Last weekend we remembered and rejoiced the life of a young man who died in an avalanche last winter. His tragic passing rattled any sense of security I was feeling about my own children on the mountain, out doing what they love and the possibility…
There, under the spectacular azure sky painted with swirling clouds, surrounded by oak trees and rolling expanses of green grass, we were reminded of life’s other half – the part where we question, and cry, and consider why.
Carson was a young man, just entering adulthood, happy, healthy and loved. He was exploring life – creating a life – to be lived on his terms.
He was a man I’d watched over the years, sharing my school, karate and ski racing communities.
I remember him from karate classes, his tall, skinny frame clad in a white gi as he willed himself through an arduous black belt test with my son. I remember his legs in horses stance for what seemed like hours, trembling with determination.
I remember his curly, dirty blonde hair and shy glances when I’d see him in the hallways at school. Never his teacher, I still tried to draw him out and connect when I could. He was a shy one back then.
I think about him on the ski race course, carefully navigating slalom turns with the concentration of a scientist studying his experiment. I can see his mother’s smile as he watched him cross the finish line, or persevere through the final round of push-ups, sweat dripping off his face and legs and arms quivering under the pressure.
And looking up at the clouds, I think about the lessons we learn through life’s other half.
His service, full of music and love, reminded me of those ordinary moments we spend with people we love, and that in the face of their absence, we realize how prophetically purposeful they can be. Songs we loved, poetry we aligned with and talks along the beach or on a mountain top that at the time we knew were special, but when in the midst of life’s other half we realize were profound.
Carson’s memorial reminded me of my gratitude for the extraordinary in the ordinary every day. For the love of family, friends and community that surround us. And for the generosity of the universe, to open up the skies, to fill them with clouds and sunlight, and the reminder that we are all here for such brief, sparkling, exquisite moments together.
I hadn’t seen Carson for awhile. I was happy to hear he’d joined up with the ski team again, now as a coach, and he was happily living and working in Tahoe. In so many ways, he was just a regular human, finding his way and discovering who he was.
He was living life generously, with delight.
I am not saying that we should love death,
but rather that we should love life so generously,
without picking and choosing,
that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love.
This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love,
which cannot be stopped or constricted.
It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and,
It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself…
What do we know of it?
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The Transfer of Mothering - mamawolfeMay 7, 2016
[…] There’s no denying it’s been a tough winter. Since December we’ve been battling injuries, experiencing traumatic loss, and watching people we care about learn how to live… […]Reply
Joy HoffmanMay 3, 2016
Thank you for this Jennifer. I so wish that we could have been there to celebrate and remember Carson with you all. I always love reading your blog. They always hit close to home, this one more than most. While I couldn’t be there you gave a sense of the memorial.
Thank you also, for the reminder to cherish the ordinary moments. I find myself being more conscience of this on this second round of parenting that I am embarking on , and find myself longing for a few ordinary moments with my girls back home. I will cherish each of them, moment by moment.
Jennifer WolfeMay 7, 2016
Joy, thank you so much for commenting. I love hearing from you directly – I certainly have been following your African adventures, and respect so much the work you are doing. Carson’s memorial was beautiful, and yes, I wish you were there. His spirit is strong, and his family is surrounded by love. Take care. xoxo
Sarah HoweApril 28, 2016
Your words are always very powerful and thought provoking. I often think death is feared but it is ultimately part of life and something not really to be feared. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst xReply
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Jennifer WolfeApril 29, 2016
Sarah, you’re so right. We need to keep reminding ourselves of this, don’t we? Thanks for commenting today. #bestandworst
Kirsty EdwardsApril 27, 2016
This is such an important message to remember when someone passes… #bestandworstReply
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Jennifer WolfeApril 29, 2016
Thank you, Kirsty. When we lose a young person, it’s so much harder to understand. Thanks for commenting.
LindseyApril 26, 2016
Oh, this is so lovely. Yes, yes, the other half, the shadow that gives the light meaning, that darkness which we walk alongside, sometimes so perilously close. oxoReply
Jennifer WolfeApril 27, 2016
Precisely. Without the darkness, how would we rejoice in the light? I know this is close to your heart. Thank you. xox