Grief is often compared to ocean waves—for me, it is often experienced through the lenses of my sunglasses or goggles as I trek through the snow and contemplate its myriad shades, textures, shapes, and densities… I suppose if I was an island girl, I would relate to water and surfing, but since I am a native Colorado girl, snow is my paradise. Ever since I was quite young, I found winter to be a very magical landscape. There never seemed to be enough snow, and it never seemed to stick around as long as it should!! I still feel that way.

Josie left us in the winter. Perhaps others find that the worst possible time to experience a tragic loss of loved one, but really there is never an ideal time for such event… Before her death, I was blessed to share many moments in my happy place alongside my four children. Today, three years later, the winter has continued to wrap me in its cool, melancholy arms. We understand each other here.

Life can be oh so hard. Even before my Josie was killed, life was heavy and difficult more often than not—that is simply the nature of it. I have always tried my best to make my motto “enjoy the ride.” If I fell, I would get back up. Sometimes I have had to experience shame and embarrassment, other times pain and sorrow, and yet through it all, somehow, I have also managed to find moments of great peace and happiness.

I recall a time when I was about 18 years old… I had gone to live with my grandparents in California for a while. A group of young people I met at church had invited me to go “ice blocking”—at least I think that’s what it was called!!! All I remember is going out to this nice, steep, dry, grassy hillside. Their plan was to slide down the slopes on blocks of ice (I guess when you don’t have snow for sledding, you improvise!). The whole event seemed quite odd to me, but I was happy just to have some new friends and a bit of adventure.

There was this awesome tree right beside our “sledding” hill that just so happened to have a branch that hung way out across the hill. Attached to that branch was a monkey-bar type of rope swing—way too tempting for my 18 year old self to ignore!!! As everyone else got excited about sliding down a hill on a block of ice, I decided to take a shot at the flying trapeze…

As I positioned myself for take-off and let loose over the fairly steep hillside, I felt a rush of excitement—an excitement that quickly escalated the moment my hands lost their grip at the apex of my pendulum… I instantly found myself soaring through the air like Superman!!! Though I do not recall how far I continued to Superman down the dry, California hillside once I was no longer airborne, I do remember the dozen onlookers with wide eyes and gaping mouths that struggled to make sense of what had just occurred! The scrapes and cuts felt great compared to my face that was stinging red with embarrassment… In true Colorado-girl style, I quickly got up, dusted off the debris I’d collected in my stunt, announced that I was okay, and gave it another go!!!

When my darling Josie was pronounced dead, it felt similar to that flying trapeze incident in many ways—minus the embarrassment of course. She left this world at precisely the apex of our journey together on this earth. Life could not have been better, or happier it seemed. Then, in a blur of confusion for me, I was suddenly free-falling without her… Our flying trapeze gig was over.

As the heaviness of those finalizing words—”Miss Josie did not make it”—brought me crashing to the ground, instinct forced me to get back up and assure everyone watching (even Josie) that I was indeed “okay!” We all know that those crash and burn landings are anything but okay, but we also know that our minds and senses act irrationally when we are in a state of shock and disorientation in the aftermath of highly unexpected and untimely events…

In just a few weeks following that most horrific crash and burn landing, I felt compelled to return to that winter wonderland of snowflakes and perfect lines… All joy had left me. The ride was forced, to say the least, but it was something I instinctively knew I had to do. Perhaps it was pride that kept me moving—a determination to not loose the fight, or perhaps it was simply the numbness and a deeply rooted nature to get back up that pushed me forward. Whatever it was, I am very grateful that I did…

That first year required immense effort just to get back up, and stay on the ride—let alone “ride” that ride. I was not really okay then, and I am not totally okay now. I will never truly be okay with my sweet girl gone, but for her sake and my other dear ones, I will continue to ride this ride. It is my sincere hope, that someday, I will once again enjoy the ride…

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