When you’re young, with no concept of how your world will change in the future, it feels like your life will continue on like it is in that moment forever. You don’t give thought to what may come or how life will be different. When you’re young, it takes no effort to be mindful of being present … for you, everything is in the present.
This morning on my walk, I saw an older woman and an older man, walking together with two huskies. The sight of those dogs immediately took me back to my childhood home, our two huskies in the backyard, both of my parents young and full of life. As I walked and let the memories of those days flood through me, it occurred to me that back then I couldn’t even conceive of a time when my Dad wouldn't be here. It was an odd reconciling of my youthful self who couldn’t imagine him being gone (and never contemplated even a world in which that would happen) and my current self who lives that reality every day. A self that only lived in the moment but thought that moment would last forever and a self who desperately tries to live in the moment because she knows that’s all we’re guaranteed.
In the months following my Dad’s death, it felt like I was submerged in a sea of sadness. The grief was inescapable. I remember thinking there is no possible way life could ever feel like it did before. The innocent hope and joy that lived inside of me would always be tinged with the sadness of losing him and the frightening knowledge that I could lose anyone at any moment.
I wasn’t wrong.
I am no longer submerged in grief, but all of my joy and hope and excitement carries with it a streak of sadness. A beautiful new home he’ll never see or sit in. A hilarious, clever little boy and two smart, creative pre-teens he doesn’t get to laugh with. A wise, confident and grateful daughter he didn’t get to witness transforming.
I also carry the knowledge that the line between life and death is razor thin and I could lose anyone at any moment. Except that knowledge isn’t as frightening as I imagined it might be. It’s actually quite comforting to feel mortality’s presence. The flip side to that knowledge is immense gratitude that accompanies me wherever I go — grateful to see another change of the season, grateful for my health and the walks it allows me to take, grateful to hug and love my family, grateful to see beauty of the sunrise and the sunset.
I find it exceptionally beautiful that life’s greatest heartbreaks are inextricably intertwined with life’s greatest beauties. You can’t have one without the other.