Skip to main content

A Celebration of Life: a short story

This story was written for a Montana Public Radio contest. Enjoy!

A Celebration of Life

As I drive closer to the mountains, my finger instinctively hits the Montana Public Radio-programmed button. Hopefully I’ll catch the weather forecast before I lose service. I checked before I left home; it’s going to be bitterly cold, -10 degrees Fahrenheit, but at least the snow should be safe to traverse. I’m hoping Eric Whitney buoys my hopes by forecasting a balmy 0 degrees. Either way, I’ve got to get outside. The mountains are calling my name so I do what any rational Montanan does and head out.
The weather report forecasts more bitter-coldness and as static overtakes the news, I switch to a folk CD. Pulling into the parking lot, I notice I’m the only vehicle here. Not surprising -- who else would be crazy enough to be out on a night like this? All of my buddies are back home, enjoying a hot beverage, reading a good book, and stoking the fire but let’s not think about those creature comforts. I’ve got miles to go before I sleep. I double check my headlamp, hoist my backpack on, and step into my skis. With my faithful retriever, Buddy, by my side, I head into the wilderness.
Dark descends and I forge through snow, making first tracks. Buddy chases ahead then falls behind, consumed by a squirrel that darted up a tree. It’s a clear evening and the moon lights my way. I reserved a little cabin nestled a few miles into the woods. I couldn’t get off work as early as I would have liked but this day has been emblazoned on my mind for the past year. Today, of all days, I need to be outside. Today would have marked my brother’s 30th birthday celebration, had he lived to see it. Instead, it’s a solitary day. I just want to be outside where he and I always felt at home.
I see the cabin up ahead and slog the final way as Buddy dashes off with boundless energy. Leaving my skis outside, I dump my pack and make a fire in the woodstove. Now we’re talking! Say goodbye to 0 degrees and dropping. I feed Buddy, prep dinner, eat, read, and say goodnight to Buddy like I have so many nights before out here. Lying down with nothing before me but sleep, the significance of the day settles over me. Grief rolls over me like waves and I sob. Buddy plods over and nuzzles his nose into my sleeping bag. Wiping the tears away, I walk to the entrance and open the door. Buddy by my side, I stare out upon the still, snow-swept landscape illumined by the moon hanging low in the sky. The magnificence of creation and my seeming insignificance sober me. Mountains rise up around me, stars fill the sky, and here am I – alive and grateful. I come out here for moments like these to refresh my perspective.
In contrast to the sobering nightscape, the daylight causes hope and joy to rise up. The sun shines like so many millions of diamonds on the snow. The birds sing among the trees. The mountains echo their morning song. We repeat similar tasks as last night, eating and cleaning, then hit the trail we blazed yesterday. Although my thermometer reads 0 degrees, the sun is shining, I’m skiing, and Buddy’s by my side. Those old words ring true that “weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning.”

We reach the truck, pack up, and head back to town. Once again, my finger instinctively hits the MTPR button as we head out of the mountains. Freeforms plays folk tunes, evoking nostalgia. I remember so many backcountry trips with my brother and smile. If he had lived to see his 30th birthday, we would have skied into a little cabin in the woods bathed in moonlight and surrounded by mountains to celebrate life.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Rare Disease Day 2024

Today's Rare Disease Day. There's sometimes a particular weightiness to life with a rare disease. All the appointments, emergencies, traumas, doctors, therapists, medicines, opinions, schedules and upset schedules. My touchpoint is being mom to my precious girl with Wiedemann-Steiner Syndrome  (WSS). You'd have to spend a day or week shadowing me to know what it's really like. Doesn't that sound alienating? As though you couldn't possibly imagine if you're not living it? Well, maybe. But think about a time of immense grief you've lived through, or a time when your world seemed to be falling apart around you and it felt like everyone else was completely unaffected. I suppose it's a bit like that. You might have thought that those around you couldn't possibly know how that experience felt to you. A couple weeks ago, I started keeping a list of all the extraordinary things that happened in my life due to my daughter's rare disease. I learned a c

leap for joy

Greetings from the land of Knee Shorts modest clothing, virgin margaritas, & clean flicks. Yes, I really encountered all those at the Great Salt Lake . The drive rivaled the drive to Vegas for number of praises from Mom. In my humble opinion, the drive to SLC wins, hands down. Mountains rise from clover-covered valleys, climaxing in snowy peaks. Cows & horses graze in bucolic pastures. We had a 2+ hour conference call w/ the siblings filled w/ Lisa singing Mariah Carey & Tim claiming he really was listening to everything we said. We arrived to the perfect hotel where we got to run, swim, AND bed jump. Thanks to Christine who introduced me to a bed jumping website (http://www.hotelsbycity.net/blog/bed-jump/), I had to try it. Caution: bed jumping can result in sleeping with one end of your bed on the floor OR with your suitcase holding up the mattress. By the way, Mom has declared a new gift. In addition to Master Map Reader and Spatial Arranger, she hereafter can spe

Startup Day 875: piloting in New Haven

Iteration is emblematic of startups. For example: From last year's pilot , we learned that parents and adults with disabilities were looking for recommended resources.  We built the Empowered Together app and tried crowd-sourcing those recommendations.  In our New Haven pilot, we're bringing database building in-house by listing accessible food, arts, and recreational businesses in greater New Haven.  Thankfully, we have thought partners in this endeavor at the City of New Haven and at community disability orgs. We are working with a Quinnipiac student and awaiting word on additional grant funding. We're taking the right next step in changing the social system to be accessible and inclusive of People with Disabilities.