I haven’t blogged for a while. It happens. I feel like the month of March was a dream. I was busy before then, and I am busy since, but March fell off the calendar completely and I am still trying to catch up. That is what it is like when you lose someone close to you. You wake up one morning and step outside and see the world has moved on and you wonder how that could have happened. Mentally, it is the end of February and I am getting ready to sprout seeds indoors and planning my garden. But in reality it is nearing the end of April, it’s past my plant date for cool crops, and my yard is completely covered with dandelions. It is time to pull spring and summer clothes out and I can’t figure out where the sunshine is coming from. Death can be so disorienting.
Many of you know I lost a close friend, more like a sister really. It was a hard process, to say the least. A roller coaster of ups and downs. We thought we were on the verge of miracles several times, but in the end, my sweet friend had to leave. It is a moment I now store with my most sacred of memories. I am still processing. I miss Angie. There is a hole in the universe.
I have hesitated to start blogging again. Besides being really busy, it feels as though writing again is admitting that I have to move on. I have been doing so much for her, before she passed and since, as a way to hold on. Writing is something I do for me. So it feels wrong. Can’t time stand still, just while I catch up? Can’t the world stop spinning while I try to figure it out? I considered just not writing at all.
You (my loyal blog who chronicles my life without flinching) may remember when I lost my Grandpa. I described the process of taking the news in while hauling load after load of dirt to my garden. Without even thinking about it, I ordered another load of dirt the day after Angie’s funeral. I was anxious to get moving again, after a month of holding my breath. I needed to be moving, because sitting meant tears. I didn’t realize what I’d done until I found myself once again, mourning and mulling as I hauled load after load of dirt. Apparently, dirt therapy is cleansing.
It was different this time though. Rather than a wistful look down a long life and a peaceful goodbye (Grandpa was nearly 90 and anticipating his reunion with his sweetheart), I threw each shovelful of dirt with anger and resentment. She was 32. She left behind a sweetheart. And a little boy. And all of us. She left things undone. We still had so much on our “list of things to do.” Her story was supposed to end differently! Anger takes a lot of energy. Luckily, so does hauling dirt.
Gardening is a good outlet. Funny thing about the stages of grief, you don’t check them off in an orderly fashion, you cycle through them repeatedly. Just when I think I am through anger, a trigger will have me up in arms again. Attacking a bed of stubborn weeds, hauling rocks or blowing up gopher holes with gas bombs has been a productive channel for all that energy! I am sometimes overwhelmed with emotions…my little patch of earth seems to be able to absorb it.
Not only is my yard taking my blows for me, but it has retaliated with comfort, understanding and even encouragement. I am not in any way ready to move on or forget. I don’t believe we have to. I look around my yard and see that life is not designed that way. I see my goji berries waking up from their winter slumber, stretching their vines like my arms in the morning. I can see they are ready to pick up where we left off, ready to grow bigger and better. I have a few bulbs here and there spraying flecks of color in my barren front beds. Glad I took a few moments to plant them last year! I can see my raspberry canes are bursting out of their borders, ready for me to transplant them and spread the bed farther down the fence. My yard is inviting me, begging me to keep doing what I started. Not to start new, but to continue the journey building on what we’ve already done. It’s trying to tell me something.
At first, after losing a loved one, I resent the memories I know I will inevitably make without them. I can hear Angie laughing at jokes I haven’t cracked yet. See her at birthday parties, taking pictures of candles my kids have yet to blow out. But, as I shovel more and more dirt, my anger dissipates, and I see that memories aren’t merely past tense, but the foundation of future interactions: seeds planted in my character. I see that although my mind can hardly recall moments before Angie was in my life, I won’t have to carry on without her. I will be harvesting laughs, love, and lessons from our friendship for as long as I carry on. In fact, whisperings, dreams, and inklings convince me there are still new experiences here and now to share with my friend.
Since Angie passed, I have hauled dirt and rocks and pulled weeds. Battled subterranean vermin and planted seeds. I’ve drawn plans for new beds and priced projects I’m dreaming up. I even ordered beehives. There is always too much to do at the little purple barn! At first it was a great distraction. Then it was a way to blow off steam. Now it is helping me lift my sights once again. Each green shoot is a reason to hope tomorrow is going to be better. Each seed planted is setting my sights on harvest time. Everywhere I turn, there is life unfurling…wild and weedy. Gorgeous and giving.
There are days when you just want to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head. But no matter what emotions flood over you, even if your world seems to have stilled, there is just no stopping life. And though I am still not full speed ahead, the garden beckons me to get my feet back under me, get some dirt under my nails, and get moving. Take the memories I treasure most and plant them….share them….let them grow. They still have so much to give!
I am still grieving. I don’t think it ever ends. I know in my old age I will still nurse a twinge for a girl who left too soon. But now when I throw shovels of dirt, I am burying bitterness. When I pull weeds, I am making room for gratitude to bloom. Tears still fall, but smiles grow from them. I am gardening through my grief. I recommend it to all you with broken hearts and heavy loads.
Tonight, I am thinking how thankful I am that my world was shaped by such a friend, that roots were laid from which I will benefit all my days. I am grateful the sun shines even when I feel dark. I am grateful that rain makes the flowers grow.
Love you Angie. Thanks for a lifetime of memories, for all the laughs, and for always believing in me. And please, stop by and see my garden!