I want to talk about three Ashwins:
- Authentically Aware Ashwin
- Adventurously Instigating Ashwin
- Attentively Approachable Ashwin
Pardon the egregious alliteration…
Authentically Aware Ashwin
This Ashwin, is as genuine as they come. He shows up exactly as he is. If he’s angry, he’ll tell you. If he’s sad, or maybe spiraling a little, he’ll tell you. And if he’s bored, he’ll definitely tell you. “I’m sooo boorrreed”. I can just hear it now, with his big beautiful grin, poking me, incessantly.
His realness left a particularly lasting impression on me as a quality I’ve looked up to, because I’m someone who struggles to express the full range of my emotions. Anger and sadness have been particularly tough ones for me —
For those who didn’t know, I lost my father when I was 12. And like Ashwin, it was also to an aggressive brain tumor, this one called a glioblastoma. I hope they get to meet now — I think they’d really hit it off. Anyway, when it happened, I quickly learned to adapt in a way I’d later learn was called “parentification” — which is the idea that you prematurely jump into thinking you’re supposed to be the adult now and protect the family, thereby short-circuiting to ignore the hard realities of life you were just presented with. So I got really good at blocking emotions I didn’t think were “productive”.
It’s taken me the better part of two decades to learn how to genuinely feel what I’m feeling, and I would never have made progress without friends showing me how, like Authentically Aware Ashwin. He taught me to let myself be sad and angry sometimes, and that that’s ok.
And let’s be real there’s been no shortage of that this week… and if he were here, I know he wouldn’t want me to push that away, he’d want me to show up, however I am. Maybe as… Naturally Nurturing Noah? Hmm doesn’t have the same ring to it… ok next up number two:
Adventurously Instigating Ashwin
Every person in this room likely has a story for this one. Adventurously instigating Ashwin needs no introduction, because he would’ve already instigated one, running full speed into chaos. You can’t say this man didn’t live fully — surfing in Costa Rica, befriending so-called “yoga honeys” in Barcelona, galavanting all over Germany… I wasn’t in those particular adventures, but I’ve been on plenty with him at music festivals, sunday brunches, even skydiving once… but my absolute most cherished of my time with Adventurously instigating Ashwin was an unforgettable road trip across the country just before the pandemic.
It was then that he taught me and John how to drive a stick shift in the middle of the night at a gas station somewhere outside of Vegas after realizing, arguably a little too late, that he wanted to take a nap and have us take over. By the way, how did HE learn stick? Apparently he needed to rent a car while in South America, and they only had manuals, so he lied and said he could drive one, and just kind of… figured it out!
This kind of brave sense of adventure is both endearing, and straight up reckless, but that’s a combo that served him well in many of his pursuits. Chaos cooking, sprinting randomly without warning, wrestling on moving house boats and breaking pinky toes… it’s all a part of the package, and we love him for it.
Also on that infamous road trip, John, Ashwin and I did as many Sun Salutations as we could in a cemetery in New Mexico, all because one of the “yoga honeys” he met told him he should do 100 of them every day for a week leading up to the next eclipse… so we did it together! John and I will be doing some sun salutations sometime after this service for those interested in inhibiting Adventurously Instigating Ashwin… ok last one:
Attentively Approachable Ashwin
This is the soft fuzzy warm big hearted Ashwin — the first person you want to see when it’s late and you need a friend to lean on. Just about every single Burning Man we went to together, there would inevitably be a night in the week where late into the evening, we would come back to our camp independently to sit by the fire. One of us would find the other there, alone trying to find peace in the night but secretly craving company, and fall right into a comforting conversation just when we needed it, passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth.
And I swear, he was the BEST listener. He’d really hear you. He had this amazing ability to intently listen to a hard experience you’ve had, immediately understand it, help you see it differently, AND simultaneously cause you to erupt in abs-hurting laughter all in one go… all while in ridiculous outfits covered in dust at 4am.
When I look back on my life, those moments with Attentively Approachable Ashwin by the fire, or the many other fire-like conversations we’ve had over the years, will be some of my fondest, most treasured memories.
So moving forward, I hope to embody and keep close:
- Authentically Aware Ashwin, reminding me to feel my feels and show up as I am
- Adventurously Instigating Ashwin, doing sun salutations in unexpected places, living life to the fullest. And of course:
- Attentively Approachable Ashwin, sitting by the fire… listening and supporting others when they need it most
And if I had more time, I might’ve included stories from:
- Amiably Affectionate Ashwin
- Ardently Amusing Ashwin
- Artistically Altruistic Ashwin
- Alluringly Astonishing Ashwin (I mean come on, what a looker)
But I’ll leave you with just one more… one that feels especially pronounced when I look around this room…
- Abundantly… Adored… Ashwin
I shared this eulogy during Ashwin’s funeral last weekend, and decided to post it online because when people we love pass on, I think it’s important to honor them by sharing their stories. Any time we read or talk about them, it brings us closer to them in our hearts, and helps others know the gifts they brought into the world.