By Melissa Baker/Nirbho Atma Kaur
"Old age is not for sissies," Grandma Alice firmly states.
My Grandmother moved in with my parents a few years after I moved out of the house to go to college. When she moved in, their life changed. They planned around her needs, they cooked every meal for her, they drove her to doctor’s appointments and they did their best to support her emotional and social needs.
Each time I came to visit my ninety-one year old Grandmother, she was a little more disconnected from reality. I looked into her pure glossy eyes and shared with her what was new in my life. This time, I excitedly expressed, “I am pregnant!” I dreamed of the day when she would get to meet our little boy. For now, I watched her delight as she revealed in a large smile, a nod, and said, “That’s wonderful!”
I didn’t truly understand the meaning of selfless-service (seva) until my parents left their house for a summer to visit their granddaughter across the country and asked me to be the caregiver for Grandma Alice. With the strong impulse to say, “No, I have summer plans,”there was something deeper in my heart that drew me towards saying yes.
Soon, all my plans shifted around spending my days caring for Grandma Alice. In these moments of cooking, cleaning, doctors’ appointments, compassionately listening and calling 911 to help her get up from a fall, Kundalini Yoga was the way I kept myself stable. Each morning, I’d wake up to move, chant and pray. Those sacred hours when I was the only one awake held me and cradled the fearful little girl inside me that was now the caretaker of someone who used to cradle me.
What made this situation so dynamic in the midst of serving a woman who was so close to spirit and moving beyond the body was that inside of me, there was new life being created.
The meaning of seva became clear to me through these days, especially when my birthday approached. Three days before this celebratory day, Grandma Alice fell off the side of her bed. When I heard her yelling from her bedroom, I knew to grab the phone and start calling 911. My heart was racing and frightful on one side, and on the other was the chant of Guru Ram Das overcoming this fear. When the ambulance came to help her up, we decided it was best for her to go to the emergency room to see if anything was seriously wrong that wasn’t visible from the outside.
Three days later, I sat on the couch beside her hospital bed on my birthday. In this moment, I realized the power of seva. Humbly, I stayed with her until she was able to be released a few days later.
Yogi Bhajan says, “Seva is a conscious and deliberate service to benefit another person even at your own cost.”
To serve my Grandmother was an honor. I am so blessed that I was given this time to serve her and her needs at her age, as she did for me as a young child.
Cooking, cleaning, bathing, listening, sharing...
I praise all the people who care for their elders the best they can.
Time is precious. Those moments spent eating peach cobbler for breakfast or laughing at endless wrinkles in time are minutes to be cherished.
I lovingly encourage you to serve your elders. Spend more time with the elders in your life. They love you more than you even realize. Do not take them for granted. They will not be on Earth forever, yet they will forever be in your hearts.
Grandma Alice died in October 2018 in a peaceful sleep.
Our son, who will be born in January 2019, will know his Great Grandmother through the wonderful memories we share with him. The summer I spent caring for her will forever be remembered in my heart.
I take the teachings I learned through serving her forward in my life—in the way I choose to selflessly serve all lives I come across.
“You are here to serve, here to lift, here to grace, here to give hope and action, to give the very deep love of your soul to all those who are in need.” -Yogi Bhajan
In 2010, Nirbho Atma Kaur’s (Melissa Baker) life changed when she had scoliosis surgery, where two titanium rods were placed aligning her spine. Since then, she has fully embraced and cared for her body through an active life. She is a Kundalini Yoga teacher who is passionate about teaching young adults and diverse cultures how to access and connect to their inner truth through Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda.
She is a Certified Health Education Specialist and Radiant Child Yoga Teacher. Nirbho Atma learned Kundalini Yoga at an Ashram in Israel. She has developed personal practices of Kundalini Yoga, and Hatha Yoga, and her creative expression of writing and music. She teaches transformational workshops, retreats, children's classes, and online. Outside of yoga, Melissa loves to experience travel adventures, play tennis, be in nature, cook nourishing food from local markets, and simply be around loving people.