Getting back on the horse

I mentioned to a friend today that I am having a hard time writing here.  One reason is that I am super busy getting ready to start homeschooling again.  The other is that I have always been very authentic on this blog in that what I write about is typically exactly what is going on in my life and in my mind at the time.  My thoughts are still very occupied with the loss of my friend.  Sarah died three weeks ago, but I feel like many of us are only just now feeling the reality of that settle over us.  Grief isn’t neat and pretty and can’t be quantified or timed.

My stepmom, Jane, was killed in a car accident a little over four years ago.  We will never know exactly what happened because she was alone in the car.  In addition to the intense nature of the grief that comes with losing a parent, I faced a new fear in the months and years that followed.  I found myself struck with intense anxiety over driving anywhere alone.  It took me awhile to recognize why I was suffering from that fear, to connect it to Jane’s death in that car alone.  Thankfully, with time, that fear ceased to trouble me.

In those first days after Sarah died, a close friend mentioned to me that I needed to “Get back on the horse,” and soon.  I was in such a fog that her words completely confused me.  I asked her what she meant, and she said that I needed to take my children for a walk outdoors, maybe in the woods around our house.  In that moment, understanding hit me with great force.

Sharing my love for nature with my children has always been one of the most natural parts of parenting for me.

Sarah’s last act was to take her children for a nature walk, and I doubt she considered it a risky activity.  I doubt she was thinking about yellow jackets, and even if she was, she didn’t know she had an allergy.  There is always an element of the unknown in all that we do, we just don’t typically focus on that aspect of things.

A few years ago, a bear was spotted in our neighbor’s yard.  We don’t live in an area that typically houses bears, so I am not used to thinking about meeting one.  For a few weeks afterward, I was a little nervous on walks in our woods.  The fear faded quickly though, as I never ran into a bear myself, and I didn’t hear of anyone on our street meeting one either.

To be honest, I’ve not spent much time outdoors these past few weeks.  I’ve wandered around our property alone a few times, but haven’t really enjoyed it.  I don’t blame that on fear as much as sadness.

Yesterday I gathered my family for a walk, my friend’s words, “Get back on the horse,” swimming around in my head.  The truth is that I did feel afraid on that walk.  The air felt oppressive and the overgrown forest and fields that are creeping into our paths felt vaguely menacing.  I think it’s possible that I created that uneasiness out of an expectation.  It’s hard to say.  I can only move forward and hope for the best.  One day, I’ll find myself peacefully observing all that lives and breathes again, rather than searching for signs of danger.  Just as I continued to get in the car and drive to the grocery store on my own after Jane died, I will continue to go to the woods.

Take a chance

I woke up Sunday and knew right away that it was going to be a sad day.  The past week has been incredibly difficult, and Sunday marked one week.  One week since the last time I talked to Sarah, and one week since the tragedy that led to her death.  It feels very strange to use the word death in reference to Sarah.  It just doesn’t seem possible.

Jonny took all seven kids to Mass on his own Sunday morning so that I could have some time alone in the house and could go to Mass by myself Sunday evening.  I went to the very last one, the 7:01.  Afterwards, rather than head home, I pulled into Belmont.  It was after eight p.m. and there was no one else there.  I walked the grounds and took pictures.  I tried to empty my head a little.  I’ve lost a close friend to death before, so this isn’t my first time to walk this path.  The hurt doesn’t fade quickly, and the loss changes you.  If you allow it, that change can be for good.

I don’t have the mental energy to write all that I would like to just yet, so I’ll leave you with something I came across as I poured through Sarah’s blog (and mine) over the past week, searching for all the little signs of friendship, the little pieces of Sarah.  Some of them were only known to Sarah and I, others were more obvious, like this exchange soon after we met:

Sarah wrote on her blog:

“I have a funny story about how I met Ginny who does the yarn alongs.  While reading various blogs, I kept running into these yarn alongs.  Having no interest in yarn or knitting, I never stopped to check it out.  One day, I clicked on the link, just for curiosity and found a woman who I know from church and who was good friends with other women I knew- Ginny!  I emailed her and probably sounded like a stalker, but she reciprocated with such kindness, I knew this one was a keeper :-) I’ve so enjoyed getting to know her and her sweet family. ”

I responded in the comments:

“well thank goodness for the yarn along, because I would have never gotten up the nerve to just walk up and introduce myself at church as much as I wanted to! I have been here nine years and was pretty much only friends with Lori for the first six! I think this needs to be a lesson to all of us–it’s always worth going out on a limb, because that interesting looking girl at church may need friends just as much as you do!”

Ladies, take a chance.  Go introduce yourself.  I wasted a year, too afraid to say,  “Hello.”