Everybody hates the thaw, myself included.
You know, the part of winter where the last of the snow starts to melt, and it’s muddy, and mucky, and you do everything you can to convince yourself that it’s a balmy spring day out and that 40 degrees really isn’t that cold. Because if you can do that, you can get through the last sliver of winter in anticipation for the warmth and sunshine that spring really brings.
Well, I’m one of those people, trying to convince myself that it is in fact warm enough to take our puppy, Bear, on our first walks outside. We like to go along the Boyer outside of town. It’s a river that runs through two parallel dams. On the right, are the hills, and on the left are open corn fields. It’s wide open space, where it’s quiet and with minimal traffic, or anyone else on the trail really. It’s one of my favorite spots. But in preparation for going there, I know I have to bring a towel, and a change of socks and shoes. Bear will need a bath when we get home, and so will I, along with my tennis shoes. Nevertheless, it’s all worth it to be outside in the fresh air with Bear after, what feels like, an eternal season of winter.
So we come inside, I strip down my wet socks and sweatshirts. I ignore the mud on my coat for now, and get Bear in the tub. It’s nice to have this sort of routine again.
We lost Koda just 4 months ago, at the very beginning of winter. It’s hard to believe it hasn’t been that long, because to me, it feels like a lifetime ago since I’ve seen him. It feels like a different version of me too. Grief has a funny way of shaping the lense in which we view life through.
Which is something I’ve been wrestling with these past few months. The first battle was accepting how upset I was at the loss of Koda, a dog. So many people face much greater adversities in this life, cancer, the loss of a spouse, or a child. There're a million things in this life that can go wrong, and do. In fact, just 3 days after losing Koda, I had said to Luke, “If the worst thing that ever happens to us, is that we lose a family pet, then we are extremely lucky people.” But that doesn't change the formula of the equation, which is loss = loss, and loss, or pain, isn’t a rate of value for how we measure or add up to other people’s experiences, but instead how we relate to them.
So here I am, in the middle of it, in what feels like the longest winter of my life. I was listening to a song the other day called “Gratitude,” by Brandon Lake, and the lyrics go like this.
“All my words fall short. I’ve got nothing new,
And that’s how it felt, and still feels, some days, is that all I have is a hallelujah. Some days it’s easier to sing joyfully, and other days it’s barely a whisper. When we first lost Koda, for the first few days anyways, my only goal was to make sure I took a shower. That was all I could manage. I’ve made huge strides since then, but I’ll still get choked up when I look at the window and he’s not sitting there anymore. I make sure to stop when I see a dog on the road now, and I won’t drive away until I know they are out of harm's way. But more importantly than that, when Bear sits on my lap covered in mud after our first walk of the spring, I don’t even flinch, because I’d do anything to have Koda tracking mud in the house again.
Luke said to me the other night, “If we didn’t lose Koda, we would never have gotten Bear, and I love Bear so much too,” and I responded with, “It’s not that simple to me,” because it’s not. It’s like learning to live in a constant tension of being grateful for what I have while also being grateful for what I had, and if anyone has tips on how to walk that tightrope, please, flood my inbox.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Inside Out,” at the very end when all of Riley’s memories are blue, for sadness, and yellow, for happiness at the same time, that’s probably the easiest way to explain what it’s like moving on after loss.
I always thought I’d be ready for something like this. I love sitting in melancholy. I love sad movies, sad music, sad books. I tried to prepare myself even. I followed people on social media who have lost spouses, or parents, or siblings, or their own children, because I thought that if I at least could see people dealing with their loss, while I wasn’t, I’d have some sort of tool box to pull out when it happened to me. I’m not the naive type, but was I hopeful that my wonderful marriage, adorable dog, and white picket fence lifestyle was going to last longer than it did? You bet, but did I also know that no one gets out of this life without some bruised knees and scars? Also yes.
I’m slowly learning that the only way out is through. Bruised knees, blurry eyes, and heart wide open. Kind of like the thaw. It’s mucky, and dirty, and nobody wants to get out there and walk through it, but something about the possibility of warm weather and sunshine being on the other side, keeps us putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a cold and bitter season, but it’s exactly that. Only a season. Just like spring will fade into summer, and summer into fall, and fall into winter. Seasons change, love remains. It’s only through the winter, not around it or by blazing through it, can we relish in the sunshine that spring brings.
So I’ll leave you with this, my daily reminder from the aforementioned song,
“Come on my soul, oh don’t you get shy on me,
To express, explain, and exclaim the lessons life continually throws at me, and my take on how to deal.