This one is for my friends who are dealing with loss. ❤️
I’m sitting in Oregon as I write these words surrounded by gray mist and red tinged trees, thinking of how a year ago today I also found myself in this beautiful state. I was here to race Silver Falls Marathon and having just lost my beloved Dog the week before, I arrived feeling like a bedraggled orphan seeking sanctuary from the onslaught of grief that had haunted me all week.
My life was knocked out of gravitational orbit. I felt no sense of affiliation or family with him gone. I was unanchored, and I had never felt so lost. I had a dull hope that somewhere among the pine laden trails and warmth of friendship which had invited me to this lovely state, I’d find something healing about the journey.
I remember sitting in a coffee shop that first day with my writing and art supplies seeking refuge in the comfort of creativity and forcing myself to post a picture of a bright red tree on my Facebook page. I didn’t want to post that picture at first, because I had only been posting about Dog. Talking and writing about him was keeping him alive inside of me somehow. Posting something other than him meant life was moving on.
I didn’t want life to move on. I wanted things the way they were. Every step away from how it had been was a step towards something new, foreign and highly uncomfortable. That bright red tree represented more than just fall beauty and sharing my trip to Oregon on social media, it was the beginning of my acceptance of change.
I felt that same resistance in me this last weekend as I went through the one year anniversary of Dog’s loss, and realized how deeply the imprint of sorrow and felt sense of experience is still imbedded in my cellular structure. I was completely unprepared for the heavy tears that came of their own accord throughout the week or the ache which dulled my tired heart.
It is amazing to me how strongly we store information in our bodies. It was almost as if anything that didn’t get expressed last year simply waited patiently for the right time to release, determined it would have its say. I felt like I was losing him all over again, and I couldn’t figure out why it was so potent. It dawned on me that similar to posting that picture of the bright red tree last October, my reluctant admission life was moving on, I was struggling a year later with admitting how much life is moving on.
The memories of my beloved Dog and our tiny simple life together are still so fresh and alive. Always one to use fall as a time for introspection and reflection on the passage of time from a year earlier, I remember much of last fall and all the memories that include him. They make me smile. They make him feel close to my heart.
Next fall will be different. There will be new memories when I reflect back. This Oregon trip will lay fresher in my mind than last time. The imprints of this fall will be more easily accessible than a year ago. Life is changing, and while I believe I will always remember his life with me, it will be further away on the timeline than it is now. My memories are going to fade, replaced by new ones, and my awareness of this truth makes me feel I am losing something dear to me.
I think it is profoundly beautiful how deeply humans hang on to that which they have loved. How difficult it is for us to release the reigns back to life, admit life is moving on, that we don’t know what the future holds. That the future is always an unwritten possibility. New. Foreign. Highly uncomfortable. That it is okay to feel lost until we find our way again.
Here is what I do know. Last year I sat blogging at a table outside as sunshine streamed down on me and yellow leaves swirled merrily, and I realized something so simple it seemed silly to say. Yet it went so deep I could feel the healing my heart so craved.
The love we have, we take it with us.
It will always live on. Beyond bodies, beyond circumstances, beyond timelines, beyond change. Love is greater than death, and so it can never be taken from us. Even when those we’ve loved have gone on.
I felt this truth settling into me as I sipped apple cider and watched the golden leaf dance. I wrote a blog likening Dog to Obi Wan Kanobi when he said “if you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” and I realized the love I had for him hadn’t changed with his passing. In fact it felt even stronger, because I loved beyond the physical realm. It would never be changed by time, space or distance. It may now exist in only my heart without an object to bestow it upon, but it was as real as real could be.
Surely to love like that is one of the greatest gifts one can ever receive.
I wrapped myself in that knowledge last year. Placed it upon my shoulders like a cloak of strength and took it with me wherever I went. I felt powerful in my ability to love so steadfast and blessed with grace that I could feel love humming happily in my heart, realizing that somewhere under the layers of sadness lay something so pure and beautiful.
And now we are back to a year later where I’m sitting cozily ensconced on a sofa staring out at a rainy day ripe with autumn colors, and I am realizing this lesson all over again. The new loves in our lives do not take from that which was there before. They only add to it. Making it stronger and more beautiful.
Memories may fade and it’s true that every step forward is a step away, but we are not here to stay in the same place. We are here to venture into the new, foreign and uncomfortable. We are here to learn about love.
And learning about love requires great courage to face the come what mays. It requires loss. It requires the admission things have changed. It requires letting go of what was so we can make room for who and what we’ll be.
That is okay though.
Because in the end we will never lose what matters most. It will always live on. Through pine laden trails and bright red trees and misty changing landscapes and new characters in our scripts.
The love we have, we take it with us.