accepting loss

I had a conversation on Friday that I did not want to have.

Nearly three weeks ago, I was body-deep in Colorado sunshine (but wishing for more snow), enduring a grueling skin into the North Pole hut in the San Juan mountains (see photos in winter is back).

I thought that was pain. I thought that was suffering. I even believed that those 14 miles were my battle for the next few days.

When we arrived at the hut, I was so exhausted yet ecstatic about finally getting there. In an odd fit of reconnecting my disconnectedness to the busy world, I thought it would be fun to call the wildest woman in my life: Marla (my mother).

I love this woman more than words can describe

She’s my mother. She’s the kind of crazy a daughter needs in her life. And…she answered.

Prior to calling her – when I turned “airplane mode” off on my phone – I didn’t realize voicemail messages were waiting for me…

phone ringing..surprisingly! We were miles deep in the San Juans and looking through a hut window into the wilderness area. 

Me: HEY! I’m in the middle of nowhere and I actually have SERVICE!

Marla: Have you talked to your father?

Me: What? No…What’s wrong?

Marla: Call your father.

Me: What happened? Is he ok?

Marla: He’s fine. It’s your Aunt.

I knew what was about to come next…

When that weekend ended, I drove to Denver and boarded a plane for California. I spent a week in some of the most beautiful and inspiring country I have ever experienced (exhausting..empowering). The granite, the giant trees, the smell of pine along one of the steepest trails I have ever traveled…it was breathtaking (literally).

It was a week filled with non-stop work until Friday afternoon, when I could finally embrace the place I was in and explore a small percentage of it on my own. But my mind kept taking me back to that phone call.

When I returned home, I was welcomed by a Frontrange to SLV snow storm (winter is back). I was exhausted and knew the work week would begin in another 24 hours. I told myself I should, but I couldn’t pick up the phone to call my family. Sunday came and went and suddenly, Friday was upon me.

As the phone rang, I almost hoped the answering machine would pick it up & then…I heard the voice of my uncle on the other end.

Some thirty minutes later, I came to a hard and sudden realization:

 I didn’t want to make that phone call because I didn’t want to accept that this loss was real.

I didn’t want to accept that my father lost his sister, that my cousin lost his mother, or that my uncle would now need to embrace a new normal – one that would be vastly different from that of the past 40 years of his life.

Though difficult news is hard to swallow, I am grateful for the minimal cell reception that day in the mountains. And I am even more grateful that I made this call two weeks later.

We lost an amazing woman and in the days since her death, a flood of memories has rushed into my mind. I’ve shared stories, cried, sat in silence with myself, others, and the wilderness. She wasn’t my mother. She wasn’t my sister. And she was not, unfortunately, a part of my daily life. But she was and will always be my aunt: a woman that had a profound effect on my life as a young girl.

When a loved one is lost prematurely, we are reminded of the fragility of life, and that realization stays with each and everyone one of us until our own lives end.


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