There’s a nature trail near my house and it’s quite literally my favorite place on Earth. If you know me or have even followed me for any amount of time you know I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, but this simple lake with it’s 1.5 mile trail tops it all! There is nothing particularly stellar about it, except for the fact that it is a place that brings me peace. It is where I trained for my first half marathon. My family had a Mother’s Day picnic there one year. I have walked miles and miles of the circular path around that lake. I hosted an Easter egg hunt there once. On perfect spring days the entrance is lined with cars and there are kids, people of all walks of life, ethnicity, and age, and doggies galore. Even on those crowded days it’s still such a relaxing place to go because everyone is always so content. I hardly ever see phones out and from the amount of people, I’m obviously not the only one that loves it there.
For me it is an escape. It’s a little slice of nature right in the middle of suburbia and it makes you forget about the hustle and bustle that surround it. There’s no comparison. There’s no stress. There’s the trees, the lake, and the sky. I have gone there to think, to pray, and to cry.
The past 14 months have been very heavy for my family and I. We have suffered multiple losses – the deaths of three family members, the loss of my childhood home, and a number of other things that have left us broken. As I’m sure is no surprise to anyone, even as they keep coming, they don’t get easier. I will say there’s been times I’ve felt numb because of the sheer volume, but never felt that it got any “easier.”
The most recent loss our family experienced was the loss of my cousin, Tommy. He was 46 years old and had been fighting cancer for two years. The night before his memorial service his brother, Danny showed us the finished slideshow he’d been working on to be shown at the service. It had pictures from birth to present narrating Tommy’s life.
As I was standing there watching the slideshow, which seemed to freeze time for just a bit, I realized for the first time ever how proud I was to call him family. He and I had had many conversations about his frequent hikes, but I don’t think I ever really realized just how awesome his accomplishments were.
The closest comparison I have to his hiking was training for a half marathon. It is something you physically pour yourself into and fight for, but it’s because it’s something you want. The difference, though, is that his hiking was continual. My half marathon was over in a day. I didn’t run if it was rainy, he didn’t have a choice if he was high up on the mountain. He had to keep going. I didn’t run if I slept in too late and missed the cool early morning. He woke on the mountain and would continue on.
A few days after he died I was scouring the little bit of stuff he ever posted on Facebook and saw that he had documented some of his hiking. I’d looked at it before, but I really looked at it this time. I am missing what, if any, that he didn’t post, but I found pictures he took at the summits of FOURTEEN different states. Fourteen! For those of you that don’t know, like I didn’t, a summit is the highest point of a mountain. How amazing is it that he stood on the highest point of fourteen different states?!
As someone that strives to see as much of this world as possible, especially this beautiful country of ours, it left me speechless to see how much he’d seen of it. His accomplishments left me feeling so motivated. Not only about traveling, but about so many things.
I sat back and thought of all our family members have been through over the past year plus and I realized I have learned so, so much about myself and about LIFE in general
So I guess I’m here to say that more than anything, all the grief I’ve been through has taught me to LIVE!
There are so many ugly things in this world, but I choose to still believe there’s so, so much good! There’s good people. There’s beautiful places. Go see those places! That doesn’t mean you have to be a globe trotter, but at least explore your hometown. Get back to nature, whenever, and however you can! Walk a trail, collect seashells on the beach, go lay outside and look at the clouds. I promise you that you will feel refreshed afterwards.
Another thing grief has taught me is to continue on in this life caring little about tangible things. When I was pregnant with A and clearing out the room that would be a her nursery I had no problem throwing away and giving away many of my belongings. I knew nothing would be better than having my sweet baby girl in that room. The items were just that, items. So, recently losing my childhood home it reminded me yet again, in a very big way, that all we truly have, losing a home, losing a loved one, is memories. All we really have is what we keep in our hearts and in our minds.
Unplug. From your cell phone. The TV. It all. Media has made us so judgmental and negative. It highlights the bad, the sick, and the evil. It warps our minds in ways we don’t even realize and I truly worry that one day everyone will be so attached to their devices that we legitimately will no longer communicate in person. We will paint pretty pictures of ourselves in tiny little squares and tell people we have our lives altogether. Or that we are the “real” ones because we, in fact don’t have our lives together. Which if I’m being honest, almost makes us more fake. Post your picture of your dirty house without saying, “see I’m not always neat.” Stop acknowledging every little thing. I mean, why is this even a thing? We were intended to have relationships, real relationships. I’ve never seen anyone take time from social media and regret it. As a blogger I regularly see other bloggers take days, weeks, a month off of social media. The first post I see from them when they’re “back” always talks about how much they loved quality time they had while they were away. Appreciate each other’s time. Each other is truly all we’ve got when it’s all said and done. No one dies and a church is filled with things, if we’re fortunate enough we die and a church fills with people we touched deeply on our journey.
Explore. The world is a big and beautiful place. There’s so much to see. If you’re lucky enough you’ll discover places that change you. Places you’ve been that kept a part of your heart when you left. Places that leave you awestruck.
And lastly, grief has taught me to Go For It! To DREAM BIG! I know this one sounds so cheesy, so cliche, but this one is what is most important to me through all of this. I don’t want to look back one day and regret things I didn’t do. Stop telling yourself that you don’t have the money or the time. Stop telling people it’s too late or you’re too old. Every accomplishment started somewhere. Every journey started with one single step. If it’s something you really want, don’t let ANYTHING stop you! I could write down hundreds of quotes on this topic and people would pin them, write them down, heck, even get them tattooed on their body, but are we really doing it? Are we really doing it? Stop making up excuses. If you want it, go get it. You’re not going to accomplish it by not even trying to.
I never talked to him about it, but I guarantee before Tommy’s first big hike, he was nervous. He could have turned back. But he stared fear in the face and took that first step. It was probably small and apprehensive, but somewhere along the path, it became a strong stride. A powerful step that was no longer over-analyzed. So if I have anything to tell you about all the loss I’ve experienced lately, it’s that you need to live a life you love. Live a life you’ll be proud to look back on. And for goodness sake, take that first step. What have you got to lose?