I think they blindsided me by how powerful they felt. I haven’t felt a grief contraction that strong in at least half a year, if not more. I felt so overwhelmed with grief that my heart and chest physically hurt and I felt like I wanted to throw up.
On Sunday I felt grief overpowering me and I decided I needed to retreat up to my reservoir where I could ponder and cry if I needed to. Hailee wanted to join me, as hiking together is a favorite pastime for us. I told her that I was going up the reservoir to be sad and think about Charlie. Hailee said she understood if I wanted to be alone (although not wanting her to come obviously hurt her feelings) but she offered to come and be sad with me. She said we could cry together and say a prayer for Charlie. Bless her tender little 6 year old heart! I realized that I didn’t need to exclude Hailee from my grief and that perhaps it would be meaningful to allow her to witness my sadness and be a part of it. So I allowed her to come.
On the hike up to the reservoir, Hailee held my hand the whole time. She warmed my heart as she spontaneously started talking about how much she loves her body. She talked about loving her legs, arms and hands for all that they let her do.
When we got up the reservoir, we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked down to the water, now mostly ice, and went in search of some ducks to feed with our stale bread. We found three of them. Hailee giggled watching them trip and skid across the ice after her broken bread chunks. And I loved watching her and just felt so grateful for the light she is in my life.
While I went up to the reservoir with the intention to cry and grieve, I ended up enjoying myself with Hailee. We went on an adventure, walking on the outskirts of the reservoir and breaking through ice. We screamed when our shoes fell into deep mud. Hailee threw chunks of broken ice across the pond, over and over, and listened to the fascinating whistle sound the ice made as it slid on top of the frozen water.
This experience felt beautiful to me. I felt present with Hailee. I felt present with the beauty that surrounded us. I loved the sun on my face and the cold, clean wind that whipped down the canyon and filled my lungs. I loved the sensation of Hailee’s hand in mine, totally trusting and totally connected to me.
I’m amazed over and over again how complex emotions and experiences can be, and simultaneously so simple and unadulterated. I am impressed how you can feel more than one emotion at once, including emotions that seem like opposites. I still felt sad and miss my little boy, but my heart also felt happy and grateful. As I reflect on this experience with Hailee, two words come to mind: tender and beautiful. I think Charlie would feel happy knowing Hailee and I made a good memory together in remembrance of him.