This is For You, Alissa Bigelow.

Head shot Alissa

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.

Alissa

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.       

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  • Chris Needhams

    I look at her face/picture, and remember her laugh. I can hear it. So
    full of life. (How ironic.) She is just beaming, not a wrinkle of flaw.
    Who would have know from the photo, underneath it all

    I wonder if things would have changed, had this that and the other thing
    aligned. I imagine we all do. Wonder. What if her cat jumped onto her
    lap, that very evening, that very moment, needing a caress or snuggle.
    Something so simple. Could have?

    Some lovely women, friends, babies, dogs, and cats gathered round a coffee table to celebrate her life. It was tender and sweet. But I, as host, neglected
    to do one thing; lead the group to raise their glasses high, or bow
    their heads below their hearts, and toast/honour you, Alissa, a shining
    star. Here’s to you.

    (Omgal, thank you for your lucid writing. And thank you Karma Yoga Studio.)

  • Ali Fangueiro

    I am utterly shocked and absolutely dumbfounded by this news. I had the pleasure to participate in one of her cooking shows back in 2007/2008 and she was remarkable…her energy was unparalelled and infectious! Every time our paths crossed, she was always SO warm and friendly. I remember her beautiful smile the most. My deepest and most sincere condolences to all family and friends that are mourning her loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them all. Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing.

  • Debi Pasricha

    I didn’t know her, but she looks so happy and beautiful (from the inside as well as the outside). For those of you that lost her, I am sorry for this loss. Bless her.

  • Nobody

    People lost a leg, you can visualize it. A deaf person has a hearing aid. There is no trace if someone suffers internally. A short life is not necessarily bad. She’s given it all. Having to endure an extended period of pain is too much for her, or anyone really.

  • Courteney

    Beautifully written. Made me cry.

  • RichG

    So sorry for your loss.

  • Kyle S.

    Alissa is my cousin. I didn’t get to see her as often as I would have liked, but I certainly have great memories of her. I will be participating in the Out of the Darkness 18 mile overnight walk to honor her (and my father) and to raise funds for suicide and depression awareness. Too many great people leave too soon.

    http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=8825