by an Akita on Friday, but is doing much better). A pot of soup on the stove. Contemplating drinking some coffee to get my ass off the couch. Thinking about all the gifts I need to make, now that the dinner party plans are over and Christmas, or hexmas, is just four days away. I wanted to write about the party, the friends who came and helped , the connections made, the preparations, the food (homemade ricotta gnocchi was just one tiny part of it)…
Being the facebook addict, I had to check facebook first. My friend Harry, who lives in Puerto Rico, had just posted the oddest thing on our friend Caren’s wall:
“You will be missed. Rest in peace our dear friend.”
That instinctive gasping and holding of the breath. Heart pounding. I wrote to him:
“i saw what you wrote on caren’s wall and i hope you’re talking about something else…. did something happen? is caren all right?”
I was scratching my brain to think of any other possible meaning behind that post. Maybe her dog died? Something. Anything! But I didn’t think she had a dog. Harry wrote me back and explained that no, Caren was not all right. She died this morning.
Suddenly all the mundane details I was starting to obsess over seemed unworthy of thought. Dishes? The crumbs on the floor? The gifts I still need to make? The partially-finished projects, like my chandeliers, or those projects still in the idea-only stage? What about running upstairs and telling my parents that I love them, and thanking them again for opening up their home to me? What about my nieces and nephews, some of whom I hardly see, even though they live only a mile away? Harry told me a little: that they think she died because her aneurism finally burst. She knew she had one, near her brain stem. Doctors said that if she even touched it, it could burst. Caren knew this, and had been on medication. Strangely, her last week had been filled with social events, dinners with friends every night, as though she knew something, he said. Harry said his wife, Lisa, was with Caren’s husband Ron, and that he’d have Lisa call me later when she returned.
Caren was one of my yoga students. She came to class every Saturday morning at the Secret Garden (aka, the beautiful yoga space). She was one of our close-knit group, who started at 9 a.m. practicing yoga, then went swimming or snorkeling just off the yoga deck afterwards. Sometimes the day would stretch into a barbeque, drinking margaritas and wine. Detox, and retox. That was so typical of Rincon.
At first, Caren came with her husband. Yoga was not really his thing. Caren and Ron did everything together, so it seemed significant that she continued to come after he gave it up. Another friend commented that she was really blossoming. She loved yoga, the way it made her feel. She kept it up with a group of women after I left — they got together and practiced with a DVD or a show on television.
I am guessing that Caren was about 60. Beautiful, short gray hair, the nicest smile, an infectious laugh. Such bright and caring eyes.
I wish I could see her one more time. Just a dinner, or a yoga class, or a walk on the beach. A glass of wine at Harry and Lisa’s. Anything. If I could say something to her, I’d say thank you. Thank you for coming to my classes. Thanks for inspiring me to keep teaching. Thanks for always being so friendly and supportive.
I just thought of one incident: Just after I got kicked out of the Secret Garden, we moved the class down the road to a deck at “the scorpion’s den,” a bizarre building on a multimillion dollar property built to house a restaurant, an apartment, and a strip club. Another student was living there at the time, and he offered it up to us. The energy felt wrong to me, but we needed to try it, or suspend classes until we found somewhere else. The deck wasn’t covered, but it had a view of the ocean (as well as a giant scorpion mural on the wall), and it was big enough for all of us. That first class there, something happened which, as a teacher, you hope never happens. I completely lost it. I think I was reading from Pema Chodron — “When Things Fall Apart” has been a life raft over the past few years. I had guided them into putting their legs up the wall (it was really exciting to actually have a wall, after teaching on that open air deck for so long). Legs up the wall pose, or Viparita Karani, is a deeply restorative pose. Being lifted up by the ground beneath you and letting your legs rest against a wall allows your body to completely surrender. You can give up holding yourself into a position. As you let your back rest, the belly softens, the skin on the front of your body can relax. Even the forehead and jaw soften and release. And the legs, which usually hold you up and get the strongest pull of gravity, suspend lightly. Powerful things can happen in Viparita Karani, if you can let yourself stay there. I started reading Pema to them and got completely choked up. I think I was trying to apologize for having to move the class, which was so tight. We all felt the loss of that amazing space. I felt like it was my fault, that I couldn’t manage the relationship with the owner, and that my actions were punishing them. I actually started sobbing. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I stopped reading, and just cried. Caren said, “why don’t you put your legs up the wall, Jodi, and breathe?” Losing control was embarrassing — humiliating! But at that moment I felt her love — without judgment. I felt like she wasn’t only a student. She was a friend.
I’m thinking of Caren surrounded by love and light. And I want Ron to know how much I cherished her friendship.
Every goodbye is a death. I want to think about how I would want to leave things, if indeed that goodbye is the last.