Three weeks is a long time without having something to say. I was looking for that something that would ignite the spark in my heart and perhaps say something in return to you. Moments happen, some of them are magical, and most of the time they slip by without us even realizing it. I try not to let them escape me; sometimes they do, but I hope this time they didn’t.
Kala, my granddaughter, woke me this morning, her mother having gone to Sadhana. She seemed part of my dream. She asks if she can get in my bed with me and I say yes. She hugs me and wraps her arms around me – the proximity is natural with her. I turn onto my side and say, “Let’s sleep a little while longer.” She then presses her back against mine; it’s like having a hot water bottle against you that provides heat and heals at the same time. Of course, the moment doesn’t last and she says, “It’s time to get up!” I say, okay, five more minutes and she wants to know how much is that? I say, “300” and so she proceeds to count…softly. “Do it softer,” I say, and she continues. I can’t hear her and hope she has fallen asleep or gotten lost in the count but no; and then, “Time is up,” she says.
Love, true love, comes in small packages. The other day Kala and her father were walking through the old part of the city – Born – this wonderful, artistic and bohemian neighborhood of Barcelona. We’re all here, the whole family, teaching and working with the people who have come to our 3-week Kundalini Yoga training course. It’s been six weeks since I’ve been to my island home of Mallorca. When you live in the country you rapidly become adjusted to life there and it’s easy to tire of the city, even a city as incredible and beautiful as Barcelona. I find myself walking the streets here amidst all of the people who are visiting and I say to myself, “Doesn’t anyone work anymore?” Well, there you have it, my generational prejudices surfacing for all to see.
Ummm…back to the story. Kala and her father were walking through these busy streets and happened to pass by what must have been a home for the elderly. In fact, they passed the dining room for this residence, which was clearly visible from the street. Kala asked her father, “What’s going on there?” Being curious as she is. Her father said it was a place for older people who were alone and who maybe didn’t have any other family to be with. Kala immediately said, “Baba will never be alone, he has me!”
When Pedro told me the story, tears came to my eyes. We all wondered how this big soul in such a little body could see, feel and reason so clearly. Her father said, “She didn’t say We, she only said I.”
Seven years ago my father was dying Alone of a brain tumor in the state of North Carolina in the United States. He had months to live if not weeks. The fact that he was alone, so far from sons, grandchildren and a brother, was for me heartbreaking. Yes, he made his choices, we all do, but I didn’t then and don’t now think that anyone who has lived an entire life deserves to die so completely alone.
I was there with him those last few weeks and months, at least the time I could spare away from my busy calendar. I feel like I wasn’t much of a son just saying those words now; and in a way, I think it was true. At least, I had made my peace with him and I think he had with me.
Lately, thinking about the ills of society, I’ve been saying to myself, “How can we, as an enlightened and progressive society everywhere, allow people to sleep on the street?” Are we so utterly inhumane that we care nothing for those human beings – most of them forgotten by all of us. I can only imagine that solutions exist, that we do have the resources to combat this grave injustice. How can we take care of larger issues like the climate problem when we can’t even take care of smaller and perhaps more pressing issues like the homeless? Surely, to be able to provide food and shelter and offer second chances is well within our means.
The other “ill” or grave problem (and it obviously depends on your focus at the moment), is how we can place our parents or other family members in these homes for the aging – essentially to die Alone. I know, I’ve been in them. People are just waiting for you to go. There is care but no real love, at least, the kind people need. It is a job after all.
It is obvious that as families and as a society, we are not equipped to care for our elderly – at least in the way they deserve. Pressure is everywhere to make ends meet. I understand; we all do, but that doesn’t make it okay or acceptable on a human evolutionary scale.
Maybe about 20 years ago, I read a story about a town in Italy where everyone who lived there was thinking about their older generations. They were constructing homes where three generations could live close to each other and comfortably for everyone concerned. Twenty years ago the story interested me but there wasn’t the same need…obviously. Now it’s infinitely more relevant.
Seven years ago my father was dying and Pedro, Daniela, Kala and I decided to create a new kind of family and live together. It was as Richard Bach, who wrote the marvelous little book called Illusions, said:
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.
Kala was just 10 weeks old when I wrote a letter addressed to her in English, asking her mother not to translate it for her; knowing that one day she would be able to read it herself. It talked about how I came to know her mother, and that maybe I was her Morfar, or mother’s father in Swedish (I grew up with Swedish grandparents but on my father’s side; so I had a Farfar and a Farmor and, therefore, she would have a Morfar).
I’ve decided to write you as your grandfather, because my own father is at that point in life when he is going to die soon. It could be days or it could be weeks. No one knows and that’s the way it should be. Your mother and I were talking about it yesterday and we said the same thing, no one knows when the child will be born or when someone you care about will die. We did not know exactly the day you would be born even though we were all waiting for over a month before the actual day, that 30th of January 2012 – just 10 weeks ago.
Here is the wish that came to me while I was walking today. When I die, whenever that may be – in 20 years or maybe even 30; perhaps, when you have turned 20 or maybe even 30 years of age – I want you to be there. I want my granddaughter to take my hand and I yours in mine, and for you to see me in peace and ready to leave to the next part of life – that of death. It is a natural part of all things alive on this earth: the flowers, the leaves on the trees, even the trees themselves sometimes die too. Animals are born and then they too die – some die young, some die old. We just don’t know. I know you probably already know this by the time you read this and I apologize for saying the obvious, but that’s the way it is with older people…I can’t believe I’m even considering myself old at this point. Well, in case you don’t know right now, I’m still pretty young. So don’t get any wrong ideas about the subject. Your grandfather is young! And there is so much we will do together.
…my wish for you and our family is that we will be together, and you will grow older having me in your life. To have older people in your life is important because there is so much they can share with you. Most of the time, they really are quite funny and fun to have around. I remember my own grandparents and they were like that. The fact is that all of these memories will accompany you throughout your life and make you the person that you will become.
She already speaks English fluently, but probably being able to read the letter in English will still take some time. It might be a year or two, or maybe even ten; but I know she’ll be there in the end.