I am currently in the thick of the "this time last year" experience. Remembering back to what was happening on these days one year ago brings me back to the most challenging and traumatic experiences of my life. It was a time that still haunts me, but I also cherish for the immeasurable growth, moments of joy, and beyond-profound connection with Karina I experienced along the way.
It was this time last year that I was training to sit in the eye of the storm, seeking to find stillness in the chaos of my life. With Omicron at its peak and hospitals on lockdown, I was navigating an already overstretched medical industry of which I had no experience or know-how while my fiancee’s life sat in limbo, and I hadn't slept through the night in months.
This time last year I was sitting by her bedside, listening to doctors tell us that Karina likely wouldn't make it to the new year. It was this time last year that I was sleeping on a couch in the ICU, training myself to sleep lightly so I could awake and be alert to her any need. It was this time last year that I was living in constant stress, fully isolated from the world, denying the possibility that my worst nightmare could come true.
It was in these moments that my spiritual practice was put to the test. Since Karina's diagnosis, the ground had fallen from beneath my feet, and I was swirling. My top priority was bringing Karina comfort, and my second priority was keeping myself functional so that I could do so to the best of my ability. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else even existed for me. I would cry all the way to the hospital, take a few deep breaths at the door, and walk in with a smile on my face and an uplifting energy the moment I saw her.
I remember several times at 2 in the morning, Karina was awake and uncomfortable and just wanted me to speak to her. What came out of my mouth in those moments were some of the more profound words I’ve ever spoken. I wish I could better remember, but it wasn’t me that was speaking. I was crushed by exhaustion and anxiety, I had no strength to resist Spirit coming through me. My mind was broken, my ego destroyed, I was just a conduit.
While I don’t remember the words, I do remember the feeling.
On my knees, holding her hand in both of mine, forehead resting on the side of her bed, with my eyes closed, speaking to her, I could hear her cough soften, her breathing slow. She would move from restless to drifting in and out of sleep as I spoke. I remember feeling so grateful that I could provide her with that comfort. Sleep was hard to come by for both of us, so this brought me a lot of peace.
In fact, some of the happiest moments of my life came in these heartwrenching months.
I remember watching her sleeping, and for the first time in months, her heart rate dropped below 100 bpm, meaning she was able to relax in her rest. I remember, after a month of coughing limiting her from being able to speak at all, our first conversation where she showed me she was still mentally sharp and spiritually focused, telling me she had no fear. I remember the first time she stood up on her own power and when she took a stroll down the hospital hall for the first time. These moments, showing progress against the momentum of her impending illness, brought me tears of joy.
Only one year ago, this was the life I was living.
Though Karina's time in her body eventually came to an end, I am still here. One year later, a different human. I am stronger, more capable, more balanced, more masculine, more confident, more aligned than ever before.
They say, "time heals all." But that can't be farther from the truth. Time is merely a container, it is only space. It is what you do in that space that heals.
Grieving in the freshness of loss is such a valuable opportunity. I understand grieving as the process of reclaiming love energy that used to be connected to another, but no longer has a destination. While that connection is still fresh, in the first days, weeks, and months after the transition, it is a golden opportunity to recollect that valuable energy. This allows for extraordinary growth and understanding, a process that, though very difficult, has brought me so much goodness this year.
My work now is to remember. As life has been treating me very well of late, it is tempting to get sucked back into the minutia of daily life. Whereas time has given me the space to heal and grow tremendously, it has also loosened the need for a direct connection to Spirit, which was my lifeline through it all.
My goal is to strengthen that connection every day, to appreciate how impermanent this life is, how quickly it can all go, and how grateful I am to be here with this understanding and time and good health ahead of me to cherish it.
When I remember the absolute joy of seeing Karina stand up and walk 50 feet in a hospital hallway, it makes my ability to walk a mile down the beach, with my feet in the water, ocean breeze in my face, an absolute treasure of an experience. And that is one of many gifts that she gave me.
Though these next couple of months will come with some challenges as I relive some of the hardest moments I’ve ever been through, it will also provide a reminder of how far I have come in a year. How much I have grown through this experience. How proud Karina is of what I am doing with it all. How grateful I am to move forward in this new life.
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