Before I was a gardener, I didn’t know seeds would be my teachers. As each year of seasons passes, my gratitude for their lessons deepens. Just a few weeks ago, I trimmed the heavy sunflower heads from their stalks and placed them on the rocky edge of a garden bed as an offering to the birds. Within days most of the seeds were gone, either snatched by hungry birds, or gathered up as mud cake embellishments by an industrious granddaughter. Then yesterday morning I noticed a single sprout pushing up through the soil near where the other seeds had been, starting the cycle all over again. It brought to mind another circle just completed this past week.
Seventeen years ago, my friend’s ten-month-old daughter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a solid tumor cancer. During the challenging time that followed, whenever I could I helped out at their house, as well as at the hospital when she underwent treatments and recovered from surgery. I was in the playroom with Caitlin the day the doctor gave her family the sad news that she’d relapsed and had but a short time to live. On the blue-sky day when they buried her body, I read a poem at Caitlin’s graveside service and did my best to help their family find a way to continue without her. I gave without expecting anything in return, experiencing the most profound teaching of my life on unconditional love.
Years later, Caitlin’s mom told me about a yoga studio she thought I’d like. She said, “Mary, you need to go there. I know they’re your people.” Although it took me awhile, I did show up at the studio, became a certified yoga teacher, and, yes, found my people. That community of yogis and the practice we share have irrevocably changed my life. It was a unexpected gift from Caitlin; but there’s even more to this story.
Last year I was approached about offering yoga classes at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I completed the required volunteer training and then waited for nearly twelve months for clearance to begin teaching. It finally arrived and this past week I taught my first class. Afterwards, I walked down to the the 2nd floor playroom where the children with cancer show up seeking diversions from their illness. Soon a monthly yoga class will be added to their list of diversions. Each time I read the inscription “in memory of Caitlin Robb” on the plaque outside the playroom door, I will offer a quiet blessing to the small seed that reached up through the depths of my being years ago to set this circle in motion.