A beautiful departure

Team Tasha Vinyasa B&W group photo

Tasha was so excited. Her famous smile would light up every time I’d mention the event. You know the smile I’m talking about. The one that would force anyone in her general vicinity to smile back, even if they didn’t know what they were smiling about. Tasha’s energy was like that. She had generous bounds of contagious happiness.

From the moment we began working together I felt like we were sisters. It was an immediate bond. One that is forged in the initiation fires of cancer, but one that could also have developed without cancer’s help. I immediately felt like I could tell her anything. She had an curious mind and a hunger for experience and knowledge. She ate up anything I shared with her about my own experience with illness, and voraciously took in whatever yogic philosophy I brought to light.

Some times we saw each other several times a week. We’d practice basic yoga poses at the studio, or focus on restorative yoga and body work. Sometimes we went for coffee instead. Once I brought her to my house and I passed on all my medicinal tools for mitigating the side-effects of chemotherapy and she wouldn’t stop talking about how much she liked the 50s motif in my kitchen. It’s strange like that with cancer: in one breath we find ourselves talking about how to survive, in the next we’re talking about interior design. We trying to find balance in a world thrown up-sid-down by treatments and tests, protocols and procedures.

Tasha did a fantastic job at keeping one eye on the cancer ball, and one eye on the rest of her life. And instead of wallowing in the unfairness of the hand she’d been dealt, Tasha was fully present in the moment, and willing to engage with anyone asking for her attention.

When I first mentioned the idea of a class in her honor she looked as if I had invited her to the Oscars. I told her about the positive energy we could create as a collective whole and whereas a less open minded or mature young person might roll their eyes, she nodded enthusiastically. I knew right away she was picking up what I was laying down. She got it.

Back in December we thought there was a good chance Tasha might still be well enough to attend the event, but as we rolled into January we realized that was not longer the case. Technology came to the rescue though, and she and I got almost equally excited when we realized she’d be able to watch the class from the comfort of her own bed via Skype.

At various points in our relationship, I shared with Tasha small pieces of yoga’s ritualistic heritage. I taught her a few sanskrit words, told her a little bit about mantra (the repetition of a word or phrase with a focused intention) and shared with her a few ideas about dharma and karma. I gave her one of the malas (prayer beads) that had been gifted to me when I was sick, and she wore them at the hospital. These were little things, little tools, but I could tell they interested her.  So when I told her that for Team Tasha Vinyasa, my intention was to get everyone in attendance to chant mantra in her honor she was stoked.

My partner, Burr; always the creative production force behind my classes, created a giant, 80-foot aqua mala as a back drop for the event – and I shared with Tasha, photos of it’s creation. “Tell him I LOVE it” she said, when she saw a photo of Burr’s crew drilling holes in the oversized Christmas balls.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

The day of the event, Tasha was in and out of consciousness. She had gone to sleep on Thursday night, and slept through most of Friday morning. She woke up at some point in the middle of the day, for about 15 precious minutes, and her mother was able to show her a photo I had posted of Mary Michetti and I cutting hundreds of aqua ribbons. Again, she perked up and talked about how excited she was to watch the night unfold later on her laptop. Shortly after, Tasha said she need a nap, so that she could be up with us later.

And what an event it was. I have never been prouder of our community. 120 people poured into the Studio Theater at the Dreamland that night, many of whom had never done yoga before in their lives. I had promised after all, that it wouldn’t be hard.

Men and women, young, and old, humans with spiritual beliefs as different as the color of their hair. It was an incredible representation of our island. Clearly, people from all different pockets of our community had been touched by Tasha’s story and wanted to be a part of sending her love.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

I can’t say that I kept my promise. At some point during the practice it occurred to me that life is so beautiful, but really, really challenging. So… I turned up the heat a little. I couldn’t help myself. I thought of how gracefully Tasha had navigated pneumothorax, chemotherapy, plural taps, and port implants. I thought about what a miracle it was that we were all there, with fully functional bodies with the ability to do challenging things. I remembered how hard it was for me personally when cancer kept me from my own physical identity… and I remembered a conversation I had with Tasha back in November.

She had expressed her frustrations to me then, at watching her muscles atrophy. Remembering all too well what that felt like, all I could do was empathize. I didn’t tell her how strong she still was, or try to deny what was blatantly obvious to both of us. But I did promise her that I would bust my ass physically so that she wouldn’t have to. A brilliant smile, of course, flashed across her face.

So in that vein, I invited students that night, to hold poses longer, to go deeper, to do it for Tasha – who so badly wanted to, but could not. To feel that solar burn in your thighs, what a privilege, I said. Some people laughed. Some people groaned. But you know what? They all held it together. The 60 year olds and the 5 years olds, and every one in between. They put in an effort, perhaps like never before, because they wanted to do it for Tasha.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

That night I witnessed our island come together for Tasha in a way I’ve never seen before. The studio was packed from wall to wall with bodies focused solely on one purposed: to open their hearts to Tasha. Collectively these diverse individuals created one huge mass of love.  Tasha’s family gathered closely around her, inside her newly finished aqua bedroom sanctuary, and watched the entire event from start to end. Tasha’s mother Tina, sister Allyssa, brother Timmy, step-dad Brendan, aunt Lisa, cousin Heather and best friends from California Sydney and Micha, snuggled around Tasha like a blanket. And Burr, with laptop in hand, ran from one corner of the studio to the other, doing his best to capture the depth of the magic being created for them to see.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Even though she never opened her eyes again, I am positive Tasha heard every prayer this community offered and felt every ounce of love we generated. When my phone rang 4 hours later, I knew instantly that Tasha had left her body, and I felt as sure as I’ve ever felt anything that we helped her transition and guided her to the light.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Tasha often thanked me for being a part of her life. But honestly, it is I who should be thanking Tasha. She has taught me so much about my own capacity to love and in a time when the world seems bitter and cruel, she has reinforced my belief in mankind’s ability to love one another.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

 

I fell in love with Tasha the way mothers fall in love with their babies the first moment their skin makes contact. Instantaneously. I think she had that affect on a lot of people.

And right now, in this very moment, Tasha is teaching every one of us the power of community, for even in death, her spirit has united an entire island.

#teamtasha

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Below are a few more photographs from Team Tasha Vinyasa Electric Flow, taken by my friend and very talented photographer, Katie Kaizer. In her words, Katie says “I am so thankful to be part of this community and to photograph such a moving and emotional evening. I am in awe of the energy that forms throughout the night and holds everyone together offering comfort and understanding. The entire room was radiating peace and love as we all sent prayers to Natasha and her family.”

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

TeamTasha_035_KatieKaizerPhotography

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Many thanks to Floyd Kellogg and Pete Ahern for donating their time. We love this town.

Comments

  1. I have no words…just Amazing…
    So much love and strength and generosity …
    Thank you all for this lesson in loving one another

  2. I wiSh I had known Tasha and had been there to feel the joy of prayers for Tasha . Your eulogy left me in tears and reminded me once again how blessed I am to have a daughter who survived thyroid cancer and how grateful I am everyday for the health of my family and how privileged I am to be part of our blessed island.
    Thank you

  3. Caitlin, this is such a beautiful, moving piece. All the time, I think what an amazingly generous soul you are and this more than ever exemplifies that. I’m so sorry for the loss that you and everyone on Nantucket is experiencing; I wish I had been close enough to help send love and light in Tasha’s final hours, but I know that you and the whole Nantucket community did an amazing job. We are all so lucky to have you. ♥♥♥

  4. Ellen Gaskill says:

    What a beautiful story. The power of the practice combined with the love in your community is amazing. I hope to come to your studio and practice with you, I would be honored. Peace and love from across the Sound…

  5. Lisa Rastella (3rd generation cousin of Tasha) says:

    What an an AMAZING~Beautiful~Tribute~ I liked the part that you felt this helped Tasha transition into another journey/place of peace. I Love what You did for Tasha and the Community that was behind You,and her Family. Most of all the Support and Love that guided all who cared about Tasha through this most tragic and sad times of their lives. Keep the Happy memories close~ Tasha’s Spirit will live on~ You Both were Very Lucky to have been in others lives! Love and Respect

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