We were sitting on our mats making small talk before class began. We have only been meeting once a week for four weeks, so we don't know each other well. Our teacher is a college student who sometimes talks about her classes and how hard she is studying for exams.
When someone asked our teacher how her week was, she started to cry as she told us that her boyfriend of three years died in a motorcycle accident last weekend. She told us about the kind of person he was, how much he loved nature and the garden we were in, how she hadn't done much of anything since then but make arrangements, how she had thought about canceling class but there is no cancellation policy (it's a new series, so they are just working out the details), and how she didn't want us to think she was a bad teacher if we didn't have an energetic session. We were all wiping tears away, witnessing her grief.
I was so proud of the way we all reacted. Several people went up and hugged her. One person went up to the latecomers as they arrived and told them what was happening, so they would understand what we were talking about. Others shared stories of losing people they loved. One of us decided to set an intention for our practice that evening to remember her boyfriend, and others agreed to do that, too.
Then we all sat quietly for a long time, just being present in the evening. It had been quite hot all day--we have finally turned the corner into summer and 90 degrees, after a long, slow mid-80s spring--but as soon as we started to meditate, a very sustained, very fresh breeze came blowing across our faces. The garden was full of cardinals, males and females in pairs, and they were flying over us, hopping around in the grass, and singing their hearts out. Somehow the garden had never been more beautiful, more lively, or more peaceful.
I hope our teacher's boyfriend would have been happy for us to remember him that way. And I hope it was comforting to our teacher that we were all there for her, even for that brief time. I'm glad we have more classes ahead, and more chances to show her we care.