Last night, I was cranky.
If you know me, you know that’s not unusual.
This was a different kind of cranky, though. This was the heavy kind that settles into my chest, the kind that clouds my thinking. The kind that I know is trying to tell me something. The kind that I actively work to avoid thinking about (I know, I know. I’m working on it…)
I wasn’t cranky. It didn’t take much introspection to realize I was feeling the heaviness of being alone. Now, I definitely wasn’t alone. I’d actually had a great weekend full of sheep parade, a reintroduction to running, friend time, football time with Clint, AND cute baby snuggling time. Definitely not alone.
But it was that feeling of alone. It started from a Facebook post. A post that should have brought me peace. but instead brought me anything but.
After KT passed away, her family asked that her closest friends take some of her ashes back to the special places where she had spent time with each of us. KT was a counselor at a girl scout camp for several summers growing up, and camp became one of her many beloved homes. The duty of spreading her ashes at what used to be the camp fell in the hands of the two people I would have chosen, given the chance–one of her best friends from high school (and camp) and the director of the camp during the time she spent there.
They posted this weekend on a private Facebook group to let everyone know they had taken a piece of KT home. The post was beautifully written (shortened version below, written by Cindy Hruby):
Finding Strawberry Hill
The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the air was cool. The fall foliage had peaked a week prior, and now we walked through a carpet of leaves. The crunch of our footsteps drowned out attempts at conversation. We continued past Renkert Ranch, down the terraced hill behind the lodge, to the path in the woods. We kept going until the barn and the lake came into view.
… We soon spotted the unmarked trailhead, and began the final leg of our hike … It looked just like we remembered it, but after so many years we were hesitant to trust our fading memories …We hiked farther on, scouting the area, comparing trees, searching for clues, until we came again to that first clearing. And then we knew. This was it. This was Strawberry Hill.
Sarah said a blessing. We sprinkled Katie’s ashes in a circle. As we did so, a light breeze rose up and carried the smallest bits of dust deeper into the woods. We laid the bouquet of daisies on the ground, and we stood in silence, missing our friend.
Later, as we made our way down from Strawberry Hill, we thought about how every camper has left a part of herself on that property. The secrets of our hearts still whisper through the trees. Our laughter still lingers in the air. The shadows of our childhood selves still walk along the paths. We had left Katie in good company.
I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful tribute to my friend. And yet, reading about their journey has simply left me feeling alone.
Alone because I’ve had to face this without a friend nearby who knew and loved and misses KT as much as I do. When I took a piece of KT back to a place special to us, I did it alone. I wouldn’t have wanted just anyone there, but having a loved one there with me would have helped tremendously.
This feeling runs deeper than that, though. It’s about the process of grieving, something I’ve mainly done from a distance. Aside from Kriste’s visit in March and the memorials this past summer, I’ve done this alone. That’s simply my reality, being that I live thousands of miles from others grieving her loss. I don’t mean to discount the support I’ve received–I’ve been blessed with friends and family who have listened, taken care of me, and loved me beyond what I could ever ask. I would not have made it this far without each of them.
But in the end, this is still a lonesome journey. I’m the only here when funny things happen that remind me of her, and I’m the only one here when I need a reminder that she was real and lives on in all of our hearts. I’m the only one here who counts each month as it goes by. I’m the only one here thinking about her upcoming birthday and wondering what that day means without her.
She was always the one to remind me I’m never alone. Without her, sometimes it gets hard to remember.