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Sunday, April 13, 2008

healing vibrations

my week got off to a rocky start when i received this email from my cousin marilou first thing monday morning. you know things aren't good when the subject line of an message contains nothing but the name of someone you know...

Monday, April 7th
Subject: Freddie

Just wanted you guys to know that Freddie got into a motorcycle accident last Saturday, April 5th. I believe he is O.K. for now. He is still in the hospital in Valencia recovering and is under observation. He had a head concussion, lost two teeth, and has bruises all over his body. He was on McBean Parkway when he was thrown off his bike and knocked unconscious. He does not remember the accident, nor who or what hit him. When he woke up, he was already in the hospital. He is always asking about his motorcycle because that was his joy and happiness. He doesn't seem to have any other serious injuries.
Your support and prayers will be appreciated during his recovery.

a follow-up came in soon afterwards from cousin larry and his wife trish; they live close to freddie and were able to visit him soon after the accident:

Monday, April 7th
Subject: RE:Freddie

We visited him yesterday. He is very lucky in that his blood clot in his head did not need surgery and he didn't incur any fractures.. I happened to be there when the neurosurgeon stopped by. Looks like he will need to slow down a bit.. meaning bed rest for a while until his body is fully healed.

the next day, marilou sent an update:

Tuesday, April 8th
Subject: RE:Freddie

Last night when we visited him, the nurse discovered a fracture in his right arm or wrist. He looked much better already, seems like Freddie is a fast healer...

and while the updates on freddie's improving condition continued to go back and forth among the cousins, this message found its way into my emailbox. it was forwarded to me by one of my running friends:

Tuesday, April 8th
Subject: Phyllis Goldstein

This is Phyllis's son Jeffrey replying with some sad news. My mother passed away over the weekend. As many of you probably know, she had recently experienced some health problems, and they seem to have caught up with her. You should know how important those of you who walked and exercised with her were to her. Jogging and walking were the things I believe she took most joy in. I was hoping that if any of you saw my mother on Saturday at the walk, you would kindly reply to this email and report anything you can about her condition or her spirits during the walk. It would be helpful for those of us who were not with her when she died to know something of the last days/hours of her life.

phyllis lived, and probably died, alone at her home in beverly hills. her husband, howard, the man who was the love and light of her life, had preceded her almost a year ago to the day. phyllis had been bravely trying to get along without him, but in her grief, her health had started to suffer. she managed to survive a stroke late last year and she was scheduled for heart surgery sometime after passover... phyllis was 72 when she passed away.

despite her weakened state, all of us who knew her were shocked by the news, especially since she seemed to be doing just fine the last time many of us saw her. while i pictured phyllis and howard finally reunited happily in heaven, i could only imagine the anguish her family was going through.

on thursday, april 10th, her obituary appeared in the los angeles times:

GOLDSTEIN, Phyllis Known to many as "Penny," passed away unexpectedly at her home on Saturday, April 5. She leaves behind her daughter, Jenette (Aaron Noble) and son Jeffrey (Annie Barrows), and her beloved grandchildren Pablo, Danilo, Shifra, Clio and Esme to join her late husband Howard Goldstein. Friends and family are welcome at her memorial service at Hillside Memorial Park on Friday, April 11, at noon.

shortly thereafter, i notified my co-workers that i was planning to take a long lunch break the next day so that i could attend the services at the jewish cemetery located a few miles from the office.

when i arrived at work friday morning, the email message at the top of my inbox was from my manager:

Friday, April 11th
Subject: Brian Donahue

I am very saddened to pass along some news regarding one of our team members. Brian Donahue passed away at his home in Philadelphia this week...

oh my god... first it was jeannie a mere two months ago. now it's phyllis AND brian in the same week! WHY IS EVERYONE DYING?!?!

we knew that brian had recently been battling a liver disease. sometime last year, he picked up either a virus or an infection -- my mind's a bit muddled right now -- and it damaged his liver. not to the point of his needing a transplant, but it was close. he seemed to take it all in stride, continuing to juggle his meds while he flew back and forth between his home in philly and his job here in LA.

on monday, he called to say that he would work remotely from home because he wasn't feeling well. by wednesday, his close friends started to worry; they hadn't heard a peep from him -- nor from anyone else for that matter, because he lived alone. by friday, we received the bad news: it was a heart attack.

updated 4/16: funeral arrangements were finalized once brian's body was flown from philadelphia back to his family in canada. the details were published in the ottawa citizen on wednesday, april 16th:

DONAHUE, Brian J. Suddenly at his home in Philadelphia, on Thursday, April 10, 2008 at the age of 52. Loving son of Jerry and Claudette Donahue of Nepean. Dear brother of Patrick, Catherine and Margaret. Fondly remembered by many aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and colleagues. Brian was a graduate of Carleton University in Civil Engineering and most recently was Senior Principal Consultant for Oracle Corporation. Friends are invited to visit at the West Chapel of Hulse, Playfair and McGarry on Friday, April 18th from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, April 19th at 11 a.m. in St. Maurice Roman Catholic Church.

later that day, i found myself mourning the loss of not one, but two friends. while i listened to the beautiful tributes phyllis's family and friends shared with us at her memorial services, i couldn't help but wonder what happened to brian... and the beautiful tributes his family and friends would share with those who would attend his services.

needless to say, by that evening, i was in no mood to take a yoga class. instead, i reached out to a friend who also happens to live alone. i picked up dinner on my way to her place and we ended up spending the next few hours talking about the dead and the living (i know it sounds morbid, but when you experience as many deaths as i did this week, you can't help but dwell on the subject)...

i sought some kind of solace from the madness of it all... and found it earlier this evening at mary donovan's level 1 class at santa monica yoga. mary had invited the singing group of a former student, diane rose, to sing for us during class. according to the flyer,

Join us for a totally new physical and sonic experience. The Namaste Women's Choir will perform live, offering the healing vibrations of a cappella choral music while you practice.

all i really expected to hear was some melodic chanting, probably during savasana. and maybe they would even invite us to sing along at the end of class. you know, the same old, same old.

boy, was i wrong!

not only did they start with some gentle humming while we were seated in meditation at the beginning of the class, but this marvelous group of sixteen women continued to inspire us with an outstanding array of choral selections as we progressed through our asanas. their music was both sacred and secular. christian and jewish. traditional and contemporary. and yes, there was at least one sanskrit chant. by the time we had completed savasana and were seated in final meditation, their alleluias had reached such a crescendo that passersby on the street had actually stopped in front of the studio's doors to find the source of the magnificent chorus.

if this is what the choirs of angels sound like in heaven, phyllis and brian are now there to experience it for themselves...

may they both rest in peace.


Blogger Yogamum said...

This really struck a chord with me, as I lost my dad two weeks ago. I hope the coming weeks bring only good news of healing and new growth. I'm so glad the chanting session was a positive time in this season of loss.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Hoag said...

I'm sorry to hear.

Thank you for writing so bravely and beautifully about it.


10:56 AM  
Blogger joni said...

hi yogamum --

i am truly sorry for your loss. may you have nothing but love and understanding from your friends and family to help you get through this trying time.

11:40 AM  
Blogger joni said...

hi lucky --

i spent the weekend in a daze; after sitting on the beach sunday morning and thinking things over, i knew i had to write something so i could move on. the sun, the sand, and the sky provided all the inspiration i needed.

11:58 AM  

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