The snow swirls outside, blowing off rooftops and covering old footprints, burying our street in white.
Sam scrapes snow from the driveway early in the morning. My daughter has been off of school eight days since Christmas break and I’m juggling the constant tension of a planned schedule with a newly-announced snow day. It is Snowmaggedon, or at least that is the name everyone is calling this winter. Based off the complaints on Facebook, the unhappiness is palpable.
As I cut potatoes and carrots into tiny rounds for dinner, I realize I can either accept the unplanned or gripe about what I cannot control.
Why not let myself embrace what life hands us? To see something positive in the change of routines, to see joy in the snowstorm?
After all, we can choose to shake our fist at the snow or go out and play in it.
That’s what one friend did, a grandma who grabbed her cross country skis and said, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”
She skied all around her neighborhood, making new tracks through the deep snow.
I think of her gliding across the thick blanket of white, taking in the frozen pond and breathing deep the cold air.
She won’t be one of those who regret living life—the ones who admit this regret when they die:
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
In her book, Bonnie Ware says this is the fifth regret of the dying and explains:
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
It’s not that these people chose to be miserable. Instead they embraced the comfort of the familiar, which didn’t bring the anticipated happiness at all.
It was the fear of change that was the obstacle to their joy.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing…He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. – Leo F. Buscaglia
I think of the photographer who risked it—ventured onto the ice, having to duck walk to snap pictures of frozen lighthouses.
For what reason? Because he liked to do it.
Every year it’s different, but it’s an event I look forward to very much. To get there was a little tricky, as first you have to make your way out on the pier.
It’s like walking on an ice skating rink and at one point I have to duck walk past the first building in order to safely get to what I call the prize.
Even though my photographs attract a lot of positive attention, that’s not the main reason why I do it. I simply make the trek out there because the particular area fascinates me. –Thomas Zakowski, photographer
What I’m learning on this journey is that it’s okay to venture out, to journey across the ice, to let myself be happy, even in the grief.
While dinner roasts in the oven, I begin sorting through a shelf in a closet, finding a whole pile of papers about Silas—mostly a hodgepodge of medical records, therapy notes, and prescription information. I glance through the papers, finding prescription drug instructions, a calendar charting seizure activity, and his speech therapist’s looping handwriting. I held these papers in my hand, unsure what to do with them.
One fear of those who are grieving is that people will forget your loved one, that you will forget him, that it will no longer seem real that they ever existed. People mention him less; some days that is even more painful than the memories. Every day I’m reminded that I have one child missing. An empty bedroom reminds me. People’s silence reminds me.
These medical documents are one of the few links to Silas’s last years. They are a reminder that he lived, his existence validated in writing. They are not happy memories, but they are familiar, and in an odd way, comforting.
But I also remember he is healed from all that now. He no longer needs prescription medications or physical therapy. He doesn’t need injections or speech therapy. These medical documents are reminders of his brokenness.
But this is not the way I want to remember him. I don’t want to think of him as a patient, but as a little boy. I would rather keep a onesie or a pair of shoes than a pile of medical documents that portray him as a sick, broken child.
While someone is alive we accept the good and the bad, the healthy days and the sick–this is called life. But when they are healed, we don’t have to relive the bad days like a video we replay in our head. They are having another great day in heaven, because everyday is another great day in heaven.
We can let go of the bad, because that is the only way to really learn to live again, to understand that Jesus is going to make all things right, to redeem our broken lives.
So I take the papers and stuff them in a bag marked for the burn pile. These memories, full of worry and fear, would burn to ash.
What I hang onto are the memories of who he was, the life God gave him, the good that he brought us, the laughter and the joy.
I’m letting myself be happy because he lived and because he is living now.
I take this journey wherever it leads, making new tracks across the snow, letting the blanket of white cover the old.
The snow, glittering in the sunlight like diamonds, reminds us of all that will be made right.