Drastic upheaval in my life. This post isn't really about all of those changes. It's about the most significant change, though. A little over a month ago, my "oldest" friend, the friend I've known longer than anyone besides my family, also lost a son. J has lived out of state since 1989, when she moved away from me and crushed my soul. Just kidding. She moved right before our sophomore year of high school. It did crush me, as she'd been my bestest friend since 5th grade....but I digress. This post is about our losses.
Yesterday, I had the extreme pleasure and satisfaction of meandering through The Founder's Grove; a beautiful trail through some ancient redwood trees in N. California. I had a very moving experience. First of all, I realized my soul breathes in the mountains. I have loved camping since I was a child and always enjoyed getting up into higher elevations and cooler temperatures. It just occurred to me yesterday, though, that I find peace there as well. Peace has been a difficult commodity for me these last three years. It was a welcome epiphany.
Something else struck me, as I strolled the path through those beautiful redwoods. I found two trees, both damaged by fire, but with different wounds. One is J's tree, the other is mine. These trees reflect the story of our loss.
J's tree is kind of hollowed out on the inside. The outside bark of the tree goes all the way around and there is a massive, charred cave inside. The rest of the tree grows up and out of it, reaching for the sun. For J, it was a sudden loss, hollowing out her core. The rest of her children and family cause her to stay strong and continue to function, while inside, her heart is blackened with despair. I spent a week with her between her son's accident and the funeral. I have spoken with her often since. She just came to visit me last week. She struggles every day.
My tree is also charred on the inside, and actually has a pass all the way through. It is more like a tripod, with more of its core missing. My loss was anticipated but completely devastating. We watched our special needs son decline over three months. With his loss, my entire life was ripped to shreds. I'd been his primary caregiver for 13 years. He was my life. My husband and daughter are my other two legs, keeping me standing, but my life's purpose is gone. When I saw this tree, I cried. I touched it's core and saw myself, my life. My life and my heart have been hollowed out. I continue to function because we have a daughter and business to run, but that is all I do, function.
J and are are both forced into the light by and for our families. We are strong women. We've had to be over the years, dealing with the challenges of our sons. We both have faced circumstances most people our age haven't. We've had to "grow-up" quickly. We are strong and mighty like the redwoods, and equally as damaged as these two specific trees.
In the quietness of the forest, surrounded by light and mist and trees, I saw a physical representation of my grief and loss. This tree resonated deep in my soul. The question now is, where do I go from here?