We issued to the call, and you responded. “Why do you love yoga?” In the weeks that follow we will be posting your responses to this question, but felt it was only appropriate to lead with the following heartfelt, heart-breaking and life changing response from our friend, our student, and our Leap family member Charissa. We are so grateful to her for opening herself up to us, and for allowing us to post it here. We are honored to host your words Charissa, and enjoy the brilliance of your light at Leap. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
I glanced down at a book I had rented from the library. The book was all about people who had started their careers late in life. I had checked it out so that I could study different careers that I might find interesting and might be able to go into using my degree. I was starting my life all over again and a career was my plan. After all, I did want to eventually buy my own house someday and put money away for retirement. I thought this might be a good book to read since it was all about second careers. What was interesting was that I really found nothing in the book helpful for me. I just read a really sad story in it, and the book was kind of depressing to me. I thought I needed to remember to get that book back to library. The story I read was about a woman who had become a nurse at sixty years old. She talked about how fulfilling that career choice had been for her. One story she shared from her new experiences as a nurse was regarding a patient that came in to the hospital at 23 years old. A female. She had suffered from an Acute Asthma attack in a bar with her friends. Apparently she had had a terrible asthma attack and no one had noticed that she slipped onto the ground unable to breath. When she was discovered and then admitted to the hospital, she had suffered complete brain loss. This woman who had become a nurse at sixty found that the young doctor did not seem to be able to communicate to the young girl’s mother that her daughter was only on life support because of the machine. He was struggling with the right words to tell this mother that her daughter was gone. The nurse wrote that she decided to take it upon herself to explain in a way that this mother could understand that she needed to let her daughter go. I balled as I read this story. After all, my daughter Meggy was 22 years old, and had a slight case of asthma herself. That was really a scary thought. I thought that the story was so haunting that I went out to the kitchen to tell my roommate about it. She agreed that was a pretty horrible story. I glanced at that book remembering all this, and I would not think about this story again until several weeks …maybe months later.
It was the year 2009, December 26th, around 9 pm the night after Christmas. I was 40 years old, and could not remember feeling happier in my life. I was sitting on the floor of a room I was renting at the time, and going through my personal things, unpacking, and feeling very positive about the future. I, Charissa Hudson, had finally found the guts to leave that marriage. It had been a horrible 16 years for me. It was full of abuse, anger, sadness and deep depression. I felt as if I had been trapped like a caged and wounded animal for years. Finally, I was starting over, and I could not be more excited. I shuddered as I remembered having to plan for weeks, hiding boxes under a pool table in the garage, and saving as much money as I possibly could without him noticing. I would never forget the day we moved. October 10th 2009. He left for work and a few very good friends came over to help me and Megan, my daughter, pack. People were everywhere and stuffing clothes and things of ours in everyone’s cars. We literally left with nothing but each other, her little dog named Delilah, and our clothes. That was it. We left everything else behind. Our plan was the best that we could come up with. I would go and rent a room, and she would go down to Manteca and stay with my mom until I could get us an apartment. I gave her the tightest hug I can remember ever giving her, and then literally remembered feeling a sting as I watched her drive away in a different direction from me. She and I had never lived apart since she was born. I had Meggy when I was 17 years old, so for nearly half of my life, she had always been living with me. Her brother, Michael, had joined the military and left off to Korea at 18 years old. He was independent, and had always had the plan to go into the Army right after high school. I was so proud of him and his sense of direction for his life. Meggy though wanted to go to college and live at home with me, and as far as I was concerned she was welcome to live with me forever. We were more than mother and daughter-we were the best of friends. I was always really protective of Meggy, but I did think it strange that unusual uneasiness that came over me as I watched the car that had Meggy and her dog go in it go in the opposite direction from me. I told my friend how I felt, but she said not to worry and that Megan was with my mom and safe. I agreed it was silly, and I stuffed that feeling down as we drove away to my new temporary home.
As I sat on the floor going through my things, I clearly remember hearing the phone ring the first time. I ignored it. It was late, and I was trying to get to bed because I had to work the next day. I had just gotten a job in a law office as a paralegal, and I needed to get rest. Whoever was calling could call me back. But, the phone rang again, and this time something in my gut said, “Pick. It. Up.” When I answered the phone, I just remember my mom sounding really panicked and she said, “Sweetie, Meggy is not well.” “Ok,” I said, “What do you mean not well?” I had just talked to Megan earlier that day, and so I was kind of confused. She had a cough, but nothing that should make my mom freak out. Then her words just poured through the phone, and though I heard them all, my brain got stuck on “ICU” and “asthma attack.” I remember I heard my voice like it was outside of my head (and I sounded so calm)…I said to her simply, “I am on my way.” I put the phone down and began walking up the stairs to my friend’s room. I told her what was going on, and she insisted on driving me the hour and half from Sacramento to Manteca.
Along the way to hospital I filled my friend in on the events of that day that my mom shared with me. Apparently she and Megan had been at Costco early that evening. Meggy had been wheezing a little bit. Not unusual for her if she had a cold which she did. My mom told her to stay in the car so she could run in to grab something really quick, and she would be back in ten minutes. Meggy had asthma since she was a child, and so my mom knew what to do if Megan kept wheezing after using her inhalers. The normal drill was to go into the doctor’s office or emergency room and ask for them to administer a breathing treatment. After a few minutes of receiving the medicine at the doctor’s, Meggy was always as good as new. My mom says Megan was complaining about going to the hospital, but she told her firmly that if she was still not sounding good after the Costco run she was going in. End of story. My mom went into the store, and came back in literally 10 min as she said she would, but when she returned Meggy was not there. My mom looked around. To her shock and horror, she saw paramedics working on someone at the entrance of the store; and when she looked closely, she saw Megan’s tennis shoes at the end of the body on the ground. My mom says she just started running toward them. Apparently Megan had gotten much worse, and really fast. She tried to go find my mom in the store, but collapsed at the front doors. The Costco workers called 911. When my mother approached the paramedics they were cutting off Meggy’s clothes and putting tubes in her nose. She says Megan was still conscious, but looked nearly blue in color. She was rushed to the nearest Manteca hospital, and a series of procedures were done to try to get her body to respond to medication. Her bronchial tubes remained tight though, and while she was still coherent enough, the hospital staff explained to Meggy that one option would be to go on a respirator. They told her they would put her in a medical induced coma to let her body try to calm down and accept the medication. Being that she was 22 years old, she did not need parental approval and they asked her if she wanted to move forward with this plan. Her grandmother tells me that they talked about it, and that at this point all Megan wanted was relief from the feeling that she was suffocating. Meggy signed the papers, and they intubated her and put her in the ICU unit. I got the call.
I could not believe what I saw when I walked in the room. My beautiful little girl had tubes coming out everywhere. I cannot explain in any words how helpless I felt to not be able to help her. Even though she was in a medical drug induced coma, the doctors told us that she could still hear us talking. I talked to her, and held her hand and kissed her constantly. Her nurse was a nice young man, and I think he could see the fear in my face. He just simply gave me hug and told me, “Mom, she is young, and she can fight through this. Just believe she will be ok!” I just melted into those words that night, and did exactly that. I just believed in my heart that she would wake up in the morning and be able to be taken off the respirator. In fact, even the doctor said that was the plan. I believed it in every cell in my body.
I stayed by her bed all night, and in the morning I got up and left the room for a few minutes. As I rounded the corner back to her room, a nurse grabbed me by the shoulders and looked straight into my eyes and said, “I think you need to understand how serious this situation is.” I kept telling her that I did, and I had to literally pull myself from her grip. I think she must have seen some denial in my eyes or something, but I was really in the place of believing that everything had to be ok as I remember it. As I approached Meggy’s room, I just heard them yelling, “Its dropping.” And then the red light went off above her room; nurses ran past me with a huge machine going into to her room; I still think I screamed. What I know I did (as strange as it seems was) I started running down the hall AWAY from her? I knew instantly what was happening. I ran to the parking lot and dropped to the ground and I cried but it was deep and quiet coming more from my stomach not my throat. The pain in my heart was unbearable. I looked down and realized I had left her and ran back through the hospital hallway to her room. Funny, I remember these strange “little” things but as I ran past the front desk, they left the ICU doors unlocked for me and my family to go through and I remember thinking, “They have given up on her because they are not even locking the ICU unit up anymore.” I just ran to her room and I wanted to go in the room so badly, but I could not get myself to. Instead, I just kept yelling to her through the door that I was there and to stay with me.
I could hear them performing CPR and it tore my heart out of my chest-such a violent and intrusive sound. The doctor came out and he told me they had stabilized her. He warned me and the family that it had taken them 20 minutes to bring her back. He explained to me that my daughter might not be the same. He said that when people go that long without normal oxygen levels that sometimes there is brain damage and they are never sure how much if any at all until the patient wakes up. I stood there in shock, and I heard her grandmother say to the doctor, “Well, we will take her however she is. We just want her here with us.” I agreed of course, but really strange was this little voice in my head saying, “Meggy would hate to be here in that way.” I said to myself, “shut up!” I cannot lose her.
I have been told that I went into some state of shock and survival mode at this point. Actually, I did not cry anymore. I just stood frozen in the hallway. The nurses came out to tell me that Meggy would need to stay on the respirator now for another 24 hours so they could be sure she was stable enough to try to wean her off again. And then it was silent and we all stood in the hall holding hands. I started to look around the hospital. All of a sudden I got really critical of the staff and the hospital…..like maybe they were too small to handle taking care of her. I asked the doctor if I could transport her to UC Davis or some bigger facility. He looked at me like I was nuts and told me moving her at this point was out of the question. The ICU doctor specialized in respiratory issues so he was actually the best person to have working on her. Still, I asked him if we could bring in a heart specialist since for whatever reason her heart failed on us. He agreed and called him in. The heart specialist arrived in 5 minutes because of the severity of the situation. He was there about one minute and we were looking at an x-ray of my Meggy’s lungs in the hospital hallway. The doctor was explaining that her lungs looked good and there was not any worrisome swelling when the nurses started screaming again.
The light went off above Megan’s door once more. I could not believe it. I had just gotten hope she was going to be alright maybe. It had been 30 minutes since we stabilized her. They started CPR again and this time stabilized her again in about 15 minutes. The doctor told me they had given her some medicine to try to help her. He told me that now we needed to be concerned Meggy might not make it. He said that every time someone goes into cardiac arrest, the chances diminish more. He told me her bronchial tubes were too tight and he needed to perform and emergency procedure. She stayed stable a few minutes and then she began to flat line again. CPR for another 10 minutes. The doctors said they needed to run a large cathedar under her collar bone and into her lungs so her lungs could receive medication and maybe help her blood pressure stay up. I told him to do whatever he had to in order to save my daughter, and he said I would need to sign a waiver that indicated the procedure could puncture her lungs and would kill her instantly. What was I to do???? is all I could think. She was dying as is it was! I signed the waiver and stood praying in the hallway.
They successfully put the cathedar into her lungs and Meggy was safe again. The doctor looked like he was going to cry as he told me they did it and she was still with us. He then said that if Meggy’s heart failed again, he was begging me to consider letting her go. My heart sank into my stomach as he said those words to me. Up to this point, I think I just had no way to do that. I also kept feeling something tugging at me and hearing that little voice saying to me to think of Meggy first. We all stood and prayed in the hallway and begged for her to be ok. I remember hearing the hospital phone ring and the nurse in the hall answering as she said something like, “The doctor is not ignoring your call ma’am. We just have a real emergency going on right now. He will call you back.” I thought to myself how strange it was to hear those words and to know it was my daughter she was talking about. Just observed to myself how odd it was that we were the “emergency,” and that this was really happening to me.
I heard other calls come in. They were family of ours and friends who were checking on Meggy, but the nurse just told them to call back later. Standing there in the hall again in silence and waiting, and strangely only 15 minutes went by and then….The light went off over her room; screams came again; this time every single staff member of the hospital in ICU ran to her room. There must have been 15 nurses and doctors standing in the room and helping each other. They were crying though too and this scared me beyond words. I could hear people all over and around me now yelling “Breath Meggy. Breath.” I just stood there and I have no idea why. I did not fall to the ground. I just stood there in the hall looking straight ahead in the doorway of her room. Numb??? Distraught??? I am not really sure. I have no words really to describe how I felt. The doctor came out of the doorway with his head shaking and looking me in the eyes. He had tears. I knew what he was saying. I recently told a friend that, in retrospect, maybe it was “acceptance” I was feeling in this moment?? I am not sure really. The doctor’s face just seemed to be saying, “Please let her go.” I said to him, literally, “Ok, no more.” He just turned and went back into her room, and all the noise stopped. Then…it was so quiet.
I suddenly felt like I sort of stepped outside my body, and I saw all these pictures and moments of “my” life, not Meggy’s, but my life just flash before me. I know that it sounds strange, but even as I remember the pictures and moments that flashed in front of me like a movie, I remember them to be moments that led me up to this point in my life. Moments (I think in retrospect now) that allowed me to be prepared for this moment. Again, I realize this sounds strange…. It even sounds weird to me as I write these words out. I sat in a chair they had brought us and it was in the middle of the hallway. Nurses came to hug me and I kept strangely consoling them and telling them that it was going to be ok and they did all they could. They put me in a small room with my family and we all just sat there. They asked me if I wanted to have a priest or rabbi come. I said, “Bring a priest in please.” Her grandmother fell on the ground. She passed out. They had to put her on an IV, and she missed the entire blessing of my daughter. As the priest put the blanket over Meggy’s face, the last time I looked at my daughter’s face and her physical body, she looked so beautiful. She was glowing and looked like she was just asleep. I remember I cried again, but people who were there said I mostly just looked like I was in a complete state of shock. After the blessing of my daughter, I talked to hospital staff, and was told since Meggy passed away within 24 hours of coming into the ER they would need to do an autopsy. I signed the paperwork to authorize the procedure, and then my friends who were with me walked me out to their car.
We stopped at Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks. They needed coffee because they had been up all night. So strange…I cannot even explain it. This was the most bizarre experience I think I have ever had in my life sitting and watching people going about their day, and buying coffee and I had literally just left my daughter’s body at the hospital down the street. Just observing. The car ride home was an hour and a half, and painfully so quiet. The first day of the rest of my life? A life without my best friend and my sweet little girl???…..or could I live anymore was the question.
Meggy’s memorial became a project that kept me moving forward. Planning things and trying to make them special. It all started to be my focus. Pictures for the slide show for her service, the urn we would place her in, the songs from her favorites list on her IPod, the night I sat with all the cards she had ever written me spread across the floor in front of me, and the way I was clinging to just one conversation with her and then the moment I felt a small tap on my shoulder and almost heard a voice point to the cover of all of those cards showing me the image of a small butterfly in each and every card….wow that was unbelievable. A beautiful sign from my angel…keep moving me forward was all I could think. It was decided we would release butterflies at her memorial. Calling friends and teachers, and clinging to the sweet words about her and what a beautiful person she was/is (I especially loved it when they would say “is”) because in some way this kept her “here” with me still…these were all just things to keep moving me forward.
The service was amazing and beautiful beyond words. She would have been proud and honored by all the love. But as it ended and everyone walked out to drive to the reception at my mother’s home, the home Meggy had lived in before she left me, her room untouched, the funeral director stopped me and told me he had forgotten to get my signature on some of the cremation paperwork for Megan. It was at this point, after several days had gone by since I lost Meggy and I finally broke down and cried. The signature he wanted confirmed my daughter was now some ashes in an urn shaped like an angel, and I cried uncontrollably. I cried as my friends held me up to the car, I cried all the way to the house, and I cried the whole reception. I remember just standing in the door jam as if it was actually capable of saving me somehow. I felt in that doorway was the only place I could breath. I stood there the entire reception. People walked by me and mostly left me alone. I think they could see in my eyes where I was at in those moments. I honestly, begged people in my head to keep walking by me and to not talk to me. I would never know even as bad as I felt at this moment, how much worse it would get in the days and weeks that were ahead.
I spent two weeks in an intensive counseling program because the psychologist thought I was suicidal. I don’t know. I can’t remember really. Maybe I was?? I spent more weeks in bed until my best friend came into my room and opened the curtains. The sun came in and it hurt so bad to see it. I felt like losing her all over again. I could not believe that the sun just came up like that. After all Meggy was gone. How could the sun keep coming up? I could not see her or hear her or hold her. My friend dragged me to the shower and made me brush my teeth and eat. It had been weeks since I had eaten any kind of meal at all. I lost my job, and I could care less. My best friend had her grandmother come over to talk to me since she had lost two children in her lifetime, and could somewhat relate to me. It was nice and it helped. I will always be grateful for that conversation we had. Only a mother who has lost a child can really understand a mother who just lost one herself. I had people calling all the time, and the only person I could and would talk to was Meggy’s only sibling, my son Michael. We would sit on the phone and he would beg me not to let him lose his mom too. I thought I understood what he meant, but it would take me three years, and finding Yoga (and of course a great deal of trying and not giving up in between all of this) to really get what he meant.
So, why do I love yoga?
I compare yoga to a life line for me often when I describe to people how I felt as I walked in to Leap for the first day. Though it had been three years, a new job, friends, family, and a new grandson since Meggy passed away…I was still drowning and I had no idea how bad it was. I think of myself a few months ago as a person who knew perfectly well how to swim and even appeared from the shore to be treading water just fine and staying afloat. I might even say if I were watching myself from the shore that I would be one to admire me for my strength and ability to keep staying up after three long years of keeping my head above water. But what no one would be able to see from the shore would be how tired I was. How I was looking to simply stay afloat, but I had nothing to hold on to really anymore and I was getting nowhere. Yes the edge of the shore was within my reach, but could never actually make a plan, stick to it, and then actually get to the ledge. I had goals to swim to the shore and to do great things when I got there. After all now I am someone who has so much to offer others in experience right? I have learned and so much I could teach others about how every moment counts etc.; yet…I just was unable to take any of those plans or goals of going to the shore and put them into practical action. I was simply staying afloat at best.
A friend asked me to come to Leap, and I had practiced yoga before so I went. One thing that has changed in me since Meggy died is I say yes to everything and try everything at least once. The specifics of why I went that day and why everything that got me to sign up for the 30 for $30, I just equate to pure alignment with what the Universe knew needed to happen for me to find this place that I need to be. I am now two and a half months into my practice at Leap, and I can say that I made it to the shore. I really mean that. I do realize this is not the end of the line for me though. I got to the shore and I still have so much more growth to go. It’s just the beginning. But, hey, I am not just treading water anymore, and I am out of the pool because someone threw me the lifeline (Leap Yoga). Right now I feel like I am kind of soaking on the shore in the sun and taking in all the nutrients I have been without for so long. Yes, maybe I get on my mat and cry at the end of every session quietly, but I have learned to breath and release and accept that for which I have no choice but to accept. More importantly I have grown stronger in just a few months both spiritually and physically of course.
I love yoga because to me it represents beautiful McKenzie (whose smile reminds me of my little Meggy’s and makes my heart melt) every time I walk in to check into class. Yoga to me is Papa Yogi (aka Butch) who when I took his class for the first time and I was late to the class and all upset and stressed for walking in and disturbing his class, simply hugged me and held me for a few breaths and told me, “Welcome to my class sweetie” and consequently I had one of the best classes I have ever experienced in my life. Yoga to me is Andy on Thursday nights in Yin, and her beautiful soothing sweet voice and wise words with amazing music choices, and who is the teacher always challenging me to dig deeper. Yoga is Corey on Saturday mornings so raw, authentic, and transparent, oh and let me not leave out he gives us a booty kicking session into our weekends. Yoga to me is Cathy who I identify with in many ways because she always talks about how she comes to yoga to open her heart and to learn to accept. When Meggy first died, and even before I lost her, I was someone who kept my heart on lock and key. I thought this was smart and I was only protecting myself, but through Cathy’s guidance I have learned the damage I am causing myself and others I love when I do that, so she has showed me that yoga is opening my heart, lifting it up to the sky physically as we move through the poses every chance I get. Yoga to me is beautiful Stacy who says one of her biggest role models is Mother Teresa. (Has she not noticed that this is very apparent in her every action as she guides us through our practice?) She brings kindness, love, light, beauty to my life and I am forever grateful.
I love yoga because it makes me stronger, and it makes me a better mother and friend, and it has given me the chance to learn how to put all those ideas of how to keep carrying on in this life without Megan into action. It has been a doorway for me into a place I really did not think I ever wanted to go again. Life. I thought I would just go through the motions. I love yoga because it quite literally saved my life and I am forever transformed. Oh and my next goal? Crawling up to the top of the pool to the diving board and LEAPing off gleefully into the waters of life. I want to see what that will feel like to feel that kind of happiness and peace again someday. I want to feel what it will be like to actually want to be anxious again to open doors and possibilities and see where life takes me next. I feel I am on the right track at Leap. I hear a splash in my future!