A year ago today a dear friend of mine died. Claire. She was young, beautiful, healthy, talented, and had the whole world in front of her. She was a classmate of mine at Acupuncture school. After several months of respiratory problems, the doctors finally figured out she had lung cancer. She was 30. Two weeks later they found tumors in her brain. Two weeks after that, she was gone. So fast. Left us all breathless. I sit here trying to find the right words to describe what an amazing person she was. People always ask me if she smoked or had a family history of cancer. No and no. She was a yoga teacher, a spinning instructor, had never had a cigarette, ate organic food, drank kombucha and sang to her coffee everyday. I’ve never met such a bright light in my whole life. Losing her was like losing faith in that if you do “everything right” somehow you’ll get by without too much suffering. Try as we can, sometimes it doesn’t quite workout the way we imagine things. I try to be grateful for the present moment. For the people I love. For my family. For the friends I’ve made. For the health I enjoy. For the air I breathe. For the opportunities that I’ve had. We can’t live in fear that we will fall ill or lose everything, but I can’t help but reminded of my mortality.
It’s moments like these where I try to recall the teachings of my favorite Buddhist author Pema Chodron. All the fears we have we share with others. If I can remember that my own fears about mortality are shared by most people, I can have compassion for them and myself. If I can remember that many people are saddened by the loss of Claire, I can also have compassion for them and myself. If I can remember that life is not fair and the rules are not clear, I can have compassion for all those who shake their fists at the sky and cry, ‘why?’.
It’s interesting to me how much easier it is to have compassion for others than it is to have compassion for the self. I think people in the caring professions would agree that we spend so much time helping others, sometimes we forget to care for ourselves. Be it rest, proper nutrition, or even the room to grieve. I find it ironic that I am blogging this and trying to make it into a lesson. Perhaps if I can share this with others, part of the message will make it into my own heart.
To all those who suffer, may compassion flood your heart in knowing you are not alone.