Summers here in Florida are HOT, and by hot I mean oppressive. Although temperatures rarely break the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark, the humidity and the blazing sun sure make it feel like it on some days. Often we get an afternoon or evening rain shower, but this July, there were very few. So the suffocating days just seemed to go on and on. People often ask how I can stand it, well like winter in the north, we stay indoors for most of the afternoon enjoying the air conditioning. Early mornings and late evenings around sunrise and sunset are the best times of day and can actually be lovely to be in the open air.
This summer was not only oppressive, weather wise, but depressing for my family and me. My father had been declining over the past year and a half, and at 85 years old, his life was winding down. We all knew his time on earth was coming to a close, but we were not sure how much longer we had to spend with him here. In early July, on my birthday my mother asked me to come stay with my father for a few days so she could go to New Jersey to be with her youngest brother, who was only 59 years old and dying from cancer. Luckily she made it in time to say goodbye before he passed away, the day after my birthday. The next week, my mother, brothers and I made our way to Jersey City to attend the traditional Catholic funeral, which lasted 2 days. My mother opted to have my father stay in a hospice respite care facility while we were away. He did not like this place at all.
While in New Jersey at the wake the night before the funeral, my cousins and I laughed and joked about how my father was trying to escape the hospice center by calling all of his friends to come get him and take him home. My dad, Jack, still making trouble and giving people a hard time, even in his last days. Three weeks later, he passed away at home. His body had served him well on this earth, and now it was time to leave it and move on to a better place. The services for my father were beautiful and for the second time in just a few weeks, I was able to spend time with my extended family.
Being from a large family is such a blessing. I remember the parties and gatherings we all had on the Jersey Shore growing up. Our house was never empty, especially during the summers and the joy and laughter that filled our lives lives on. We had more laughs at the funerals for my uncle and father than we had tears. And although these were sad occasions, the joy that we share together as a family overcomes the sadness of knowing a loved one has moved on. All that aside, this summer wasn’t easy, actually it was emotional roller coaster and the stress of it all created a heaviness in my body.
Yesterday was my fathers birthday. He would have been 86 years old. I didn’t realize it until later in the morning and I shed a few tears. I was in the middle of my practice. Oh, my Ashtanga Yoga Asana practice has been difficult. Some days I just moved through the motions not being able to get through but a few postures. Other days I couldn’t even roll out my mat. I couldn’t face how I was feeling, heavy and hot with sack of sadness weighing on my back. But I cannot stay like this for long, because yesterday was also the day that it all came back. Yesterday I finally got my practice back after nearly 2 months of going through the motions. Today I feel even better. Today I relish my practice. I thought that the lack of physical movement would make me feel slow, sluggish and non-flexible, but like riding a bike it came flooding back to me.
Today I feel stronger than ever. Today I am so happy to be alive, and I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel. This morning I practiced on my back deck. A cool breeze came wafting through every few minutes, the trees were swaying and the birds were singing. I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to enjoy every second of it. As I was practicing drop backs (back bends from standing position) my husband came out to say goodbye before he left for work. I was dripping in sweat, I am sure bliss was on my face. He said to me “You’re back!”
“I’m back!” I replied.
This journey I would not trade for anything in the world. If we are lucky, we live to adulthood to see our parents pass on. I’ve learned so much these past few weeks and one is that I am stronger than I ever thought possible, not from this experience, but out of this experience I’ve learned that as I get older I am better. I used to think that in my youth I was stronger, more flexible, more determined, but that is not true to me anymore. Today I am more focused and appreciative of where I have been, and more excited than ever to find out where I am going. That warrior like focus is alive more than it ever has been before. All the past is left behind and only exciting new adventures await me in the future. I cannot wait to tell you of my adventure as they come. The long, hot summer is behind me now and cooler days are ahead.