Six months after my mother, Rose Beebe, passed away from Alzheimer’s, I was doing my best to move on with my life after caring for her for four years and as a recent empty nester whose only child had gone to college.
As I worked through the normal grief that occurs with such losses, I threw myself into my work as a yoga studio owner, teaching multiple workshops, more yoga classes and a certification program. It felt good to be able to focus on these things without the distractions I’d been accustomed to. Although my heart was heavy, I was satisfied with the direction my career was going and happy to be able to devote more time to it.
But then something strange happened.
As I was sound asleep one night, I was startled by what sounded like the clanging of a cymbal. At first I thought I was in a dream, but the unusual noise continued. Bleary-eyed, I sat up and after a few seconds realized it was coming from my phone. I grabbed it and saw the message, “It’s time to meditate.”
I stared at this statement for a while and then recalled that a few months prior, I had downloaded a meditation timer app. The alarm mimicked a brass singing bowl, and I had hoped to use it for my daily meditation practice, but never got a chance to.
When Mom took a turn for the worse all my routines went out the window and I had since been too busy and grief-stricken to reestablish my practice. I was clueless why months later it would pick 3:22 a.m. to go off, but turned it off and went back to sleep.
This Zen alarm randomly went off over the next two days. Each time, I checked to make sure the settings were off, but this didn’t seem to matter. When it awoke me yet again in a deep slumber, I deleted the app from my phone.
As a believer that nothing happens by accident, I knew I was getting a message that I needed to go deep within. I had already begun to withdraw my senses by canceling television and the newspaper, not wanting to get caught up in the drama of the world, but was ready for the next step.
Even though I teach meditation classes, I wanted to be under the guidance of a teacher who could help me safely delve into the parts of my heart I’d been reluctant to explore. I enrolled in an eight-week course called Mindfulness Practice for Living Well led by Insight Meditation and Emotional Wisdom teacher Ruth King. This course was designed to help participants embrace life challenges with grace, nurture the art of compassion and forgiveness and develop more capacity for peace, happiness and freedom.
The contemplative insight into the nature of reality proved to be just what I needed. Enlightening discussions, mindfulness practices, readings and poetry took me so deep into my heart that I was able to work through many layers of patterning and emotions to gain greater clarity. One group meditation made an impact on me.
We closed our eyes as Ruth led us through a pleasant guided meditation. Then she asked the question, “If you had one year to live, what would you do?”
My body flinched as I was caught off guard with this thought. I had just endured the loss of my beloved mother, and thinking about death again was uncomfortable. As I focused again on the question, I saw my daughter, Jazlyn, 19, and I spending all our time together laughing and playing on the beach. This mental image of our freedom and enjoyment felt good.
During the next few minutes, Ruth continued to lead us through this sobering exercise to imagining six months to live, then two, a week, one day, an hour and then she asked, “If you had one breath to breathe, what would you do?”
By this time hot, salty tears were dripping down my face. The thought of me leaving Jazlyn behind without a mother was unbearable as the pain of the loss of Rose was so fresh in my soul. As the practice ended, Ruth reminded us that each breath is all we truly have.
It struck me that with Jazlyn and Mom not under my care any more, I had put all my energy into my work. I realized that I needed to be having more fun and living a fuller life now, but after years of dedicated caregiving, I’d forgotten how.
My idea of a good time is snuggling up with my dog and cat and reading a book. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a movie, ridden a rollercoaster or even had a date. With 50 approaching later this year, I am ready to have a life again.
Ruth read us a quote by the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron that really hit home, “Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”
My grief has brought me to a much greater appreciation of life and love, and now, with a softer heart, I am grateful to be in a space to seize each day and value each breath.
And I’m grateful for a phantom meditation timer for literally waking me up.
Editor’s note: Lisa Moore’s first column, “Generations,” dealt with her life as a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s and raising her teenage daughter. Lisa recently lost her mother, Rose, to the disease and her daughter left for college. Here’s what happens next.
Lisa Moore is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at LisaMooreNC@gmail.com.
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