Death and Meditation

I parked my car in the strip mall lot facing the home brew shop. It was an accident. I was going to yoga. I took a few deep breaths and willed the tears still in their ducts.

“Please don’t cry during yoga,” I pleaded with myself. It had been a rough day, week, month with Big Girl. Everything we read online said kids her age don’t understand the permanence of death. They think the deceased is alive and doing all the regular things somewhere else. Maybe they’ll even come back.

This was not the case with Big Girl. She got it. We didn’t even have to really explain it. When we told her Papa died she cried and said, “I”ll never get to see him again.” Every once in awhile she’ll stop me and say, “I’m so so sorry your Dad died.”

People tell me she’s so smart and often I politely disagree. She’s still learning to recognize all her letters and numbers. I’m not worried she’s behind but, at least academically, she seems pretty average. But then she goes and processes death like an adult.

Her Daddy travelled a lot for work last month, right after her Papa died, and now she’s having a lot of separation anxiety anytime he leaves. She wakes early in the morning panicked that her Daddy forgot to kiss her goodbye. I wonder if she’s afraid her Daddy won’t come back. That her Daddy will leave her like mine did.

My poor baby Big Girl. It’s like her little body can’t contain all these big, grown up emotions. She’s like a bright and brilliant star collapsing, under the pressure of gravity, into its core before exploding into a supernova. Except for she does this every day. Multiple times in a day. And it’s really hard. For her of course. And for me. Of course.

It was at the end of one of these days that I drove myself to a restorative yoga class, my thoughts consumed with Big Girl. I only noticed the home brew shop after bringing my awareness back into the present moment. Park the car. Turn the key. Pull it out. Notice the shop.

We all went there just a couple month ago. My husband, my Dad, the girls and I. My Dad started his career working for large breweries like Stroh and Coors before opening his own micro-breweries. For the last decade or so he worked as a consultant for micro-brewery startups. One of his last projects was teaching my husband to home brew. They were supposed to brew the weekend after he passed away. When I went through his email I saw the formulation my husband sent him for review 1 hour before he was rushed to the emergency room. Unread.

I went to yoga to get a break from Big Girl. I didn’t realize my Dad would be waiting there for me. So I took my breaths, tried to reign in the tears and walked into the studio. I managed to keep from crying for about 5 minutes, all the way up until the teacher asked how I was doing.

We chatted after class and she asked if I meditate.

“Sort of yes and sort of no,” I said. “I do, but not consistently.”

I’ve found it really helps during emotional times,” she said. Or something to that effect. My immediate, involuntary reaction was defensive.

“Meditation is not going to make it go away. You have no idea how big the emotional times are in my life. You have no idea what will help.” I thought these things not as words coming together into sentences, not as a voice in my head. But as a feeling filling up my physical body.

It wasn’t until reading the response to last week’s post that I fully processed her advice. She was trying to help, to share her experiences and the lessons she’s learned just as I am. The same lessons as it turns out.

Of course meditation isn’t going to make this go away. She knows that. The death of my father cannot be undone. My Mom will die too. My Big Girl is hard. And I will continue to feel all of it. Meditation creates space for these feelings. The feelings come up and we give them permission to exist, to flow freely through and out of our physical body. And somehow it really does help. I know this because I’ve been doing it for a long time.

So I plan to follow her good advice. I am recommitting to a regular meditation practice. It’s just going to look a little different than hers. Mine starts in a pair of running shoes.

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