Babushka died the week before fellowship began. She went in her characteristically dramatic way. 5 days in the hospital, her screams of pain were as intense as her hysterical laughter, as purple as her hands 3 hours into blueberry picking. She was the social, active, vivacious grandparent who swam in the ocean alone, sang loudly, had a 94-year-old boyfriend. She was the one we just assumed would live forever.
Nobody believed the calls- but she was at the beach on Sunday, but we played cards on Tuesday- but on Wednesday, in agony, she called and declared: I’m Dying. By Sunday she was gone, 5 days of inconclusive work-up leading to an exploratory surgery that revealed 20 feet of dead bowel.
As I sat in the back seat on the way to Succurro, I felt panic flood my cells as we drove past the exit in the western Catskills where we had spent childhood summers with Babushka at the Dacha, our little white wooden bungalow, laughing hysterically and dyeing our hands purple.
During that first Fellowship weekend, grief was masked by panic, and integrating this with learning and making friends was confusing. But I found peace in the new beginnings and joy in the wild carrot flowers. They circle Succurro and circled the Dacha and cover the Catskills in lace, as they always have.
A month since this gathering, I find myself in the throes of transformation - my work is shifting, my naturopathic medical practice diminishing and growing at the same time.. becoming something new and very much my own. Through Fellowship, I have, for the first time in my life, a daily meditation practice. I feel extreme anxiety, terrible stomach-ache, and of course, the sadness is still there. These feelings are morethanfamiliar to me, but something is different, too. I find myself taking bold actions, writing daily, flowing. Friends tell me I have been more forward than usual, and ~they like it~. I feel rise within, and responsibility to, myself. With each deep breath and tapping practice, I wonder if I am embodying her too.
In October, Babushka was born - her birthday almost exactly opposite my April one. Sorting through her Brooklyn apartment, I find a black stone engraved with the word “Libra” and a suspicious price tag that reads $135. One of Babushka’s flea market finds. In my lobes, the granite earrings the doctor handed me on day 3. My dad tells me they were a gift from Babushka’s Babushka, given not long before she was executed at Babi Yar.
These stories - the pain, the laughter, the blueberries, the mountains, kiev, new york ——- woven,,, they are our future as much as our past.