My father-in-law Luke passed away today at the hospital after two unsuccessful surgeries. My wife and her mother were at his side during the time. It has been a long journey taking care of this man. He didn’t have many close friends most likely due to his PTSD. But he dutifully took care of his wife and kids. He often recruited me to take him on many “therapeutic” car rides where he would tell me all of his horror stories about the wars in which he served. He was a Green Beret and made it to the rank of Master Sergeant. He was even called up for a covert mission in the Middle East, only to find that when he arrived in Libya to carry out the mission, his orders were not from the Pentagon. It made national news at the time. After he retired from the military, he went to nursing school and became a labor and delivery nurse. As his gerontologist noted, this was a fascinating pattern in his life. He wanted to “undo” all the horrors of war by aiding in the emergence to life.
I was honored that he regarded me as his “friend” which he would call me often. As my wife often reminded me, he has not called anyone his “friend” before. Our friendship has not been easy, as Luke was a hard and difficult man who did not budge once he wanted something. But he allowed me to help him with yoga in a limited way. I believed that helped some of his suffering.
Luke taught me a lot about myself. I am a fairly patient man, but he always knew how to take me to the edge. In his “Master Sergeant” voice, he would command whimsical requests until you complied. “Take me for a ride!” he would say after I just arrived home after an hour commute in Honolulu traffic. He would also make me take him to the commissary which was always a trip fraught with peril. When my wife was at her wits end with him, I was always next at bat. When I approached him with a combination of humor and love, I was able to level this Green Beret (or at least neutralize him) to a congenial man. Often a car ride and “back crack” on an Iyengar chair would do the trick.
When I would take him on car rides, and he didn’t feel like talking, I would put in my recordings of Prashant Iyengar lectures. Luke would first say “what is that horseshit” as Prashant would talk about the intricacies of Panchamahabhutas (managing elements in the body). Toward the end, it would spark conversations about esoteric physiology and even God from a man who did not have a particular faith. He would eventually say “I know there is something greater out there, it just isn’t in the form that most people say it is.”
Today the whole family was together around his body still warm. The hospital chaplain came in and said a final prayer. Just afterwards, we heard overhead music. The hospital plays a lullaby to announce that there is a newborn. God be with the family who takes Luke’s next incarnation. He’s a tough one!
I will miss you dearly young man.