The kitchen clock read 4:38 PM, as I gazed out the window at the January landscape – the mourning doves, who love to visit the bird feeder at dusk, were quietly pecking at the dusting of new white snow – and soft afternoon light still lingered in the sky. The end of January heralds our journey to the other side of the winter solstice. Even though the wind was blowing in chillier Arctic air, the pale light was a harbinger of the spring to come. We still have a long way to go from the long, dark cold days of winter, but the light is steadily returning.
The past month has been stressful – health problems of my own, financial struggles, worrisome issues with my children, and many days tending to sick and cranky grandbabies. It has not been the best of times.
This coming week is the one-year anniversary of the day my sister told me she was dying. I have dreaded this date, and it is almost upon me. I have made it through her birthday and the first holidays without her, but I am finding myself reliving these awful weeks when I knew something was dreadfully wrong, and now I will feel once again the anguish and finality of knowing our remaining time together would be counted in months instead of years.
I have often been reminded in these six months since her death, of Joan Didion’s thoughts in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking. “All year I have been keeping time by last year’s calendar: what were we doing on this day last year.” Once the first year had passed, she says, “I realized today for the first time that my memory of this day a year ago is a memory that does not involve John.”
This time will come for me, but for now, this next week will be the beginning of the worst memories – those of watching my sister’s decline. I am bracing myself for this. 2009 was a tough year for me, my family, many of my friends, and countless families in our country and beyond. We all hope that 2010 will bring happier times, but so far, those closest to me have not seen many glimmers of hope.
But, this afternoon as I gazed out at the powdery new snow, the contented mourning doves, and the pale whisper of spring to come, I was filled with the solace that life does go on – sometimes “the darkest hour is just before the dawn”, and our saving grace is our ability to transcend the worries and tragedies of our lives and once again laugh and marvel at the miracle and rebirth of spring, even in the midst of a January snow.