March 11th, or 3-11. My said-son's birthday is two days later. In the hallway in the ICU steps from where my dad lay dying, I was booking my son's fifth birthday party. Amid the monitor beeps, I pre-ordered food at McDonalds' Playground. Death and food, death and celebration were intertwined like some modern fertility-death-rebirth rite. Life Goes On. And on. The Circle of Life isn't static like a piece of stone. It's ever-present and active, constant in its churning, circling and spiraling. The joy and relief I felt five years prior with the birth of my son was now loop de-looping with grief and sorrow, intensity on the other spectrum of experiences and emotions. This bundle of conflicting emotions marks the season for me. The human part of me, the part that wants easy, instant gratification and pleasure is almost annoyed by the emotional memories. Can't I just buy a birthday cake without subtle, uncomfortable feelings emerging? It's inescapable though - all subsequent March 11ths and the days around them have been shaped and colored by the memory and the experience.
In the days immediately after his passing I saw all his childhood and young adult photos for the first time; I didn't even know this treasure trove of artifacts existed. The only memories he shared were verbal and those were the mostly happy ones. But in some photos I could see the sadness in the eyes, his exhaustion, his disappointment. The challenges he spoke about in passing over the years were now vivid to me. Something happened: I saw him almost for the first time, the 5-D man: his thoughts and his feelings, and how they shaped the parent he would later become.
Only recently another dimension emerged in the Spiral of Life: I could I see how my yoga practice and work had been influenced by him. On the surface, he was an unlikely role model in this regard: a man of the mind, of the intellect, a lawyer and a judge. He wanted to be a role model to me in these attributes and made no secret of that. But his worldly roles, his career, and his identity obscured a deep love and respect for the human body that came through in weight-lifting and body-building. For the first time, I could see how we each had very "mental" careers while fulfilling our "physical" vocations, or working with the body as tool for meditation and transformation.