It is Tuesday. I am lying in the bed where I slept as a teenager, reflecting over the last few days. My dad went to the hospital Thursday night. My mom is in Africa. I had already planned to fly in on Friday to attend my college reunion, located 15 minutes away from my childhood home. I feel like a kid again, frightened about the enormity of the universe, worrying about all the many things that are out of my control.
Tonight is a full moon and my father was discharged, my mom arrived a few hours later. In less than a week, my heart has come full circle. From despair and fear, to hope and comfort. My dad is going to be ok. He can breathe without oxygen, a sort-of revival from the moment I first saw him, connected to tubes, oxygen, frail, bruised limbs sticking out of hospital gown. In this state, my heart had dropped, tears erupted, and I felt the earth shift. How could my father, my hero, my first true male figure look like he was going to vanish in front of my eyes?
Life is a series of rebirths, moment to moment, day to day, moon to moon, Thursday to Tuesday. My dad was hospitalized because he couldn’t breathe; his diseased lungs, crappy from years of smoking, have a hard time with the simple mechanism that carries oxygen in and CO2 out. His exhales are not effective enough at clearing the CO2, so he can feel like he is choking.
In yoga, we know how important those exhales are; as it turns out, they are vital to life.
When I reached him in the hospital, he had a grayish hue covering his thin frame. “I am not ready to see you go. Please.” I quietly thought to myself. If only those cigarette companies hadn’t provided cigarettes to healthy medical students as a way of combatting fatigue.
If only. If only he had the strength to quit sooner. If only.
But 40-plus years of smoking had done the damage; no amount of regeneration could undo the years of assault. And yet, my dad is home again, still struggling with breath during exertion, but home.
A rebirth, a phoenix rising of sorts. More time with me, so I will take it.
I feel a river of gratitude fill my veins. The full moon illuminates the well of possibilities of how we can adapt to change, that a renewal doesn’t necessarily mean better, but the power of the renewal is in recognizing the change, a different type of rebirth.
One of my favorite books “Life After Life” is centered around the possibility of living and dying in different ways until the protagonist gets it right. Not ready to leave the earth until she has rendered a significant impact in the world, she gets to try it out until her final state of rebirth features a historical shift (I won’t give it away because it is a MUST read).
In a sense, we can live in the infinite possibility of rebirth; with the rising of each sun, and the waxing of each moon, we can choose to notice patterns or behaviors that are working for us, and those that are not. The awareness is ours for the taking. And as for my father, who regrets the years of smoking while acknowledging the addictive chains that bound him, his rebirth comes in the form of life and of breath. To be here with us for longer, to get stronger in his muscles to aid his battered lungs. If he can find the beauty in the simplest act of standing up unassisted, I know that I can uncover my own revival. With each exhale, with each moon, I am more committed to the act of living clearly and compassionately. Of releasing my own chains attached to ego, fear, or anger. Of letting go of the remnants of childhood worry about things that I can’t control, and choosing instead to exist fully in the present moment.
And being reborn into the best self in me.