On this bleak, grey, England winter's day, I remember the comforting quiet of snow. Stan loved the snow. He would sit for hours, watching it. When we first began to talk to each other, he told me that he wanted to move to the Northeastern coast of England, near Whitby, where he said they had a 'proper winter'. Proper winter? I had moved to England from the west coast of Florida, just a year before, and the bits of snow I had encountered in London, that year, were quite enough, for me, thank you. But he wanted to see more of it.
When he was a little boy, he told me, he used to cry when the snow melted. I will always remember that sweet image of him, as a child, wiping his tears as the snow disappeared into the boggy ground.
Today I understand his love of snow. It turns the grey days white with promise. It makes everything new again. Walking into the hills, the biting wind brushing my cheeks, I hear my footsteps crunch against the frozen ground. Bare branches glisten with ice droplets. Black crows hop and peck their beaks into the frost covered earth in search of food. Blessed sun warms the slick pathway climbing upward, past blanketed horses, their breath steaming from cold nostrils, past wooly sheep, huddled against stone fences, toward the summit, hidden by misty cloud. I could get lost up there. It wouldn't be a bad way to go.
When I was young, living in Montana, and contemplating ending my time on this earth, (which I did, often, in those days), I decided that the easiest way to go would be to climb to the top of some mountain, and wait for the cold to envelop me, wrapping me in its blue tendrils, until I couldn't feel a thing. I would just get sleepy, I thought, and pass peacefully away. Perhaps I'd stay frozen until spring, when some hiker would come across my mummified corpse. Or perhaps the animals would use me for food, and my sun-bleached bones would be all that they'd find. At least my life would have served some purpose, I thought. It was a twisted comfort for my tortured soul, back then.
These days, my grief is deep and all-encompassing. But I am not the tortured soul I was. As much as the loss of my beloved husband has broken me, I do not feel defeated. I have been softened by this experience. His death was tragic, true. I would not wish this pain on anyone. It is the worst thing that has happened to me. And it has made me tender-hearted.
Staying soft is difficult. My natural instinct is to protect myself from the prospect of further hurt and sorrow. Leaving myself open to others means I most certainly will feel the pain of loss, again. Perhaps not a loss that cuts so deeply. But pain and loss, nonetheless.
My husband understood the importance of staying soft. He knew deep sorrow. He experienced trauma and turmoil as a young lad. He used many salves, through the years, to bind and heal those wounds. But he did not let them make him hard and bitter. He used his sorrow to reach out to others. He had a deep empathy for those who suffered. He had seen much suffering, himself.
Today, I find a different kind of hope in winter's snow. I feel nurtured and warmed by its white blanket. I like to nestle into its silence. There's less frantic activity when snow closes in. People slow their pace. Buses and trains and planes come to a standstill. Folks stay home, and make space for their thoughts, and for each other.
When snow comes to my hills, I open the curtains, build a warm fire, and pour myself a hot drink from the kettle. And I remember him, up all night, seated at the window, snowflakes falling.
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