My son Kenny had superior health and habits. He ate three to five pounds of whole fruit daily and a fresh organic salad most evenings. On weekends he drank four ounces of juiced kale, straight, even though it made him quiver. The kale juice gave him minerals and made him feel strong — strong enough to run and excel on the Cross Country and Track teams. Kenny did not wake up one day and ask to be fed this way – he ate what I, his mom, served him. I gave him ample pocket money to eat what he chose at lunch on school days and on days that he had no school he often added bread, eggs, and or cheese once daily to his primarily fruit and vegetable fare. A lean, athletic six-footer, Kenny loved food.
Brilliant, funny, athletic, musically gifted, and kind, Kenny was a shining star. He was classically trained at piano, guitar, and was an active member of a choir. His hobbies would have lasted him through his golden years, had he lived that long — but in the spring of 2003, Kenny was pronounced dead five hours after a head on car collision.
As his mother, I had to find a reason to go on living. Kenny was my son, my friend, and one of my greatest teachers. After his accident, I didn’t know if I would ever get over the feelings of loss, emptiness, or guilt that come to a mother who loses her only child. The only thing that helped me to feel better was taking care of myself — exercising, resting, eating a clean diet, and reading as I learned to accept the irreversible.
Shortly after Kenny’s accident I wondered, since the body is impermanent, existing on this earth for an eye-blink, why shouldn’t I slack off on my dietary disciplines and please the palate in an attempt to numb my pain with unhealthy food. Chocolate chip cookies, fried potatoes, ice cream, and fettuccini — if I enjoyed them, I figured it made no difference if I indulged. But quickly, I discovered that in times of deep despair, it’s actually more important to take care of our health then at times when life flows smoothly.
Kenny passed on a Friday. The doctors tried to save him – he looked fine on the outside but he bled to death internally, and, after surgery he left his body. I lay at his feet after the doctors went home and found my breathing to be deep, full, effortless — unlike anytime in my life. I told Kenny, among many things, that now he would be my teacher. I felt that is some way I was with Kenny as he soared out of this realm — a piece of me soared with him. The deep breathing saved me and I knew at the time I was able to breathe in this way because I had been pure in diet. I knew in that moment I would need to maintain that purity to cope with the horrifying reality.
The days following were the worst days of my life. When I wasn’t fantasizing about suicide, I was praying for some sort of planetary cleansing to come sweep me away. After all, if Kenny was gone, my mind didn’t care if I died right away or a few months later. Furthermore, if suicide was to be part of my plan, I had to question whether it made any difference how I took care of my health.
I had to learn to breathe, walk, sleep, and eat all over again. At first, I got green juice down, then light fruits, and finally avocados. I managed to sleep because it was the only comfortable state to be in. As the days rolled by, well-meaning friends brought foods that seemed foreign to me like cookies and noodles. I ate a giant cookie and it made me feel worse. My heart was in such deep pain, I certainly didn’t need tummy trouble to add to my discomfort. Knowing this, however, did not stop me from eating some crap. Life seemed pointless and it was cold and damp outside. I ate heavy cooked foods that, by most peoples standards, would’ve been healthy enough — but I had been on a raw food path for a couple years by this point — so almost instantly — I found myself plugged up and in a state of deeper despair.
Two weeks after Kenny’s passing, when supportive friends and family members went home, I fasted for seven days – no juice – no tea – only fresh spring water. Fasting helped me to feel connected to Kenny while allowing my nervous system to relax and rejuvenate.
The first summer following the tragic loss of my son, the wound began showing early signs of healing. I could actually enjoy some simple summer pleasures like cherries, berries, melons, and cucumbers. Thing was, the wound was still wide open and the hole in my heart was hungry for anything and everything which might bring solace. Some days I would eat and eat — trying to fill that hole — and I remember I was so grateful that at least I was overeating lettuce and peaches and not pizza and donuts.
As months went by, my spirits felt better and looking back I’m sure it was because I remained well hydrated, nourished, and rested. Four months following, I began holding private yoga retreats on my land. Five days after Kenny’s passing I returned to the bookstore that I co-owned and also resumed teaching five weekly Kundalini Yoga classes in the nearby town.
Nine years ago, I knew that a clean diet wasn’t the complete answer – the whole picture. However, I did know that as I took care of my health I would feel better as I embarked on my journey of being open and expanded so that one day, I could look by my side and realize that I was never alone — my son’ spirit is, was, and always will be with me. I knew that the more I stayed in touch with nature, with foods of the earth, that the easier it would be for me to feel at one with my son, with other realms, and to be a part of a bigger picture beyond “me”.