And so here it is. One year since Susan died. Significant only in that one marks the passing of time in seconds, hours, days, months, years. We create anniversaries to mark those passages of time. My mourning boots are scuffed and ragged from me grieving the polish right off them.
I am out camping in a nature preserve that I discovered last month. It’s the perfect Susan and Roy place. Rolling hills, wild flowers, towering spruce trees, the sun piercing through deciduous leaves, trails with sparking light, and mossy patches that invite bare feet, all for Susan. And in the middle is a clear, deep blue lake with wind blowing over the top for Roy.
The sky is a late August blue but I almost think that tomorrow I’ll wake up and see red and orange. On this particular morning a cloud settled over the lake, which I have never seen the likes of before. I awoke late, but the sun had not climbed the hills and tree tops so the lake was still covered in its night-time blanket. If I didn’t have this photo I might have thought I dreamt it.
I came here to mark the death of Susan. It is a place where I can easily access her spirit and charm. She is mischievous and I expect to see her dancing with wood fairies and other nymphs as I explore the forest. My hair is kind of ratty and straggly and smells like campfire. It is long and the breeze blows it around so that sometimes out the corner of my eye it tricks me into thinking someone is sneaking around. Or maybe it’s just Susan.
It does not make me sad to be here. Some think it might be hard. I can feel Susan’s playful smile and her “come on, keep up!” wave.
People ask me how long it has been since Susan died. Almost a year, I say. And sometimes a look comes over their face that says: “Oh, you must be over it now?” A year is a long time, sometimes. Getting over something suggests that one has cleared a hurdle of some kind. I suppose in my case that is true. I have cleared some hurdles. Near the end of April (a despairingly dark month for me), my sorrow changed, my grieving changed, into a happy sadness. I asked myself: does this sense of a healing wound mean that I will forget Susan now? I had a few moments where I was ashamed to feel as though the horizon was not just a line, but a point of promises to come.
Time heals all wounds. Maybe. People would remind that in time I would feel better, more like myself, more normal, more something. These comments were well intended but offered no comfort in the throws of mourning. I think gratitude is what helped me the most. I grieved the hell out of Susan’s death. I took months off work. I closed my world down to a manageable pace. I took care of my body. I went to therapy, I went to yoga, I meditated. I listened to music, I wrote, I spent time with my sons. I cried everywhere, in the car, in cafes, on the street, in my office, with my sons while watching a movie, at the kitchen sink, at the grocery store. Whenever grief rattled through my body I stopped and let it shake its way out. In the year since she died, Susan was everywhere I turned. Yearning and longing for her, and missing her, and celebrating her, and thanking her was my full-time job. I did it well. With deep gratitude came the knowing of how great the loss. And in a circular fashion the deep grief meant infinite thankfulness for having her in my life. All the tears and sobbing and aches of loss just added to the stacks of gratitude. And as the sobbing subsided and the tower of gratitude rose, I could see my good fortune for knowing her.
Each morning I am grateful to be vertical. I give thanks to the universe and to Susan and I recall her mantra: love, compassion, and kindness always. I hardly cry at all anymore. On the days I feel blissful I am no longer ashamed for letting go of sorrow. I move forward into each day and do my best to give my gifts to the world. After all, I am still here.
Does that mean I am forgetting Susan?
No. It means that gratitude and grief are waters drawn from the same well. The healing power of those waters closed the wound of this great loss, and so I might not forget her it left behind a scar. It reminds me of my journey with her, of my good luck to have been her beloved, and that it is okay to be happy, to be well. The scar will forever be a part of me and that means Susan will as well.
In the still of the night, at Lac Ernest, Susan sent a loon to serenade me.