42: A Final Savasana

42: A Final Savasana

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

A Final Savasana

If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.

~Toni Morrison

I decided not to go to my 10:15 yoga class and instead went to the hospital to help my friend die. The ICU became my class. Yoga is all about unity, and we joined my friend around her hospital bed, dressed alike in our blue paper hospital gowns and matching masks. She’d been trying to heal for a month now—beeping machines and blinking lights keeping her alive—and for many weeks before, fighting off the ravaging beast we call cancer.

Today we faced the decision I’d only read about in the newspaper. When do you let someone pass on—freeing them from the tubes that can both save and strangle? She was alert enough to converse with us. Unable to actually speak because of her tracheotomy, her parched lips mouthed her wishes. Her son dabbed her mouth with a tiny pink sponge, rubbing ChapStick on pale lips, lightly purple after weeks of labored breathing.

“Just be sure,” she said.

“Sure of what, Mom?” her son asked, leaning close and staring in to her eyes.

She didn’t seem to have the strength to add more, but I think we knew. As with birth, when words are few, death also doesn’t demand much talking. It is all in the eyes. My friend would only say goodbye if she knew she’d gone the distance and there was no more hope.

In her last days she continued to be my teacher. I always brought small gifts when I’d visit, trying to help even if I couldn’t heal. Last week I brought her a small mirror I’d found among my daughter’s make-up. It had been two months since my friend had looked into her own eyes. At first, I worried. What would she see in her face after weeks of such sickness? I helped her unclasp the mirror, her swollen and bruised fingers trying to hold tight. Her wide smile filled the moment. She saw the beauty of herself. Her own reflection brought her such peace. She held her gaze tight, nodding and thanking me for my gift. I hope she knew she had given me an even more precious gift, the reminder that self-acceptance is the greatest joy.

Today is the day that her children had decided that they were “sure.” They didn’t want her to struggle any longer. With dignity she could finally give in. As we gathered around her bed we tearfully embraced her as she found her final savasana.

I had always wanted to take my friend to a yoga class, but she’d always said, “I’m just not flexible enough. I wouldn’t be good at it!” She would be proud to know she actually became a wonderful yoga teacher, bringing that peace of unity and self-acceptance to a small room in the ICU.

~Priscilla Dann-Courtney

Editor’s Note: A savasana is a relaxing position often used to begin and end a yoga session.

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