Looking through my photo gallery this morning, two dates on November 4th came up — one from 2014 and 2018. Turns out we went exploring to the same place — Fossil Creek, Arizona. Its popularity is growing despite its obscure location. It is worth the forty-five-minute dusty drive into the wilderness. Today, like other beautiful parts of Arizona, you cannot visit unless you’ve reserved your spot. Havasu Falls comes to mind.
Fossil Creek is unique because of its green hue (calcium carbonate dissolved in the water) and series of waterfalls that grow in size as one keeps trekking on the path. The emerald pools are mesmerizing. Can you imagine with the heat of an Arizona day how refreshing it is to go swimming in one? And we did, too. In November, the water was chilly, but standing waist-high in the cool water with the sunshine heat on your back was a great sensory combination.
Mom would frown and shake her head. “Good, God, stop crying. I wasn’t a saint, you know.”
Grief is a heavy activity. Doing one’s best not to cry is hard to do. Talking about it is exhausting. The permanence of her departure is a rock that’s heavy to carry. Just when a few days go by when I am not overcome with emotion, I start to relax. Then, boom! Triggers abound, and I am weeping in the car before heading into the grocers, or I am about to enter a room full of people. On goes the smile and I am ready to explain the puffy eyes and red nose as the result of a bad attack of allergies.
Last week before the students and staff arrived, I walked down the wide, dark hallway of the school searching for hot water for my cup of tea. Out of nowhere, Mom’s face appeared sharply in front of me. Was I hallucinating? I was back at her side, patting her hand while she breathed heavily. I looked at her and her eye opened and stared at me. It was freaky to see her staring eye. Did she know it was me? I talked to her anyway, hoping she could hear. “Jenny washed you, Mom. You’re clean. You won! You are here in your home and we love you. We’ll be okay.” And just like that, she faded away and her eye turned to stone. In the dark hallway, I burst into tears and rushed back to my classroom muttering, “It’s going to be one of those days.”
Well, of course, none of us are okay, but we’ll adapt. I take comfort in knowing she’s in a better place. I believe that.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m overwhelmed, I always want to run away from home. So Jim and I did. I know God’s in nature as well as the church, and the colors and smells of nature is a place I go to connect and regroup. At Vallecito Lake, I saw Mom in what she loved about nature.
The 15th was her birthday. I was glad to share the fall day with Mom surrounded by the beauty of Colorado. My gift to her was not crying. I felt lighter. I didn’t feel pain. She would have approved.