Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my cousin.
It had actually slipped my mind that this anniversary was approaching because my sister was preparing to move back to school so I was spending a majority of my time with her and my mom. What caused me to remember the anniversary was that I started thinking about my cousin more than I usually do.
I always think about her…but this was different. She was at the forefront of my mind when I woke up and thoughts of her were affecting my mood more strongly than usual. It wasn’t until a couple days of this that I remembered the anniversary of her death was approaching.
I’ve been practicing strengthening my intuition by simply using it more, so intuitively, I felt that she was reaching out to me. Perhaps she wanted some attention or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to actively remember her, or both. So, I decided to start talking to her.
It may seem a little unusual, it’s a little unusual to talk about it honestly….but it feels right to me.
I talk to her when I’m driving, which is usually to my girlfriend’s house because I don’t really drive anywhere else. The drive is about an hour, thus it’s a decent amount of time to talk to my cousin about what I’ve been up to, thoughts/feelings that I have, and I also ask her some questions. Sometimes she asks me questions.
My cousin was like an older sister to me, so allowing myself to communicate with her is…comforting and familiar. I used to call her frequently and she was always there to provide the insight that only an older sister can offer. I don’t have an older sister, in fact, I am the older sister to my sister, so the relationship I had with my cousin was and still is really special.
Another way that I’ve been remembering and honoring my cousin is by rewatching Freaks and Geeks, which is a show she had told me to watch during my sophomore year of college, and we had talked frequently about it. It’s a perfect show to watch as autumn approaches too.
At the end of the day, the little things I’ve been doing to remember my cousin are more focused on who she was to me when she was alive on Earth rather than focusing on how devastating it is that she is gone and feeling solemn that she isn’t growing with our family anymore.
To me, it’s more important to remember the life one had as well as acknowledging their spirit. It reminds me of some of the African spiritual practices I’ve read about in Jambalaya, which I haven’t finished yet but I highly recommend it. So many cultures have traditions for their ancestors…I want to make my own for my cousin as well as my other ancestors. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but I will let y’all know what I decide to do!
Please provide me with inspiration! How do you remember and honor your ancestors?
Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.
I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.
They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.
After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.
Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.
The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.
I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?
One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.
Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”
Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.
For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.
Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.
The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.
The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).
I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.
How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?
The glossiness of the dark wooden casket reflected my teary-eyed face. I have never cried so much in my life, and I’ve never been so devasted by a death before. Your death was unexpected, not that death is ever really expected…it was an accident.
My mom squeezed my shoulder when she touched the smooth surface of the box in which your body lied. Your sister, your parents, and the rest of your family were all there, desperately trying to connect with you through this touch. Most of us didn’t get to see you one last time before we buried you…because it was an accident. It was probably better that the only memories I have of you are from when you were alive anyway.
My parents did see you in the critical condition you were in though: they were the first ones at the hospital. You wouldn’t have known that though because according to the doctors, you were brain-dead upon impact. My mom said she had clutched your feet when you were lying there, in the hospital bed. Now, we all touch the wooden casket, seeking some form of relief from it. Trying to connect with you.
As my family drove through mountainous farmland on the winding roads to where your body lies, I reflected on how you would have felt about the location. You hated the suburbs, let alone the rural atmosphere of Virginia. You had made it clear that you aspired to be in the city since your decision to attend Pittsburg University, and then later by moving to Jersey City and then to Newark. You were getting closer and closer to Manhattan, but you never had the chance move across the Hudson River.
When my dad parked the car and we ambled out, the entire family encircled your gravestone. It was beautifully engraved, and your mom ensured that you had fresh flowers daily. We prayed, and then we cried, and then we laughed…reminiscing about our lives with you. Honored to have gotten to know you. By connecting with each other about the past, we reconnected with you.
I walked around to the back of the gravestone and noticed the depiction of the city skyline. I remember that I thought…that it looked like the city crossed the Hudson River to come to you.
Happy 27th birthday.
© 2018 Vic Romero
All Rights Reserved.
Of a forlorn face
In the grimy window
Of the bus as it creaks along.
I try my hardest to look beyond it
To look at the landscape as we drive along
But the grimy windows don’t seem to permit it.
The white smoke escapes my lips
While black tar enters my lungs
I sigh, in bliss
My head buzzing and ears ringing
Enjoying the silence from the cold evening
Later, I reenter the party
Mingle and mix with everybody
And smile because for this one night,
I’m not lonely
Even later, there are
Dark bedrooms and
Faceless bodies with
Forgettable names but
The absence of a heartbeat.
In the form of a woman
Caramel skin and dark,
A soft smile when her lips say my name
The golden sunlight-
An unwelcome guest
Shines through the cracks
Of the closed blinds
Seeping through the thin skin
Of my eyelids
Making itself known
The sunlight illuminates the caramel skin
Of the woman wrapped in the sheets
Entangled in my limbs
Eventually, I succumb to its insistence
That I arise
I disentangle my limbs and
I welcome the sun
To this new day
Stretching my arms over my body
Then folding over my feet
Bowing in respect
To be alive
© 2018 Vic Romero
All rights reserved.
you will be dumbfounded
your heart will plummet
into the depths of your stomach
as the whole world before you
as if the entire universe
was shoved into a dryer
on someone’s shoulder
you haven’t seen
since you were a newborn
all cluster together,
donning dark colors
touching the glossy wood
of the coffin
the magnitude of death
will feel heavy
need to sit
and your aunt
will comfort you
when you call her up
because you start to forget her voice-
but the line has been disconnected
when her seat at the table for the holidays
year after year
when her sister
has become an only child
when you get older
and she doesn’t-
the passing of time just means
that she’s been gone longer
you will understand
the finality of death
© 2017 Vic Romero – Creative Writing Fall 2017
On December 22nd, my girlfriend unexpectedly had to put her dog, Angel, down.
I accompanied her to the vet, which was two hours away, and the doctor’s prognosis was that the dog had a large tumor across the front of her neck, and she recommended a veterinary hospital to visit.
The following day, we were able to take her dog to the hospital, which was earlier than the original appointment we had had. When my girlfriend put angel in the backseat beside me, she was in worse shape than the day prior. This time she was drooling a ton and wouldn’t even prop herself up; she just lied beside me. I petted her head for a bit while my girlfriend drove, but then after about fifteen minutes, Angel started coughing a lot and had a seizure. She was gagging on her saliva. The rest of the drive to the hospital was very stressful.
Happy September 1st!
Jeez, I can’t believe it’s already September though. My senior year officially begins on Tuesday, which has caused my anxiety to spike tremendously once again. Unfortunately, my anxiety triggers cold sores on my lips at least once every season…they’re super painful and because tea tree oil is the only effective remedy to treat them, (tea tree oil, if used as frequently as possible throughout the day, tends to prevent cold sores from going through the whole two-week healing process and reduces it to a week or if you’re lucky to catch it early enough, a mere couple of days), my lips become super dry. Every year, I feel like I get them more and more easily, which is frustrating. I used to get them only if I didn’t sleep but now I get them whenever I go from calm to hella anxious and worried. Anyway….
Yes, I’m anxious because of school. I’m also anxious because I just came back from the dermatologist…I got a biopsy and now I have to go back in three months. My mom is currently at the doctor for her cancer…health issues are incredibly anxiety-inducing.
Additionally, it’ll be one year since my cousin passed in two days. I always think about her, but over the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about her more frequently and I have been wanting to talk to her more than I usually do. Her parents planted a tree for her in the city where she was killed yesterday…I wish they had told us about that because I would’ve liked to go. It must’ve been a nice ceremony.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” -Mark Twain
My therapist recommended I try a counseling group that focuses on behaviors and emotions, and I went to my first session last week. It’s only been a week as I write this, but it’s been insightful thus far. Our first assignment is to practice mindfulness because it is helpful when it comes to reducing suffering, increasing control of your mind, and experiencing reality as it is.
Unfortunately, this assignment has gone to the wayside a bit since my dad had to go to the ER last week and spent three nights at the hospital. That would’ve been a prime time to practice meditating because I was consumed with anxiety and the thoughts I used to have after my cousin passed resurfaced…I was experiencing very intense emotions. I tried working out in the morning, which did help a little bit but…I didn’t deal with my emotions sufficiently I guess. It all blew up in my face a couple of hours later when my mom was nagging me to text my aunt. I erupted and we got into a dramatic fight…and she stormed out of the house. Then I yelled at my sister until I finally broke down and cried uncontrollably.
Anyway…I forgot about this assignment but I will work on it every day going forward because practicing mindfulness would help regulate my mood swings.
I have practiced yoga twice in the last two weeks, which is a method for practicing mindfulness though. I watched the Yoga with Adrienne videos that my good friend, Lana, recommended on her site. I think I would rather learn the moves enough to do it on my own but for now, watching the videos and following along has been a little helpful.
Thankfully, my dad is doing pretty well and he’s home from the hospital, so my anxiety surrounding medical issues and death has decreased. Instead, I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about my future. I think as far ahead as a year from now, which is ridiculous because then I miss out on enjoying the present moment.
I’ve been rather depressed since my cousin’s passing. Depressed, scared, and pensive about morbid things.
I’ve been thinking about death…what was it like for my cousin to die? It makes me feel bad to think about that since the accident was so violent…but it also makes me sad to think about how her last feeling may have been fear. It hurts me to think she may have been in pain too, although the doctor said she died upon impact, but who really knows? Maybe they said it for our sake.
I hope your last emotion wasn’t fear.
Did you see it coming?
I hope your last sight wasn’t the glaring headlights.
Did you run?
I hope your last touch wasn’t the hard metal
Nor the rough pavement against your cheek
I hope the last thing you heard wasn’t the roar of the engine
Nor your roommate shrilly screaming your name.
I hope your last taste wasn’t the blood that flooded your mouth.
Did it choke you?
I hope your last smell wasn’t the burning rubber when the truck left you behind
Did you suffer?
I hope you didn’t.
© 2016 Vic Romero
My cousin was killed crossing the street on 3 September 2016.
Twenty years with you doesn’t feel like enough time, but I’m grateful to at least have that. Chris, thank you for being my big sister, I love you. RIP.