My son and I went out for a winter walk in the woods this morning. It was a quick walk as he had to get dressed up and drive to Reading for a funeral. A very sad funeral- that of a 25 year old friend who simply sat back on the sofa while watching the Super Bowl game and died. His death was caused by a rare virus of the heart, which no one knew he had. His passing shook Bryce’s world and those of his friends. “We aren’t supposed to die this young,” they think. Indeed.
Snow had fallen a handful of days before this morning’ s walk. In less than 2 miles, we saw so many animal tracks it was phenomenal. Deer, turkey, coyote, bobcat. We found “highways” where herds walked through on their way to dense evergreens thickets where they yard up during these frigid days and nights. Comfort in numbers. We saw what appeared to be a small deer dragging its one leg, perhaps injured during hunting season and now crippled, struggling to get trough the winter. Another spot we saw where it looked like a coyote had laid down and made a rounded depression and perhaps scratched his hind quarter. Years ago, I followed the tracks of a grouse in the snow, only to come up to a log where it looked like there had been a struggle, blood drops stained the white snow, feather tuffs sprinkled the snow’s surface. Here, on this banquet log, a raptor had enjoyed a meal. This was the grouse’s last minutes on earth and I stood there staring, privy to a life passing.
I said to Bryce, “It is amazing to travel in a snow covered world and witness all the life that is going on unbeknownst to us. There is little sign when there is no snow on the ground or it would take a much more educated woods detector to read what the animals were doing. In the snow, we get glimpses into their private lives. Leaving tracks in the snow of what occurred here as they go on with their daily life.
I am reminded of that song, “Dust in the Wind, All we are is dust in the wind.” Twenty-somethings have a hard time wrapping their heads around death. They just haven’t experienced much of it, most of them, and maybe never up to this point. Bryce told me that he and his girlfriend talked about it, “Where is Mike now? He was here just days ago, alive, big, real. And now he is gone. Where did he go? Is he in the air around us, his spirit, invisible to us? Is he is the heavens, as a star? Is he no where?”
I walked along nodding my head. Yes, I asked all these questions myself when both my parents died when I was in my twenties like Bryce. I remember hiking in the High Sierra being up top of 12,000 ft passes, some of the closest physically I had ever been to “heaven” and I shouted, “Where are you mom and dad? Can you hear me?”
I advised Bryce to read some books on death and dying, accounts of those who have gone on to the next dimension and returned to tell us a little about their experience. If nothing else, it is a comfort to read. Bryce said, “But no one knows what happens.” No, no one is sure. But you have to come to some place of acceptance and you do need to look at you own life, those of us who remain behind, and think about the tracks you are making in the snow.
Our family has recently surfaced out of an bad experience where one of us was severely wronged. It was painful knowing someone’s heart was taken advantage of and their kindness deeply violated. It made us think about what is “FAIR” in life. I believe that shit happens all the time, some of it is within our control, other times we feel as though we are victims. I have lived long enough to understand and believe that we may not be able to do anything about what happens to us, but we can have a say in how we react to it. That is within our control. We have a huge role in how we choose to live our lives.
It is never too early to be made conscious of the fact that none of us know how much time we have here. We should not put off really living, actualized, conscious living where we are not just coasting. We should always strive to be kind, fair, honest, and respect one another. We leave our footprints on the lives of every human soul we encounter. Our impact continues long after the snow has melted and we are gone. Who do we want to be? How do we want to be remembered? There is an ancient Indian proverb that goes, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”