SAN MARCOS — The end came quietly for Summer Autio, the evening of Aug. 9 at her home in San Elijo Hills. As she wished, she was surrounded by her son, Shea Hart; former husband, Kevin Hart; current husband, Jim Autio; and friends Marta Hawkins, Teri Lang, Diana Phan, Jill Sommer and Teresa DeMarco, who also served as her primary care giver.
“All of us were with Summer nonstop the last five days,” DeMarco said.
Autio was a popular yoga teacher who was featured in The Coast News on Sept. 17, 2010, in an article titled, “Local yoga teacher gets support in cancer battle.” The story generated more than $1,200 in donations used to offset her costly battle with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
After receiving the diagnosis in Aug. 2006, DeMarco explained that Autio approached treatment with a blend of cutting edge, traditional chemotherapy and holistic medicine that included acupuncture and alternative cancer treatment she received in Tijuana.
In addition to being a yoga instructor, she was a Reiki practitioner, a hiker and strict vegan.
Although she had health insurance, Autio’s medical bills were very high. Chemotherapy treatments sometimes ran more than $20,000 per month.
As she was able, she continued to teach at Yoga Vista Studio in Vista and Soul of Yoga in Encinitas. Owners Sherry Zak Morris, and Tom and Trisha Kelly, were instrumental in raising money to ease Autio’s financial burden.
“Over the years, many students and friends donated to her living expenses,” said student and friend Susan Budner. “Early this year, it became apparent that her need for funds was increasing. Several fundraisers were held at friends’ homes.”
Concurrently, Budner and Morris founded the website summershope.com to simplify the process of making donations online on an ongoing basis.
Another student, 12-year-old Arielle Doan, led a class that made donation boxes for Autio. In total, friends, strangers and the local yoga, fitness and business communities rallied to raise approximately $10,000.
DeMarco explained that her decision to care for Autio was, in fact, a gift she received herself.
“There was an unconscious element about her that was always teaching, and ‘love’ was the lesson because she embodied that,” she said, adding that this was most evident during a chemotherapy appointment she accompanied Autio to several months earlier.
“Two women, one in her 60s with grandchildren, and another in her 30s with little kids, and Summer were talking,” she said. “I was in awe as they spoke about what a blessing it was to have this disease brought into their life. It changed them, it grew them and deepened them in an amazing way. To see these women view suffering as a blessing changed my life.”
DeMarco laughed and said Autio was also known for her humor, which she wove into her teachings. A few days after Autio’s passing, DeMarco attended a Buddhist meditation group Autio attended regularly. Students recalled her last visit to the group.
“They explained that they were all very serious, so Summer led them in yoga to ‘The Hokey Pokey.’ A man said that after seeing Summer for the last time he saw a bumper sticker, ‘What if the hokey pokey is ‘what it’s all about?’”
DeMarco added, “Summer would take us on a ride from introspection to playfulness and silliness and back to a place of calm.”
DeMarco said Autio would end each class with the mantra, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that freedom for all.”
She said the final gift came from a friend, Sue Marshall, who arranged to have a white Victorian nightdress handmade for Autio to wear to her final rest.
Summer chronicled her journey in her popular blog, theinnerhouse.blogspot.com. DeMarco explained that Autio collaborated with oncologist Dr. Ashfin Bahador in plans to transform the blog into a book.
The Coast News readers are invited to visit or post comments to the blog or Facebook.com/summer.autio.
A celebration of Autio’s life is currently in the planning stages. For updates, visit Autio’s blog or Facebook page. Donations are also requested to defray lingering medical costs. Those can be made at summershope.com.