Many of you have known about my father’s health challenges this year, and my challenges juggling teaching and community community work due to my care-taking responsibilities for my father. That is why I decided to take a Fall – Winter sabbatical from my weekly group yoga classes. I knew that my father’s valiant battle with metastatic cancer would likely require even more time and care from me, and I wanted to be as supportive and fully present during what I expected would be a very challenging time. My father’s doctors recently had informed us we were looking at months to live, but not years. As a result, I was beginning to research both hospice and palliative care home visitation doctors.
So although I knew my father was in a rapid health decline, it came as a surprise to me and my family when he passed away just days after being admitted to the ER for catheter complications – an issue that, unfortunately, had been all too normal for him this past year. But since it had been a somewhat frequent side-effect of my father’s prostate cancer, and always resolved after anywhere from hours to a couple of days in the ER (which in NYC is a place one wants to spend as little time as possible), we were unprepared for the reality that this time my father would not be walking out of the hospital again.
This is a bittersweet time for me; sadness for losing my father but gratitude that he did not suffer very long. It was a short hospitalization; two days in the ER, two days in a hospital room, and 12-hour stay in the hospital hospice – a beautiful wing of Mount Sinai overlooking Central Park. Considering the possibilities of a long hospice in his home or a facility, it was a blessing that he died peacefully, fairly quickly, hopefully not in pain, and that my father never had to move out of his beloved apartment. Up until that last ambulance trip to the ER, he was living mostly independently in his apartment with some nursing aide assistance. I know it was important to him that he never lost his physical independence at home. He passed into spirit before it got to that point, and I am grateful for that as I know that’s what he would have wished for.
Additionally, because my father declined while in the hospital, I am grateful that it gave our family members the opportunity to visit with him. Before he started losing consciousness, he knew we were all there for him. That is a blessing, as too many people do not get that opportunity to say loving good-byes to their loved ones. Truth be told, it was very hard to watch my father’s life force diminish, his personality slip away, his body shrink, and his eyes become vacant. But because I believe that one’s soul is ever-present, it was important to me to be there and communicate my feelings to my father’s higher self, sharing my acceptance of him leaving his body of this lifetime.
This had been a tough last year: two surgeries, multiple transfusions, multiple hospitalizations, and a weakening body due to cancer. Yet, through it all, my father was a trouper – few complaints, a happy disposition, a willingness to persevere through pain with some assistance from PT, OT, his doctors and aides, he attended his art classes, and kept up with the news and his beloved NY sports teams. I grew to respect my father more in this last year than in all our prior 51 years together. He faced his health challenges with stoicism and humor. This was the culmination of other serious hospitalizations and life challenges the past 17 years; my family always said my father had nine lives as he rebounded each time. So, the fact that my father did not rebound this time, feels surreal. The only constants in life are impermanence, and that everything eventually dies. And yet, truly accepting these principles is a huge challenge for us as we understandably are attached to that which we love. Death is the big unknown. When a loved ones passes, not only is there that void in our lives, but it also brings up our own mortality. It is a topic from which we tend to shy away. It takes courage and strength to speak honestly about death, and these are conversations that we need to be having.
I will never forget the lovely women, the nurses and NPs, who were like angels greeting us at the hospice. I knew my father was safe in their sweet company during his final hours in human form. To pass with dignity, ease, comfort and care should be a universal right. Since that unfortunately is not always the case, when it happens, it is a gift. I am comforted with the knowledge that my family and I, with love for my father, advocated for and provided that setting.
Because this past year has been such a challenge for me and my family, I am listening to my inner guidance which is telling me to slow down, take time for myself, and to process the illness and loss of my father. I trust you will all understand my situation, and my need for time to decompress.
As such, I am taking an extended sabbatical from my weekly daytime group yoga classes.
My Chair Chi and Prana class will be held during this sabbatical period on three Monday nights (Sept. 25, Oct. 30, and Nov. 27) instead of weekly during the daytime. It will also now be 1.5 hours so we will have time for a longer savasana and yoga nidra (deep relaxation). I hope that you will appreciate this enhanced version of this fusion class!
During my sabbatical, I will continue to be on the sub list. This month, I am subbing “Gentle Yoga & Qigong” at Integral Yoga on Thursday, October 26th at 5:15 pm. I hope to see you there!
I hope you know this change is not a reflection of my feelings towards any of you. But rather, a needed self-care adjustment to support my well-being. Please email me any questions, concerns, and thoughts.