Honoring Kendra Brouwer
“It’s not too late. There’s still time. You can always return to God.” Leaving our friend Kendra’s celebration of life this past weekend, these final words from the minister’s sermon continue to rattle inside my mind. It reminds me of one of my favorite Abraham lines: “You can never get it wrong, and you’ll never get it done.” In times like these, it can be hard to find resonance in this wisdom, though. Yeah, there’s time, until there’s not.
When those we love transition, having just a bit more time, just one more moment, is often about all we can hope and pray for; we want enough time to hear their voice, to feel their touch, to sense their presence. To not have to wonder, guess, or search for a sign. A dream of a known, felt reality.
In 2020, Kendra was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She endured chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and 30 rounds of radiation. She survived. Our story together begins a couple of years before these moments. On our mats. In a training. I first met Kendra through our yoga teacher, Carole Westerman. A little later, we partnered to offer a kids yoga teacher training at her business, Kosha Yoga School, in Sioux Falls. We taught, played, laughed, and marveled at life together. We were together when the world got the news that Kobe Bryant had passed away. We were together when the pandemic broke loose, and we had to transition our work together to being online. Wherever we were, whatever format we joined together in, Kendra always showed up. She was always present. Always smiling. Always sharing her love for family, for yoga, and God.
It’s a lesson worth (re)learning over and over and over again. Kendra taught us many.
“Prepare for Impact” was one of her most enduring messages. She once asked, “What kind of impact can I have on the people who are watching me, the people who are in my circle, or the people who are far removed? What kind of impact can I have on my community, on other people’s lives that leaves them feeling like they are in a better place?” It didn’t take a packed church celebrating her life to sense what an impact Kendra made on the lives of others. Yet it was truly a spectacle to behold—to see what it looks like to be held within a community of care, to hear others rejoice in your existence, and to bear witness to love personified in a person. Kendra was all love, and she knew it. One of the quotes that was shared that has stuck with me in these days since comes from On Being Human (2019) author, Jennifer Pastiloff, who said, “At the end of my life, when I say one final ‘What have I done?’, let my answer be, I have done love.” She goes on to say that, “the moon is never missing any of itself. We just can’t see it. People are like that, too.” It’s clear now just how many people saw Kendra for who she was, and for what her spirit represented.
Kendra’s resumé was impressive, no doubt (business owner, entrepreneur, marathoner, mother, wife, daughter, the list goes on), but her eulogy was a marvel. Everyone who spoke noted her strength, her grace, and her faith. Her humility before God. Of all of her great accomplishments in life, this is the wisdom I am struggling to take away from her death. Her message for her kids was for them to never doubt where their mom was going, or where they’d need to look to find her: Kendra’s sacred intuitive wisdom was the known, felt understanding that she was going to be with God in heaven. This woman did not lose to cancer. She did not succumb to hopelessness; did not fall into despair. She transitioned into the next life in much the same way she lived in this one: as a total badass confident in herself, her faith, and her love. One of Kendra’s favorite Bible verses was John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Kendra’s life has gotten me thinking a lot about my own. About how I show up for others. About how I talk to myself. About courage. I still have a lot to learn. So, I look to my friend, and in her power, I will try to (re)discover a little of my own.
As 2020 was ending, Kendra put out a call to the world for a 2021 Handstand Challenge. That woman was always upside down. And yet now, I find myself thinking that maybe this was one of her great keys to happiness. Standing right side up, this world might seem a little messed up—political unrest, war, famine, drought, the list could go on. But when we shift our perspective, or when we see the world through a different set of eyes, we leap from ignorance into knowledge, from indifference into compassion, and from fear into courage.
Her Instagram post was an inspiration for so many to work hard, to get stronger, to get back up when we get knocked down, and even to elevate while you’re flipped upside down. She challenged folks to show up daily and that the handstand wasn’t about the position you wound up in, but the journey of getting there. In an interview with Midco Sports, her message was clear, gracious, and humble: “I just want to inspire people to be like them. You know, be yourself. Do what makes you feel stronger. Do what motivates you. Do what inspires you. And let my story, and my comeback, and my run, all that stuff, just encourage you to take care of yourself. And to know that there are seasons of difficulty where stuff is like, ‘Oh my God, what is happening to me?’”
Kendra’s words make me wonder what I stand for. It makes me think about how I show up for myself, for my family, my students, and the world.
It seems difficult to comprehend how or why someone who lived so strongly in her faith, who was so strong in mind, body, and spirit had to leave so soon. I’m asking these questions, but I’m not so sure she was. Kendra trusted God. She had faith in the process. Even in this ending, she still found a way to comfort us all, reminding us that this final surrender was a victory. A victory because this yogi has mastered the most difficult pose of all—savasana, corpse pose. In Ask and It is Given (2004), Esther and Jerry Hicks write how death is “brought about by the culmination of the vibration of the Being.” Kendra’s work here was complete. She’s off now speaking to us from a different vantage point. My prayer for the rest of us still here is that we take the time to show up to listen to her call.
Lumin Therapy provides integrative health and education for the mind, body, and spirit to those who are suffering or struggling to step into and live their heartfelt mission and purpose. Through the practice of physical therapy, medical therapeutic yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and resiliency mentoring, Dr. Meghan Nelson, DPT, and Dr. Ryan Allen, Ph.D., bring their more than forty-plus combined years of knowledge and experience serving others to learn and heal and live without boundaries.