The snow blew gently sideways, the first of the season, and I considered, for a moment, turning my head and sticking out my tongue to catch a few flakes. The air was cold, but not bitingly so. My knit wool hat covered my ears and mildly itched my scalp as my matching mittens made my palms just a little bit sweaty. I was in tune with my own discomfort. Moments earlier, grief gripped me in the middle of my walk with one of my dearest friends in the world. I turned to look at her and was unsurprised to see her chin tipped up and mouth wide open tasting the frozen sky. She walked in joy.
It had been four months since another friend of mine had passed. He slipped from our lives with as much laughter as there were tears, but somehow, right now, that laughter was a distant rhythm too light for the heaviness of missing a man that had meant so much. His presence loomed about me, and yet I could not reach for it. I could not turn to him just now. I was walking the tightrope: On one side lay acceptance, on the other denial. He sat patiently waiting for me to talk to him as I did in those first few weeks after his death. I felt him, but it hurt too much. It just hurt too much.
I lowered my head and observed the snow melting the instant it touched the ground and wished, for a second, that I could disappear like that- just for an instant To not have to carry the weight of this world and its pain, but to fade into a blunt, unyielding numbness. Shaking my head at my penchant for melancholy, I almost smiled. Almost.
My friend, apparently, had been watching me. “The snow is more beautiful in the sky, Danielle,” she said gently. “Look up!”
I humored her.
She continued: “Not one flake appears alike, and yet they are all the same because they all come from the same place. They don’t even melt really. I mean, they do, but they don’t. They’re always the same just appearing in different forms. But I like snow the best.”
“I like the rain,” I uttered stuffing my hands in my coat pocket.
“You miss the rain?” she asked, wiping strands of her black hair that had stuck to her lips.
My throat ached to tell her what, or whom I missed, but instead I just shook my head.
“It’s so uncomfortable when things aren’t the way we want them, isn’t it?” she said walking straight ahead, sticking out her tongue between sentences. “We yearn for what was, for when things were predictable, before storms and sicknesses and sad goodbyes.”
I turned to look at her in mild shock. Did she know how I was feeling?
“It’s hard to accept things as they are. It means letting go of the hope that we’ll get our old normal back. The normal wasn’t perfect, but it was what we knew. And in it contained the people we loved as we remembered them. Holding onto all of that may seem better for a while, but it’s all pain.”
I looked back down at the sidewalk. “Feeling this stuff makes me want to run home, hide under my covers, eat salsa straight from the jar and cry myself to sleep.”
She let a silence hang for a moment. “The only way through this is through. The pain will change. You’ll wear it differently.” She skipped ahead of me a few steps and shouted back. “Talk to him, Danielle!”
I held my jaw tight, feeling the fear. “I-I don’t know if I can,” I squeaked out. Grief was gripping my chest. Time would loosen its hold…time and willingness.
She did a pirouette and looked back at me, “You can,” she said. “And you will….when you’re ready…and that’s ok.”
Her words whipped through the cold and landed in my ears with a gentle thud. She was telling me it was ok to feel exactly as I was feeling. I wasn’t ‘wrong’. My friend’s acceptance flooded my veins and eased my heart just a little. Eased my heart just enough to breathe in and out and watch the cloud of warm air escape my mouth and take a little hurt with it.
“Hide nothing,” whispered something deep within. “Bring everything to Spirit. Hide nothing.”
I took my hands out of my pockets and reached up to scratch the sky for a moment. Increasing my pace to catch up with my friend, I whispered to the presence at my side “Your laugh always made me laugh.”
I came up beside her and smiled faintly. I still preferred the rain, but I could learn to enjoy the snow when it came. I could.