The memories are vivid. I hadn’t really expected them to welcome us onto the campsite. I hadn’t even expected the swarms of mosquitoes, really – but least of all, had I expected the memories. Blue tarps covering the leaking tent to protect us from rain. First tastes of gelato. Grumpy, drenched family members. Raccoons visiting in the night.
It was our last family camping trip.
And as I stuff newspapers into my teepee of kindling, I wrestle with the familiar feelings of sadness that I thought had long since disappeared into previous chapters of my story. I am not ready for the grief and the tears to revisit.
Meg sits across from me, the fading fire flickering in the darkness, as I offered her my questions and my sadness. How do you be okay with sadness? I wonder. How do you know when you’ve finally moved forward? Or can you move forward and heal and still be sad?
“I just don’t know,” she says. “I just don’t know if it will ever really go away.”
And before us the fire is dying, and I try and I try to get it going again. The embers are bright but the flames are few.
“You can let it go,” she says to me.
Oh but I can’t. I am determined. The one thing I cannot seem to ever control is grief, or push away my sadness even as years pass me by. But the one thing I should be able to succeed at is starting a damn fire.
But I don’t.
So we brush our teeth, and we slip into bed, and it isn’t until we’ve finally quieted and settled onto air-filled mattresses that we see it.
Flickers of the fire, reflecting onto the tent. It’s finally alive.
And maybe, that’s just it. Maybe I need to stop fighting sadness and putting it into pretty boxes and scripting it out on timelines. Maybe, maybe, I just need to be and let life and God lead me as I fall into moments of sadness. Maybe it doesn’t get better but it sure does get easier. And maybe this heart of mine needs to stop questioning feelings and just let them be.
And maybe it’s when I stop fighting, and trying to fix things, and just make everything better – just like that fire – that’s when healing and new life and beauty come alive.