Fall is in the air once again. The familiar crispness enlivens those of us that embrace the coming of winter… As I contemplate what this new season will bring for my sea of emotions, I trust that it will douse me with its usual healing effect upon my soul—not unlike a pillow to the weary traveler. 

Soon, it will have been 1,000 days since Josie was killed. Not only will it have been 1,000 days, but that mark will also coincide closely with the anniversary of a very significant memory that we shared. In the fall of 2014, we sat atop one of Telluride’s most famous overlooks, as we played in a wedding. The happy couple had requested the song, “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri.

At the time, we kind of joked about the request, but the rendition with guitar and violin turned out beautifully. Now, the lyrics of this love song bring torrents of tears whenever the melody pops into my head. I rarely listen to it, but there is no need to hear it played—it is engraved in my heart… “Every day, I have died waiting for you…”. . . “All along, I believed I would find you…”. . . “I have loved you for a thousand years…, I’ll love you for a thousand more…”. . .

The late fall day we were hired to play was a typical fall day in the high, Colorado mountains—extremely chilly (to those that are not from mountain climates, you would call it very cold!!). Our instruments did not want to stay in tune, the wind was blowing our music everywhere, and our hands and fingers were like popsicles. From a musician’s standpoint, these were not ideal conditions, but we persevered and pulled it off without the bride and groom noticing our discomfort and struggle. Josie saved the day by her uncanny ability to memorize music, and threw down some awesome fiddle tunes that made the happy couple giggle and do a little jig at the end… In retrospect, it was a nearly perfect moment in time.

As cold and miserable as we felt during that performance, the scene was truly breathtaking. San Sophia’s overlook was glorious; its view overlooks all of Telluride. Few places on earth can compare to the beauty of the mountains there—especially when the snow first falls on autumn’s sun-soaked aspen leaves…

A special day with my dear daughter Josie Varela at St. Sophia's Overlook in Telluride….

Posted by Michelle Varela on Friday, October 3, 2014
Josie, doing a quick warm-up before the wedding atop San Sophia’s Overlook—Telluride, Colorado in the fall of 2014.

Every detail of that moment in time stands still in my mind—both piercing my heart and enveloping it in warmth at the same time. Josie’s sweetness, tenderness, and quiet strength are something I will never be able to put into words. To know her, was to love her.

Every fall since her death, my mind has been drawn to that day, on that mountain, with my precious daughter. Every year, I have wanted to go there and reflect. Every time I have thought to do so, I could not bring myself to the task—it was too painful.

This past winter, I returned to Telluride to take a course for my snowboard instructor training. It was the last available opportunity for me of the season, so I had no choice whether or not I wanted to go to Telluride if I was going to get the course in before season’s end. The day of the training, I felt both eager, and nervous, to return to this mountain. Even though it is only an hour an a half’s drive from my home, it had seemed hundreds of miles away these past few years…

The morning was sublime. It was a season of record snowfall, and the mountain had plenty of knee-deep powder stashes yet to be ridden. After a quick forecast of the day’s events by our examiner, we loaded up on the lifts. Being my usual daydreamer-self, I hardly paid attention to what was spoken about which runs we would hit first. In a daze, I followed the group numbly as my thoughts drifted to the beauty of the majestic mountain peaks around me, and the last time I had set foot here.

We exited a lift, and quickly came to a flat spot overlooking the valley below. As I scoped out the huge drop that lay before me, I suddenly realized I was standing in the exact location of our wedding… As all the others in my group were contemplating their best line down the steep wall, I was struggling to simply catch the breath that had escaped me, and hold back a formidable sea of tears—thank heavens for goggles!!!

Without lingering overly long, I gathered my courage and plunged down the side of San Sophia’s overlook. On a mountain as vast as Telluride, how was it that the first stop of the day would be at that precise location? I did not believe it was mere coincidence; I knew my baby girl was right there with me—reliving the moment, and gently nudging me onward…

Amidst great comfort and deep sorrow, I was able to make a giant leap that day. It constantly amazes me how Josie is ever-near, propelling me forward in this combined journey that we share. Just like she rescued the day with her fiddling at the big wedding, when our music was being blown to the wind and we could no longer follow it, she has not left my side now, either, in this horribly, weather-stricken winter… I thank God every day for showering us both with such tender mercies—tender mercies that help me live one more day…

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