Midweek last week, I decided that today was going to be a happy day. Today was going to be spent honoring you, doing things we enjoyed doing. I even went so far as to tell myself that “Sad panda status would be suspended”. Oh, that me of last week was so full of hope…
The me of last week didn’t know that loss would strike again nor how much that loss would make me want to call you, just to make sure you’re alright. The me of last week didn’t know about the lack of sleep and lack of words that would befall this week’s me.
This morning I was unintentionally up before my first alarm, and took the time to try to harness the hope from last week. Where did that me go?
It was still dark dark out, and I muttered to myself about it being darkest before dawn. The bathroom light seemed extra bright and I blinked a few times in protest of the offending illumination. As my eyes focused on the reflection staring back at me, I knew I needed to do something with that. I shook my head at myself, and my eyes lost their focus.
In my mind’s eye, we were back at the house in Littleton. You were standing at the bathroom door poking fun at me for not knowing how to “be a girl”. My hair was down, my dress and shoes were laid out for my first date with Greg, all I needed was to figure out the makeup.
I could hear your laugh echoing in my heart this morning as you watched teen me, the girl with the eye phobia, try to get a mascara wand anywhere near my eyeballs. I recalled the “What…? I know things, okay!” response to the look I gave you after you mentioned using an eye lash curler. For the record, I still think those things are some kind of midevil torture device. No thank you!
My sleepy self regained focus, and once again glancing at myself, thought “Do your eyes!” I’m far less timid about the process than I used to be, but really I don’t do much. Still, knowing that you would have made it a big deal, made it a big deal.
The memory of that day, way back, when you were giving me a hard time about the eye makeup kept popping up throughout the day. Sometimes it was after someone commented on my eyes, others it was just my heart trying to recreate that feeling. See, you gave me guff upto the point when you realized I was getting flustered and frustrated. Your comments quickly went from “Jeeze, what’s wrong with you, how do you not know how to do this?” to “You really don’t need it, you’re already pretty. If he can’t see that, he’s dumb.” I’m pretty sure you even offered to help at some point, which was quickly declined!
That feeling of the balance between “You’re a pain in my ass” and “I love you and am so lucky to have you in my life”… whatever you call that feeling is what I strived for today.
So at o’dark thirty, I did my eyes for you; mascara and purple eyeliner, and I didn’t even poke myself in the eye! On the way into work, I stopped to get fuel and there was chex mix as an impulse buy- checking a box I didn’t even think I needed. RCPM was the soundtrack at work today, and I was grateful on more than one occasion that the mascara was waterproof. Scott and I met up, played some pool and raised some Knob Creek Rye in your honor tonight. The moon was stunning at both bookends of the day.
My heart hurt today, like it has since this day last year. 52 weeks to the 1,918 that I had you in my life, that’s quite a gap. “Sad panda status” was not entirely suspended today, but there were moments. I don’t know that I ever want to acclimate to life without you, but I do hope that in time the “Happy Sad/Sad Happy” feeling gives way to the “Man could he ruffle my feathers, just to smooth ’em out again, brotherly love” feeling that I miss so much.
I miss you friend, and yet I know you’re here, woven in the stories, habits, songs and hearts of those who love you. Thank you for the gift of knowing you. I love you Lewis!
I’ve long said that music heals, and I knew that Saturday night was going to be a catharsis of sorts.
The Denver Day of Rock has been a staple of summer since it first began in 2009, typically falling the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It’s a day of live music along the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver, 5 stages featuring music all day, all benefiting AMP the Cause (formerly known as Concerts for Kids). The fact that one of my most favorite bands has been a headliner since its inception was even more reason to go! Food for my soul and supporting a good cause, sign me up!
I knew this year would be a little different, okay, a lot different. I’m sure many are thinking it’d be different because of the covid concerns and the ever-changing rules associated with that, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, the biggest difference with this year’s show is it was going to be missing someone we love: Lewis.
These firsts are always hard and yet needed in order to live the life they would want us to have. I was grateful to know that there would be support in the crowd, my brother and sister in law were going, as was Lewis’s sister and her husband. There was no doubt that he’d want us all to be there, singing and celebrating, being brought together through time and space in a pastime we all love dearly.
As the band took the stage and started playing the familiar notes of the first song of their set, we all set out on a journey. While the crowd swayed and sang along to another song about “Mexico”, I was brought back to the basement of the house I spent my high school years in. It was in that basement that I first met Lewis, and I’m surprised we didn’t wear out the “Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy” disc as we listened to it with regularity while playing pool. I could feel a lump in my throat but I pushed through, singing about the good guys and the bad guys sitting side to side in cantinas, talking to senioritas and drinking warm beer.
The set list was amazing, and had just the right mix of nostalgia. “Hello Tiger” brought tears to my eyes, as I recalled the last DDoR in 2019, where Lewis stepped on my toes and the ensuing shenanigans that followed. I could almost hear his laughter dancing among the notes that were ringing out. Goodness do I miss that sound.
A couple songs later and the tears were flowing again for us all, as they began to play “Leaky Little Boat”. Lewis’s sister Kat has a tattoo on her right arm of a boat with a leak sprung in it to remember him. The oars are a hockey stick and a pool cue, and it is a beautiful piece of art and a perfect way to wrap up things he loved: The Peacemakers, that song, hockey, billiards and most importantly, his sister.
“Alone, adrift together are we Slowly sinkin’ in a deep blue sea But we smile and we wave And we say, “I’m afraid… and I love you… and here we go…”
The truth is, there wasn’t a song in that set that didn’t have a memory or twelve associated with it and him, flashes of fond memories from years of friendship with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers as the soundtrack. They somehow hold more meaning now, laced with the memories of songs sung together and the good times they highlighted. Jim Dalton’s “When She’s Drinking” did provide just the right amount of levity too, we love that song!
Mekong was the next to really pull at the heart strings, and more tears were shed. This was played at his services with a slideshow of pictures, and the chorus perfectly sums up how I think of our friendship.
“Is it true It’s always happy hour here If it is I’d like to stay a while And as cliche as it sounds I’d like to raise another round And if you bottles empty Help yourself to mine Thank you for your time And here’s to life”
After the show, we stood in line for the Colorado specific RCPM shirts. By the time we got to the table, they were out of both men’s and women’s large and extra large, but Kat was able to get a medium so it wasn’t for nothing! We meandered around and found my sister in law talking with a few other fellow Peacemakers, and we could see Roger Clyne talking with people on the other side of a moving truck. Kat commented that she wished she could get his autograph so she could add it to her tattoo, but she didn’t want to bother him.
We chatted a bit more, and I saw an opportunity to ask Roger for a favor. The answer is always no if you don’t ask, right? He is such a genuine and kind soul, and he didn’t hesitate at all to come over and talk with us. He signed Kat’s shirt twice, once in pen and once with a sharpie, and also said they were a lifetime guarantee for an autograph because his hand hurt from playing, and he wanted her to have a good signature for something as important as remembering her brother. We were able to talk and reminisce, sharing about our friend, and it meant the world to us. Roger then asked if we could take “a family photo” before he ran off to get some much deserved chimichangas and tequila.
Music certainly heals, though he is still missed dearly.
It feels like it has been months since my pen has hit the proverbial paper. It feels that way, because it’s true. Quite a bit has transpired since I last wrote, and while I know that writing is a form of processing for me, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I’m not a fan of conflict, especially with myself. You know those battles between your heart and your mind, logic versus emotion, perspective against reality. Surely I can’t be alone in that.
Last night while running a few errands, I caught a glimpse of rays of sun shooting up in the sky. You know the kind, the ones that can only be made because a cloud is positioned just right, with the perfect bumps and texture to cast their beams in every direction. On a whim I abandoned my last task and set off to find an unobscured view of what I knew had to be a spectacular sunset.
Traffic seemed to part and a parking space was right where I needed it, as I pulled into the park. I hopped out and headed straight for the bridge, knowing that it would provide the best vantage point. It was as though time had slowed down just enough for me to get the perfect view of the sun sinking behind the mountains, the clouds doing their perfect dance and the orange, blues and pinks reflecting off the lake’s surface.
Once I knew I had the view, I closed my eyes (which I know seems counterproductive) and took a couple deep breaths. When I opened my eyes again, I was able to just be, to just enjoy the moment. For the first time in days, nay weeks, my mind slowed enough to take in the small things around me. The swarm of gnats off to the left, the critter rustling around in the tall grass under the bridge, the distant laughter from the playground at the park, the “kerplop” of the fisherman’s line as he cast it out and the small splash the bobber made… all came into focus.
As the colors faded from the sky and that twilight blue set in, I thought about going back to my car and heading home. Instead, I set out on the path just to the other side of the bridge. It’s a beautiful lake from any direction, and the paved path made navigating in the waning light seem easier. The first lap around the lake, I was still abuzz, conflict and confrontation, war within myself. As I made my way up the bridge again, I paused and looked at the water. Fish were coming to the surface now, doing their best to nab their dinner and I remembered my Grandpa saying that dawn and dusk were the best times for catching fish, as he woke me at o’dark thirty to head out. Per usual, I was drawn to the ripples made in the water, those perfect concentric circles radiating out until they come in contact with something else- conflict.
I smiled to myself and set out for one more lap around the lake. I smiled again when I realized that instead of my mind going on circles, I was physically going around instead. Out of the mind and into the body, such a great adage for when you’re stuck, why’d it take me so long to remember?
I was thinking about ripples as I made my second lap. While my first thought upon the ripples coming in contact with something else was conflict, the truth was, it was just a blockage in flow- the water kept moving around it or through it. A blockage in flow, what an interesting phrase; I’ve been blocking my own flow, and it’s gotten me going in circles.
If I look at conflict and confrontation as a removal of a blockage or even just a clearly defined path around an obstacle, somehow, suddenly it shifts from something filled with anxiety to a problem to solve. That seems like a much better space to come from, both in dealing with myself and others.
I’ve long joked about how my family tree is more like a shrubbery, and it’s funny because it’s true. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve “collected people”. Sure some I had to lure with pink lemonade and cherry chip cookies, but a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do. Besides, lemonade and cookies for gaining me seems like a great bargain!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that while I may have been collecting the people around me, surrounding myself with those who would lift me up and love me, they were also choosing me. That notion, that idea that these people chose and continue to pour love into my life, is something I will never take for granted.
I came across this image yesterday and it brought me to tears. Today after work, I’m picking up my kids and making a trek north to say my final goodbyes to one of those who helped to raise me.
When I was young and school was out for the summer, my brother Scott and I would spend our time up in Wyoming. His dad Bill would come down to grab us, and we’d be off. Inevitably, somewhere between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, we’d hear the Oak Ridge Boy’s “Elvira” and I would be questioning the future of my summer and my sanity, sandwiched between the two of them singing along in the middle seat of a pickup truck.
For all intents and purposes, growing up Bill has been my dad (one of two). There is no blood shared between he and I, and yet, that never once stopped him from loving me. Knowing that he and his wife Debbie took me in each summer when they had no obligation to do so, felt like a privilege, even then. I knew that once we rolled into Bar Nunn, WY and walked into that yellow house, we would be greeted with hugs and the air would be permeated with the scent of freshly brewed coffee.
Debbie was a small woman in stature, but she made up for it with personality. The phrase “Big things come in small packages” sums her up perfectly: big heart, big love, big laugh, big emphasis on family, big on morals and manners, big on accountability and dependability. If there were ever a depiction of the balance between “kind and compassionate” and “take no shit”, I’m pretty sure it would look just like her.
My mind has been a whirlwind the last 12 days, trying to find words to express my feelings, and I’ve failed miserably. Instead I see flashes of memories and lessons gleaned from them, and feel a mix of gratitude and profound sadness. Since I can’t put words to the feelings, I will instead share some of the lessons she’s taught me.
Lesson One: Family is everything. To know Debbie was to love her, and to be loved by her was a gift. She knew that family was more than shared DNA, and that the bonds of the heart are the strongest of all. Since she chose to love me, and considered me family, I gained three siblings and more grandparents. She knew us kids would fight, and knew when to step in and when to let it play out. However, the constant refrain was “We’re family; we’ll get through it together.”
Lesson Two: Get your hands dirty. Whether we were working in the garden, cooking dinner, setting up camp, fishing or even handling life’s challenges, there was encouragement to really get in there and do the thing. Clothes wash, people wash, but there’s magic in feeling what you’re doing instead of tip-toeing through life. It won’t always be easy, but the work will make it worth it.
Lesson Three: Laugh and learn. Laughter is the best medicine, hands down. Learning is why we’re here. Combining the laughter and learning makes for great stories. I’ll never forget sitting with Debbie at Hardee’s while she attempted to teach me how to eat an ice cream cone. The swirled vanilla and chocolate frozen treat was starting to melt, and with the patience of a saint, she tried to help instruct me. That was of course, until she saw the perfect moment to bat the bottom of the cone up into my face. We laughed, I learned.
Lesson Four: Expect the unexpected. From tornado warnings and sandstorms to health scares and “Little Chucky” coming over to play, we never really knew what a day would bring. Throw in practical jokes and we learned to stay on our toes. Though days were a little crazy sometimes, the one thing we could always expect was the support of our family.
Lesson Five: Be a decent human and change the roll of toilet paper! I think possibly one of the only times I was ever yelled at by her was for failing to do so. I was the culprit who was not only indecent, but left her without entirely. That was not a mistake I’ve made again.
Lesson Six: Relish the small pleasures. Some of her favorite things were sitting with a hot cup of coffee, having meaningful conversations, gardening, baking and loving people how they wanted/needed to be loved. She absolutely loved to have her feet rubbed, and most nights as we settled down to watch TV, I would sit before her on the floor and do just that. She’d make the silliest noises of appreciation just to get me to laugh, to let me know she loved me.
Lesson Seven: Know your worth. She was not the only person in my life who has cautioned me about the vastness of my heart or the helpful nature I have. She was, however, the first to really help me realize they shouldn’t be given as freely all the time. When my brother Mike needed help cleaning out his truck, I was happy to help. She asked “What’s she get for helping? It’s your mess.” We talked often about the balance between giving love and being walked on. Those are conversations I will cherish, and the reason behind me being her “sweet girl”.
I know as I am surrounded by those I consider my family this weekend that the loss of this amazing woman is going to be felt by all, though each of us in different ways. She was my Bonus Mom, the quiet supportive presence whenever I needed, she was a confidant and a pillar of strength and resiliency. It is my hope that we laugh in addition to cry, that we share memories and strengthen bonds, and that we honor her as she deserves.
Most who know me have, at one point or another heard me utter the phrase “Words are my jam!” and yet largely for the last couple months, pen has not met paper in my world- at least not in an expressive sort of way. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts or ideas, and it’s not that I haven’t had the urge; I’ve just been lost in thought and caught up with life.
The events of the last few months, between current life happenings and reflecting on the past, have stirred a new found curiosity. Ah, that’s not quite accurate, it’s not new, I’m just giving it more concerted thought. I wish I could say that they’ve been clear or concise thoughts, but really it’s more like ideas and conjectures swirling about in this brainpan of mine.
A week or so ago, a friend and I were chatting about life and the way some things seem cyclical. She likened it to lessons needing to be learned, and spoke of how the same lesson can be presented in many different ways until it is finally grokked. She’d said something along the lines of “If you keep getting presented with the same thing, at some point, you have to ask yourself why.”
In principle, I agree with her, there are many things to be learned if we’re open to it, and sometimes even when we’re not. However that night, I was not in the best of headspaces. I’d just received word that an old friend had taken his life, leaving behind a slew of questions in the wake of his actions. Her words hit differently that night, considering this was nowhere near the first time I’d been presented with this type of situation, and yet, I knew I’d have no answers. In no way did she intend for my mind to fall down that rabbit hole, and I knew that, yet the swirling began.
I vowed to myself that I’d let myself feel my feels, to let them ebb and flow as they needed to. As someone who likes to attempt to keep things at an even keel, there was a level of uncertainty that came with this vow. What would it look like when the anger rose up, like I knew that it would? How would I allow myself to feel my feels at work, while still doing my job? Would people think I was crazy? Honestly, though the questions swirled, I didn’t really care. I had this deep knowing that those feelings, however they presented, needed to be expressed.
When the anger did hit, it hit hard! Have you ever had one of those days where you can’t even stand to be in your own company? Never would I have imagined driving up I-25 at 3:30 in the afternoon, windows down, blaring music and yelling at the top of my lungs until I couldn’t breathe, only to inhale and begin again… but I did. I wasn’t just yelling for that most recent loss, but for Ashleigh and Mike and Shannon and Dylan and Greg and Eric and Lindsey and Adam and Curtis and Bear and Zonk and Jason and… and… and it hurts my heart that I could keep listing names of those I’ve known and loved who left on their own accord. The next day I brought my punching bag and gloves to work, and worked out the lingering anger that way. It was exhausting and necessary.
It was in that exhausted place that I had another conversation with that same friend, with my voice scratchy and raw from the yelling the day before. She reiterated what I already knew, she hadn’t intended for me to take what she said to heart the way I did. She reminded me that their choices were in no way my fault. As our conversation progressed, she verbalized something I’ve wondered often over the past handful of years “I wonder why this keeps happening for you.” She wasn’t just referring to the suicides, but the amount of loss in general as we both knew I’d stopped counting at thirty since 2016. Up to that point, I’d not really come up with a decent answer for myself. She seemed to finally settle on the notion that my heart was big enough to handle it, though the thought and voicing it, made her cry. We hung up. More swirling.
I sat on my couch in the afternoon sun pondering what she’d said, “my heart was big enough to handle it”. It certainly didn’t feel that way at times. I felt my hand rest upon my collarbone, palm over my permanent reminder to follow my heart even when my head gets in the way. How many times over the last four and a half years had my hand unconsciously settled where it was now? Was I heeding that reminder, to follow my heart? Would the version of me that existed five years ago recognize the woman I am now? What had I learned? Maybe more important than what I had learned, of those lessons, what had I implemented?
My mind was a whirlwind of memories, flashes of hospital rooms and roadsides, broken glass, broken hearts, broken dreams, the sound of a late night phone calls and the heaviness on the other end, the rhythmic and all too familiar sounds of ventilators and patient monitors.
Suddenly it felt like someone slammed the breaks on my memories, and I was back in the townhouse on the kitchen floor, rocking back and forth sobbing- alone. It was in that moment, three-ish years ago, that I quit trying to fight against everything: against the loss and the heartache, the uncertainty and the needless strife caused by others, the what could have been done differently, heck I even quit trying to figure out the why. In that moment, I gave up whatever semblance I thought I had of control because clearly I had none. With a shaky breath, it was decided by somewhere deep inside of me, that whatever was thrown at me, I would stand to face it. I don’t know where that strength or resolve came from, and I literally had to pull myself up off the floor, but it was there and it has remained.
The whirlwind resumed, and words and phrases kept sticking out. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said that life is finite and fickle or that time is our most precious commodity. I’m sure those around me tire of hearing these same thoughts, and yet it’s important to be reminded. We never know when our last interaction with someone will be, and with that in mind, I try to make each encounter matter. I took the song lyric “I will not wait until the end for my applause for you my friend” to heart. I give thanks, I express appreciation, I try to show those in my life that they are valued every chance I get, because it may be the only chance I get.
My mind once again slowed, and settled on Sunday. Sunday was going to be the Celebration of Life for one of those I’d yelled for earlier in the week. I was going to need to get my mind right before then, so I could function at a “people level” or close to it.
I opened my eyes that I didn’t realize were closed, and was surrounded by darkness. “How fitting” was my first thought, before shaking my head at myself and noticing that it was long after sunset dark. Hours had disappeared, I headed towards bed.
Sunday morning in the rush of getting myself and my kids together for the Celebration of Life, my phone rang with a call from Wyoming. It was my dad, calling to inform me that he didn’t think my stepmom (bonus not step) would make it through the day. I gathered my children, shared the news, and headed out for the park. We did a butterfly release at the Celebration for Jason and as it turns out, while we were releasing butterflies here in Colorado as a symbol of transformation and love, my bonus mom Debbie was taking her final breaths. While Sunday was one of the most challenging days I’ve had in a while, I can still see the beauty there. When I have words, I will write about Debbie. For now just know if you happen to call me “Sweet Girl” or tuck my hair behind my ear, those actions will likely be met with tears.
Tuesday night, I met up with “Wiper Fluid Guy” to play some pool. I’ve had a hankering to do so since Lewis’s birthday in April, and I was welcoming of the opportunity to get out of my head. I knew the company would be wonderful and I was looking forward to learning a thing or two (which I did). At some point while we were playing, the recent losses came up. He asked me something I wasn’t expecting, that succinctly put my week long pondering into four simple words: “Why do you remain?”
I told him I had a whole lot of words, and none of them right then. All of this was bubbling, clamoring, trying to make an answer make sense. After having given voice to the thoughts, I still come to one solid answer to his question; I remain because I’m not done yet. There is more to love, more reminders to slow down to give, more to appreciate, more connections to be made. There is more for me to learn, chiefly how to receive the things I give so freely. Could it really be as simple as I’m not done loving?
Perspective is a funny thing, an intriguing thing, and I love how once a shift is made, all is new again.
I spent last night helping dear friends paint like mad women! New carpet is going in today, and we wanted the painting completed lest there be any potential for drips. She was concerned she’d bitten off more than she could chew, with the deadline fast approaching. At minimum, we needed two rooms and an L-shaped hallway to be painted with primer first and then with color.
Laughter flowed, music played and three generations of women got shit done! The ease in which we all work together could be attributed to the decades of friendship or the countless other projects we’ve worked on in that time. When time came to pause for food, I looked around at the women I was surrounded by and smiled. We were all focused on the task at hand, all tired, all enjoying the moment and each of us wearing extra colors on our skin and clothes indicating which areas we’d been working in. Once our hunger had been satiated, we all rather unceremoniously went back to work. As happens when working on projects, yesterday morphed into today as the last efforts were being made. Once everything was cleaned up and washed out, we sat for a moment to look at what we’d accomplished.
I used to live in this house, and have fond memories. Heck, one of the rooms we painted was my old room! Soon, we’ll be moving their stuff in, and I am so excited for them. It was interesting though; how a fresh coat of paint, a new color, could make someplace so familiar feel new again. All it took was a shift in pigmentation.
Driving home, the waxing first quarter moon sat low and large just over the mountains. The smoke from the fires gave it an orange hue and wispy clouds danced in front of and around it, giving the moonlight something to hold onto. I called my friend, knowing she was also driving home and uttered a phrase we’ve spoken to each other far too many times to count, “Look at the moon!” I’m grateful to have those in my world who relish in the simple joys like I do, and I know she will forever be someone who will appreciate that phone call.
The rest of the drive home I was thinking about the moon. Thinking about how it goes through its cycles, how regardless of waxing or waning, full or even new, I appreciate all of the phases. I thought about how sometimes it’s so large on the horizon, whether rising or setting and how shifts in our atmosphere change how we perceive the moon- like the orange hue I’d enjoyed. I stayed up later, watching the moon set behind the mountains and pondered what shifts I need or would welcome, to add a level of freshness to my life.
I’ve started and stopped, typed and deleted and shed more tears than I had planned, for it only being 10:45am on a Tuesday morning.
How many instances are there in your life where you can point to that exact moment, and know that your life was changed forever? For me, and it feels like the world, today is the anniversary of one of those days, twenty two years ago. It was a beautiful spring day, blue skies filled with promise of the summer to come.
Never in my wildest dreams, could I have anticipated how that day would unfold. When I look back, it seems unreal, and yet the heaviness in my heart says otherwise. That day pulled me in so many directions simultaneously, and still does.
For many people, this is a day of sadness. A day of remembering loved ones lost, and mourning lost innocence. For others it’s a day of shame too, largely due to their connections. For many that I know and love, today is a day riddled with guilt- guilt for surviving, guilt for not getting there in time or doing enough, guilt for things said or not said. Personally, I join the ranks of all three.
In addition to those, this is the anniversary of the day I refused to literally be pushed around, chastising the adult who put their hands on me more than once. This is the anniversary of the day I punched a substitute teacher in the face, and I’d do it again if it meant helping a friend as it did that day. This is the anniversary of the day I truly feared for the lives of my Dad and his coworkers. This is the anniversary of the day I realized that art, in its many forms, soothes my soul.
Over the years I’ve been angry, I’ve been sad, I’ve been resentful or judgmental. I’ve gotten offended by the platitudes of “We are Columbine” that fill the news waves and social media feeds alike. I’ve been hurt by the “Never Forgotten” words scrolled atop an image of columbine flowers, which seem to only matter once a year. I’ve wondered why and what could have been done differently, both personally and on a larger scale. I’ve railed against the fact that these instances are becoming more common place and more normalized. And I’ve cried, boy have I ever cried.
In the weeks leading up to that initial one year mark, a dear friend had suggested I do things to honor those I’d lost that day. He’d been with me in the days and weeks that followed. He’d gone with me to leave flowers at Rachel’s car and accompanied me when I visited the two sawed down crosses. More than anything, he just let me process and work through things in a way that felt right to me. I know he was concerned with the anniversary coming up, and he was trying to help find a way to put a silver lining on the shitty situation. “Do things to honor them, something to keep their spirit alive and well.” He didn’t know them and was of no real help in trying to come up with ideas, though his heart was in the right place.
Today will mark the twenty first year of me doing a good deed, of doing something to honor each of them. This year, however, instead of doing three, I will do four. The new one will be in honor of the dear friend who gave me the idea in the first place. For the friend who called me on this day for twenty years to see what I had done to honor them and see how I was holding up. For the friend who called every time there was a similar incident to make sure I was okay. That fourth one will hold the space where that phone call used to be, since he can’t make that call any more.
This morning was a different sort of spring time beautiful; a few inches of snow covered the earth. The sky was clear and blue, and the rising sun seemed to illuminate things faster with the reflection off the snow. As the sun rose above the horizon, a glowing orange ball, there was one lingering cloud that turned from purple to orange to pink. The drive into work was slow and steady due to the snow. It gave me more time to appreciate the rising sun. It also allowed me to enjoy watching the snow dance across the road behind the cars, in that mesmerizing way that it does.
It’s going to be a good day, despite my heavy heart… no, it’s going to be a good day because of it.
Special days are hard, especially the first. I know this, and as such, I tried to prepare ahead of time. I’m wearing blue and white, the closest I’ll get to wearing Giants colors, and it’s considered work appropriate. I compiled a playlist of songs that both remind me of you and that hold special meaning, and it is quite the list. Bob Seger to unexplainably help my pool game, The Bloodhound Gang just because you thought it was funny, No Doubt and the Beastie Boys, Dropkick and Korn, and of course The Peacemakers. It has been nothing shy of a musical menagerie of awesomeness at work today. I’ve sang and danced, laughed and cried, then laughed again. I love how music connects us, even now.
“Hello Tiger” by The Peacemakers started playing, and I was instantly taken back to The Denver Day of Rock 2019, when you were intentionally stepping on my toes because of the lyrics. I hope to never forget the look on your face as I sang the following lines all angry-like at you, “And I say, “I don’t deserve this shit!”, I say “Hey man, what the fuck?”.” The guy in front of us turned around, looking slightly concerned, as the song carried on. His fears were instantly laid to rest when you looked at me and growled like a tiger as I sang the chorus at you. Your laugh rang out over the sound of the live band, and I rolled my eyes. A flash in time, a brief moment, and one that I absolutely love.
I ventured down memory lane today as well, and I came across the picture of you above. I don’t know what was going on, or why you were laughing, all I know is I can hear that beautiful and contagious sound when I look at it. I miss that. As I sat down to write to you today, “Leave An Open Door” started blaring from my speaker here at work… how fitting.
“Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers We never run out of hope when we love one another!”
I think your love, for your friends, your family, even the strangers on the street, is what I miss the most.
Today I’ll do my best to ride the flow, or as the Peacemakers would sing “Go with the flow”. Music will keep playing, hockey will be watched, whiskey will be had, maybe I’ll challenge Trav to a game of Magic, and I’ll eat a little chex mix before having some delicious Italian food. Soon, I’ll take up a pool cue and do my best to make you proud, or laugh from up high. Today is a good day, because it is your day, and that makes it worth celebrating.
A couple weeks back, I was talking with “The Wiper Fluid Guys” about how I had been fighting the urge to go sit by the river, and the cold was putting a damper on my plans. We’d just gotten a few inches of snow, and we talked of how beautiful the mountains are with the blanket of white. I was kindly nudged to go and feed my soul, and was reminded to bundle up since it’s always colder near the water.
I ventured out to the foothills early the following week after work, when we were having the typical warm before the next storm system moving in. Heading up, the road follows the river and I’ll admit I was a little disheartened that the river was completely snow covered. More than once I thought about turning around, heading home and saving my river visit for the spring. My stubborn streak wouldn’t let me call off my plan, and further west I went. I smiled as I drove through Idledale, remembering parking at the post office to watch the blood moon a few years back. I waved at an elderly man who was walking his old lab, both walking at the same pace in a comfortable rhythm. I wouldn’t quite call it a sleepy town, but it’s close.
A few minutes later I made the left to go down the hill to where I was going to park, and was honestly surprised to see that there were only five other cars. As I changed my shoes, in anticipation of mud from the recent snow, I silently gave thanks for having one of my favorite places to settle my spirit so close to home. The sounds of the river were still present, though definitely subdued as there were inches of snow covering the surface. I headed west on the path, my feet knowing exactly where to go, while my mind wandered and my eyes took in the surroundings.
The trees were brown but no longer coated in a layer of snow, and if you looked closely, there was a hint of green on the branches once again. The underbrush was mostly covered still, except for places that spent most of their days getting warmed by the sun. I veered off the main trail to go down by a little eddy, and I was pleased to be able to see the river in spots. A little grey bird flew down and landed atop the snow, perched right near the edge, looking down at the river as well. I nodded to them, and continued on my path.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone up there, and I could likely find my favorite place to sit by the river with my eyes closed. I’ve sat upon that rock and contemplated life and death, love and loss, I’ve searched for my purpose and I’ve lit a candle in a mason jar to say my farewells to friends and family when I couldn’t join others in a send off. The sound of the river grew clearer as I approached what has been long dubbed “my rock”. Heading down the embankment, and looking out at the sprawling water, I smiled at the sight before me. There were areas that had snow and ice forming bridges between rocks and bits of earth that will be obscured by the water once the spring melt begins. The water was flowing with a decent speed, splashing and crashing around the rocks as it made its way downstream.
My rock was in the afternoon sun, warm and dry, and I worked on getting settled. As I sat that day, I realized I’d left my notebook in my car, which meant my plan to pour out my thoughts was not going to come to fruition. I thought about going back to my car, it’s not a far journey, but I knew that the sunlight would be waning.
Instead I closed my eyes, took a deep breath while feeling the sun on my face and listened. There was the rush of the water over the rocks, the bubbling of water coming up from beneath the ice and the splash and crash of drops as they rejoined the river after becoming airborne. I kept my eyes closed, until my racing thoughts slowed, and it seemed like forever. There was a gentle breeze blowing that was cool already, and was amplified coming over the river.
When I finally opened my eyes, everything seemed so bright. The sun was lower in the sky, but still shining directly at me, while also reflecting off of the water and the snow. It took a couple of blinks to get my eyes adjusted. With a quiet mind and an adjusting perspective, I looked once again at what was before me. There was beauty; there was power, growth, metamorphosis, simplicity and chaos.
The water was definitely lower than it will be in a couple of months, and with that in mind, things sounded differently and the water took on new paths. There seemed to be more turbulence to the river, or at least that section of it. Where water would easily flow over rocks soon, it had to dance around and through currently. That observation got me thinking because I love the sounds of a river. It’s the rocks, the shifts in the land, and the bends of the banks help to make the sounds I love.
The obstacles enhance the beauty… wow, talk about a mind-blowing thought. I’ve long talked of ripples and the affects we can have on people, yet I never took that train of thought one step deeper to think of the things that cause other deviations in the flow. I love it when dots get connected like that, and they might not have been, had I remembered to bring my notebook. Magic.
A large part of why I was drawn to go sit by the river in the first place was due to the fact that there was turbulence in my own world. Things were big and scary, and the weight of all the things was almost crushing. My obstacles were like boulders in the river; I was trying to flow and kept crashing against them at every turn. What had been a maddening effort was looked at from a new perspective, for if I could find the beauty in the river’s current state, how could I apply that to my life? There was certainly opportunity for growth and metamorphosis, a chance to foster deeper connections, support from both likely and unlikely places, and a whole lot of chaos. In all of that, there was also great power to create something good, to be a catalyst; and that was beautiful in itself.
Things are better than they were a couple weeks ago, and I am grateful. I’m doing my best to keep in mind that everything is always a work in progress. I keep focusing on the growth, on the forward movement, on the dance around the obstacles. There is beauty, a boatload of it, as I watch those I love bloom. I’m lending grace, to myself and others, and I know that on the days that I need reminding, the river is 20 minutes from home.
For about three years, I had a rose quartz heart key chain on my keys. It seemed to be a perfect counterweight to the rest of my keys, and every time I saw it, I smiled. Ever since I was a little girl, and especially since the passing of my Grandpa, I’ve had an affinity for crystals. I think, in some ways, they help me feel closer to him. So, for those unaware, rose quartz is known as the stone of universal love. It is said to restore trust and harmony in relationships, encouraging unconditional love. It is also purported to purify and open the heart at all levels to promote love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of peace. Goodness knows that when that keychain came into my possession, I was in dire need of all of those things.
It was handy to have around too, because that was an incredibly hard time in my life. I was learning lessons slower than life was throwing them at me, and honestly, felt like I was drowning most days. I was neck deep in the process of learning how to ask for help and support, swallowing my pride and letting others in. So that little one inch by one inch pink shaped stone served as something to strive for, to love and let love in.
Slowly, much slower than I would have liked actually, I learned some of the lessons life had been throwing at me. During those years, I learned how to voice my needs and trust that they would be met. I was reminded about how short life is, and how we never really know when our last encounter with someone will be. In the process of learning, I received confirmation that time truly is our most precious commodity, and that once it’s spent, we can’t get it back. I had learned that the walls I had erected to protect myself were also causing me to feel isolated and lonely. With the walls in shambles due to the unrelenting blows dealt by life, I emerged from the rubble. As I looked around, I realized I had people I could call upon when I was grief stricken, friends who would willingly enter the battlefield between my heart and my mind, and those who would just sit with me when words and the weight seemed too much. I think of those beautiful souls as my lighthouses, and have told them such, as they were gentle guiding lights for me and I will be forever grateful.
In May of 2019 while sitting at work, that lovely stone cracked in three. It wasn’t cold, nor had it been dropped. Native American lore is that when a crystal breaks, it’s a sign that you have worked through a phase of your life’s journey and that it signifies that you may be ready to release that energy. That night, I joined a few friends in an artistic evening of henna drawing and mentioned that it had broken. One of the thirds was still very much attached to my keys, and a dear friend took it upon herself to glue my heart back together. The symbolism was hard to miss, and though the cracks were still visible, it seemed to hold more positive power.
Almost a year to the day, again while at work and without warning that beautiful mended heart broke once more. This time, it was no longer attached to my keys at all and it was in four pieces. I took a picture of it and sent it to my friend who had repaired it before. I then posted the picture on Facebook with the caption “Almost exactly a year ago, my heart broke- cracked in three. I saw friends later that day, and it was glued back together. It was imperfect, chipped and clearly worn, the cracks easily seen and felt, but it was made whole again. Looking at it now, broken in four, the metaphor is hard to ignore.”
I gathered the four pieces and placed them in a tiny ziplock bag. My sweet friend was more than willing to put it back together again, and I got the pieces to her the next time we saw one another. I had honestly considered returning the stone to the earth, thinking that maybe it had served its purpose and I was ready to move forward. However, knowing how beneficial it was to have a physical representation of the support I had available had been to me, I liked the idea of it being mended once more.
I also knew that I would miss having a crystal on my keys, so I set out to find a new stone. I settled on a malachite heart, as I’ve always been drawn to the swirling green properties. Malachite is a stone of balance, abundance, manifestation and intention and it is often called the stone of transformation. It is said to be used for deep energy cleaning, bringing healing and positive transformation to the wearer. That seemed like a fairly logical next step and so it became mine. It was much smaller than the rose quartz and didn’t quite have the same counterweight benefit, but it made me smile none the less.
About three weeks ago, I noticed that it was gone. Unceremoniously it left my life, with no break or crack and no idea where it had run off to. All that was left behind was the ring and chain it had previously been attached to. I thought of all that I had a accomplished in the months of having it: five state licenses (Life, SIE, Series 6, 63 and 65), moving into a place of my own, cultivating peace and having the courage to grow. How could I not smile and thank that little green heart for its time?
Last week, while having a rough time with my leg, I found myself up at my friend’s house. Her husband tended to my leg, massaging it, trying to convince it to like me again. While he was providing care to my leg, she was back in her craft room once again mending my heart. I had honestly forgotten about it, and had to laugh at seeing it again.
If I thought it was chipped and imperfect before, I don’t know what I’d call it now. In some ways, it reminds me of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. The idea is that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. This little pink heart of mine is well loved, bumpy, chipped, more cloudy than I recall it being initially and it’s missing some pieces. The most notable vacancy is in the center on one side, little triangular piece, that appears about half as deep as the whole.
This heart that’s endured so much won’t live on my keys any more, but it will take up residence in my home once again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to learn, meet and experience what or who could fill that missing piece.