So when we headed west for Colorado, I just knew I had to pay a visit to the one place that means so much to me and my family. We talk about special places. This place is not just special. It's sacred.
The first time I visited Mirror Lake I couldn't have been more than 10 years old. I suppose if I asked nicely, my mom could probably rustle up a photo or 10 from that vacation. Heck, I wouldn't even have to ask all that nicely. But I really don't think posting a picture of me at 10 years old would be doing anybody any favors (least of all me). Let's just say it was the 80s. There may have been a bad perm, bad glasses, and biker shorts involved. Oh yeah, and an overbite.
Anyway, my dad was always up for an adventure and I guess my little brother and I were too. So, we ended up on a 3.4 mile hike off Wildernest Road.
Technically, it's the Lily Pad Lake Trail and there is a lake covered with lily pads. It's pretty cool and all. But, just a stone's throw on the other side of that lake is a body of water that is absolutely breath-taking.
We call it Mirror Lake.
And here's why:
Now, we've been to Colorado many, many times since that initial hike, and it's safe to say a trip up to Mirror Lake is always on our itinerary. Obviously I'm not the only sentimental person in my family.
But this time it was going to be a little tricky.
I wasn't sure I could handle a trip to Mirror Lake. Not without Addie.
Still, I found myself asking Isaac if he'd like to go on his first trip to Mirror Lake (and hoping that he'd say yes).
And while we talked about wild animals and forest fires and tree roots and everything else that interests a 7-year-old boy, this hike was also a chance for me to explain to Isaac that it really is possible for mom to be happy and sad at the exact same time. So sad that Addie wasn't there for one more hike, but so happy that Isaac was.
As I've had time to process our trip (especially this hike), I've come to realize this incredibly long and grueling grief journey is kind of like a 3.4 mile hike in the mountains. Only a whole lot longer.
So here we are at the trail head. What you don't see is the ridiculously steep incline that is the first 300 yards of this hike. It is literally an uphill climb.
And that's exactly what grief is like in the early days.
For some, it's a battle to even get out of bed in the morning.
Not for me.
I got out of bed, got the boys dressed, and sent them off to daycare (thank God for daycare).
I could not deal. With anything. With them.
For me it was a battle to get out of the chair. I'd sit there for hours, combing the Internet, looking for answers as the what-if's, the why's, and the what the hell's swirled around in my head.
The only thing that could get me out of the chair was knowing full-well that a little yellow school bus would come tooling down the lane around 3:45 p.m. each day and my daughter would not be getting off. Not that day. Not ever. Knowing this, I would retreat to my bedroom, pull the covers over my head, and wait for the sound of the bus shifting gears to fade away. I did this. Every day.
Then, you return to work. You function. Pay bills. Tuck your kids in at night. Cry. Struggle to fall asleep. Or want nothing more than to fall into your bed and never wake up.
Perhaps you even brave a trip to the grocery store where there's a favorite cereal and favorite snack at the end of every aisle. You wander aimlessly, settling on bread, macaroni, and applesauce.
It was an uphill climb and I'd just as soon stay at the bottom most days.
But somehow you make it to the top of that initial climb, and then, and only then you realize just how far you've come.
There are smiles, even laughs.
And yet, you continue down the path. There are roots and rocks. You must tread carefully. Sometimes, the path is so treacherous, you must reach out and grasp the hand of another, just to make it across.
At times the path is smooth. We relish these times. Walk a little faster. Perhaps we've found a way to cope. We busy ourselves with projects, get lost in a book, organize our pantries, our storage rooms, our garages. Perhaps we've found a way around it all.
And then,we stumble upon rocks and roots and yes, even the occasional uphill climb.
I'm not going to lie. The past six months have been one, gigantic uphill climb.
We must slow down, rest even. Golden Oreos are completely optional (but highly recommended).
And so we continue on this path, with its rocks and its roots. We rest when we must. Reach out for help when we need it.
And when we get a brief reprieve, we must slow down and enjoy the view.
And the people we get to share it with.
All the while remembering those who gave us so much to miss.