A bright light has gone out.
These words are used in the movie Shakespeare in Love, a riff on a famous line in Shakespeare’s play, Othello.
The same words struck me like a truck, while standing in a crosswalk near my home yesterday.
On Sunday, I learned that Alissa Bigelow, a PURE Yoga teacher training student of mine and gifted member of the Boston yoga community had taken her life. I was sitting on the kitchen counter when I heard, and I remained stone still for a long time, as if moving would make the tragedy real and remaining frozen might stave it off.
Alissa was warm and bright. The word effervescent comes to mind. I knew her only in the capacity of being her teacher for a short time. She completed most of her training in Chicago, joining us to fill in some missing hours after moving to Boston. But I never had trouble envisioning her earlier role as a TV personality on a cooking show before we met. I pictured her chopping and smiling behind sleek marbled countertops, high and sturdy, revealing how petite she was for the cameras. I’m the daughter of a chef, and I often use culinary metaphors. Whenever I did this in our training, to explain a heady yoga philosophy concept maybe, Alissa perked up. I imagined how easily she could probably poach an egg or roast root vegetables without needing to look at a recipe for what kind of spices to add or how much. The whole house would fill with their sweet, spicy, comforting aroma.
A love of food filled a room in Alissa’s heart. Yoga had a big room, too, with enough space, especially, for her students at Karma, where she taught. And her daughter—the most heart space was reserved for her. This much was very clear.
What’s unclear and none of us can imagine—because no one can know anyone else’s path, truly—is how her experience of reality was feeling more dim than light as the years passed, like someone kept turning the lights off when she wasn’t looking.
This is the stuff that stops you in a crosswalk. How sad she must have been, how darkened her interior life must have felt.
It makes you pray, or meditate, or get on your mat and say: this is for my teacher, Alissa. This is for my friend. This is for those who miss her most: her family, friends, and regular yoga students.
There’s no fair, logical, or just reason why Alissa is gone. A bright light has gone out. And all we can do now is aim to be people who turn lights back on in dimly lit rooms or sit quietly beside our friends in the dark. Hug our little ones closer. Cook a meal that fills the house with its warmth and aroma. This is for you, our friend, Alissa, we will say.
For those who want to celebrate Alissa’s life, Karma Yoga Studio (B.U./Allston location) is hosting a gathering on Sunday, October 13 from 2-3:30 PM. Her cat also needs a loving home. If yours has room, please send an email.