Growing up April 1st was all about April Fool’s Day. My mother succeeded almost every year in tricking my father with some devilish plot. It was their little ritual and even on the years she attempted and failed miserably it was fun to watch the process.
Seven years ago, no I guess now it is eight, April 1st stopped being light hearted. The date instead marked a catastrophe and the death of a friend. It is amazing how after all these years as I watch the calendar inch towards April I still think of the event and feel all the emotions.
It is more of my husband’s sadness than mine as he was not only a closer friend to this woman but also one of the first people to find her after the accident. For me the grieving is multilayered. I am sad for myself, sad for the loss of an amazing spirit, sad for her still-grieving family and sad for the trauma and loss my husband experienced.
But from this death and loss there has risen a ritual that helps us appreciate her brief and joyous life. We buy Easter flowers every year, daffodils or tulips and bring them home for a while enjoying the brilliance of the early spring flowers. As they slowly die off we cut off the dead flowers and save the bulbs. We wait until all the daffodils outside have gone by and all the tulips have bloomed and wilted in Northampton.
Then we climb to the top of one of the local mountains where we created a wild garden for our friend. As we hike up to our little secret area we seek out the surprise burst of daffodils and tulips sprung up out of the woods. These are the flowers we have planted in memory over the years. We plant the bulbs from this year and sit among her flowers.
She would have loved this mountaintop wild garden. She would have loved how beautiful the spot is and how much more special we make it every year. We know it isn’t enough. It doesn’t equal the amazing life she would have lived and it doesn’t replace her colorful spirit. But it gives the world back some, even a tiny bit of the joy that in losing her was lost.
It is hard every year to sit through a church service on Easter and not notice the sadness of the music against the cheerfulness of the lyrics. This contrast at Easter is most profound. We are grieving and we are rejoicing. We are grieving the full extent of what the winter has lost; all of the death and stillness of the long season. Yet we are rejoicing the return of the sun, the early spring flowers, the smell of the air, and the renewed hope that summer will again return.
I’ve lived in the Northeast for some part of every winter of my life, but without fail every year I lose all hope that spring will return. There is a childishness that arises as these first few warm days surprise us. My whole body is astonished at the miracle again repeated.
This is such a beautiful time of year to mourn what we have lost over the years and to look ahead at all the new birth and possibility in front of us. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones this winter. May your spring be brilliant enough to soften the blow and remind you that your life goes on with all the same color and energy as before. It just radiates from different and unexpected places.
Image credit: kerran / 123RF Stock Photo