Jason died in the summer. Six years have come and gone and still the waves roll in, knocking me to my knees.
This morning, autumn has returned. I can see my breath as it slowly leaves my body. Leaves crackle under my feet and the smell of burning wood fills the air. I don't know why this happens year after year, but as the seasons shift and the environment changes, so do I. Instead of that which I have grown accustomed to, I am unexpectedly assaulted by memories that have not surfaced for twelve long months. Suddenly, his first successful antelope hunt greets me in the morning. I relive his soccer games and hot chocolate and the feel of his flannel shirts, still warm from the dryer. I see him grabbing fish from the now dry irrigation canal, jumping in the leaves he had painstakingly raked, and roasting marshmallows by the fire that he always got too close to. Fall has crept into my universe again and camouflaged in it's shadow . . . Jason smiles. And I am sad.
As tears fight their way out into the light of day and I swallow the lump in my throat, I hear Jason asking me "why?" I question why anyone, alive or dead, would ask such a ridiculous question as the obvious answer runs through my mind. I am sad because he is no longer doing these things. He is no longer creating memories. Jason is gone . . . but he's not. And so I explore the logic, and I am once again manipulated into wisdom by my son.
Isn't a memory of my son playing soccer a gift? Do I not cherish the photos of him in his first tuxedo? What memory would I choose to let go of? Which ones have become too oppressive for me to welcome into my life today? Are these memories that bring tears to my eyes full of sadness and depression, or are these memories exactly the same as the day they were forever etched in my heart? Unchanged, created in and surrounded by love.
And so the question waits. Why do I encounter sorrow when Jason's favorite departure line, "buh-buuuuuy..." echoes in my mind? If my memories are cherished gifts, filled with joy when they came to be and remaining as such now, what is causing my distress?
The answer is fast, and its simplicity embarrasses me. Memories are miraculous gifts. We receive them without asking, we do absolutely nothing to earn them, and they are accessible to us without limit. We should honor their creation and invincibility. The cause of my distress is me. It is what I am choosing to feel. I am disregarding the delight that was in his voice. I am overlooking the love that was sent with the words. I am choosing instead to focus on a fear that he is no longer a part of my life. Fear or love, which will it be?
Next week, I will undoubtedly see a young man driving a new truck down Main Street. He will have a set of antlers peeking over the tailgate, and I will remember Jason. I will remember him with every ounce of my being. At that moment, I will choose to feel sadness or joy. Fear or love, which will it be? In all that we do, this question begs to be acknowledged, and in all that we do, the answer is clear and persistent. Love is the answer . . . always . . . and all ways.