Sunsets in the southern Appalachians are one of my favorite times of day. The sun slips away quietly here, earlier than in the flatlands, sliding behind the soft edges of these old mountaintops. Color lingers in the sky a little longer, shades of pinks and oranges. Today in the early days of Spring, bare tree branches are outlined against the fading colors.
And so here I sit, watching the colors change, a glass of decent wine beside me. It’s quiet, peaceful and I have music on in the background to keep me company. So much to be grateful for, and I am thankful beyond words for all of it. And yet I struggle mightily to keep the sadness at bay because it’s one of those weekends – the really long ones that stretch from Thursday night to Tuesday afternoon without a glimpse of the little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl that calls me Mama. These are the hardest days of the month. While I am certain the same is true for her other parent when my daughter is with me, I am learning to not try and tell a story that is not mine to tell.
Letting go of what I had known with certainty would be my life – what I knew deep down in the blood and guts that make up who I am – letting go of that life is a daily practice, and I suspect will be so for a long time. Because it doesn’t get easier to not have those running feet of my girl running around me everyday. It doesn’t get easier to wake up thinking I’ve heard her cry out and then realizing it was just a dream because her bed is filled only with her stuffed animals and princess pillow. It doesn’t get easier to stumble over the school bus she’s left near the door, causing me to smile at her remarkable imagination while tears run into an empty room so full of her presence. It is harder now than ever.
I went to church early on Easter Sunday, a tradition my parents began long ago with Easter sunrise service when I was growing up. Grieving because there was no small hand holding mine, no pulpit waiting for me -- but showing up because I knew that I needed to. Grateful for the inner push that got me into the pew, and for my girlfriend sitting beside me who weathers all my lows and highs and everything in between. The priest said that believing is sometimes as basic as showing up, time after time. Maybe as simple as choosing to get out of bed when you can’t find a reason why getting up matters. And I wondered, as I was weeping silently and holding out my hand for the Eucharist, if faith and believing and hope could be as messy and as earthy as the blessed bread and wine becoming part of my sore and bruised and wanting body.
Maybe this is why I cherish the sunset so much. Because it shows up, one of the most primal of acts that keeps our world turning and surviving – reminding me that showing up for my life is just as primal an act. It’s not the life I was certain I would inhabit. Much of it is far richer than I could have ever dreamed possible; much of it more difficult than I thought I could survive. I am learning to show up for a life that is chaotic and predictable, painful and exquisitely joyful, heart-breaking and soul-mending – often all in the same moment.
The sun has set for today on this part of the southern Appalachians that is becoming my home. A few more tentative roots have gone into the ground from my heart and soul, watered by my modern-day tears into the soil made up of my ancestors’ toil and heartache and joy. It’s enough for now.