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The Life That Remains

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming. Pablo Neruda

There are days when it’s hard to love the world, to see the beauty in it. When something or someone is lost or stolen, the world can go gray, even black.

Sometimes the beauty and sadness go hand in hand. The death of a beloved family member and the birth of a baby. The ending of a treasured job and the celebrating of a favorite family holiday. The move from a well-loved family home and the wedding of a precious child. The price of love is grief. No matter what we move toward — a new house, a marriage, a promotion, a new job, we leave something or someone behind, and so as we celebrate, we grieve, too. For the old home, the former neighbors, our independence, the change in relationship with our coworkers, what we loved about the last job or company or the loved one who’s no longer here.

Mary Oliver says our work is to love the world. To find the beauty even on our darkest days. The purple wildflowers on the hillside. The hummingbird moving from flower to flower. The vultures diving and dancing in the sky. The sweetness of summer cherries and cold watermelon. The way our favorite soup warms us up in the cold of winter.

I am no longer young, except in my family where I am barely into the second half of my life should I live as long as my father and both grandmothers did. My ankles hurt when I get out of bed, and I can’t touch the floor when we warm up in exercise class. My hip aches when I run too much, although a consistent training regimen would probably go along way toward alleviating that. My hair would be gray if I didn’t color it, and I have more wrinkles now.

And yet, I am here. Jimmy only got 21 years, Gage only got nine. Lauren told me that what got her out of bed after Gage died was hearing his voice saying, “Mom! This isn’t what I taught you.” I remember Jimmy telling me about seeing older people out and about and thinking how lucky they were to have lived so long. I would have given my life for my sweet son, as would Dan, but we weren’t given that option.

So we soldier on, looking for beauty, loving our girl, doing our best to give meaning to our soul-crushing loss. We walk, we hike, we run, we exercise. I take my little black shadow out for long walks and talk to him as if he were a human. I watch him observing the world and try to see what he sees and hear what he hears. A rabbit in the bushes. A deer in the grass. A vulture overhead. A gaggle of baby geese waddling toward the pond. A lizard in the dry leaves. A rattle on the trail. I force myself to see the beauty, the acts of kindness, the love that passes between two people when they think that no one is watching. My daughter dancing with her softball glove on her head and the sound of her laughter. The quiet presence of friends who love me. The taste of a latte or delicious meal. The clink of glasses as we toast to the ones who are here and the ones who are missing. Dan’s warm hand in mine. Buster’s cold nose on my cheek. The beauty in my little universe. The life that remains.

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