On the morning of August 28th, 2014, at 9:45 in the morning I was sitting in a window seat on flight AC7738, and in the distance, perched atop the low-lying clouds, like a flawlessly crafted piece of art, sat the Manhattan skyline. I couldn’t help but notice how small, and insignificant it looked from so far away. But I already knew from my time previously spent there; it was anything but that. And it was for that very reason I was on that plane, that morning, anxiously awaiting touchdown and my first breath of New York City air. New York City is the love of my life, and as we approached – its vastness beginning to reveal itself – I sat hopeful, that somehow on the streets far below, she would be able to fix me. I was in desperate need of healing, and it was her I chose to help me. So, when I exited the airport shuttle in front of my hotel, I closed my eyes, inhaled the Manhattan air into my lungs and surrendered my broken self to the city…my love.
Over the course of the next four days, I weaved my way through the city streets, step by step, village to village. Each day my feet absorbed the heat emanating from the concrete beneath me, ignored searing pain from the miles I had walked and refused to slow down. My heart beat in rhythm with my footsteps and my blood coursed its way through my veins, powered by the pulse of the sights and sounds of Manhattan. Without even noticing, my love and I had become one, and I was transforming.
On my last day, I arrived at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge and felt for some reason it was where I was meant to be – where I needed to be. Emotion overcame me, and as I began my journey across, I silently wept. Not from sadness but happiness experienced in its purest form. The kind of happiness that makes you see colour for the first time, that ignites your soul and makes you not only feel like you can fly but that you already are. Half way across I paused and turned to look back at my love, and she whispered, “Keep moving. Go.” With her behind me, pushing and encouraging me, I focussed my attention once again on moving forward. She knew, and I knew, who was waiting for me on the other side. And I was ready.
When I stepped off the bridge, I discovered a girl who was broken but awakened. She introduced me to peace of mind and a belief in myself so powerful, I felt like anything was possible. For the first time in my life, I felt as though everything was ok. That I was ok. What I found in Brooklyn that afternoon would change everything. But what I didn’t know, as I stood there feeling renewed and inspired, smiling at the city across the river I loved so deeply, was that she had just saved me from the darkest days still to come.
On Sept 13th, 2014, twelve days after arriving home from New York, I spent the evening with one of my favourite people in the world. Accompanied by a sunset so breathtaking, we couldn’t help but acknowledge how blessed we were to witness its magnificence. We spoke about love, life, change and laughed our way into the night. And we took the time to applaud the brilliance of the stars that shone above us. It was a moment in time so special and so significant I knew then it would never be forgotten. What I found out 36 hours later was that that day would also become a beacon of light and a guiding force in my life. Earlier that same day, long before we were admiring the setting sun, and miles from where I was, my 29-year-old co-worker was eagerly ascending a mountain. I imagine he also knew what awaited him and I have no doubt as he moved his way closer to the top, he envisioned the beauty that would soon surround him. But, what destiny had in store for him that day was not a majestic view upon reaching the summit, but his last breath 1000 feet below, after losing his grip.
I spent the days following his passing in a daze and struggled to see through the steady stream of tears clouding my vision. The one question I asked myself over and over again was, “Why?” Then on Oct 17th, 2014 at my veterinarian’s office, with my best friend at my side, I held my precious Jack Russell in my arms, his chest comfortably pressed against mine and nodded my head indicating I was ready because I knew he too was ready. And as his heart beat for the last time, I made sure the last words he ever heard were, “I love you.”
Darkness took hold. My sorrow and pain were so intense that at times I was incapable of speaking. I was so broken I didn’t know where to begin, or what to fix first. And I wasn’t sure it was even possible to piece myself back together.
But as only great loves do, mine again began whispering in my ear, reminding me of the strength I felt on the shore of the river that day and the power I possessed to change my life. She was pleading with me to fight and to remember. And so I did. I remembered it all. The self-awareness I had to admit something was wrong with me. The courage I gathered to get on that plane. The strength I found to walk almost a hundred miles, searching for something I wasn’t sure I would find. The determination I commanded from within to not give up. The elation I felt with each step as I crossed that bridge and met her on the other side. And the belief in myself I took home as a souvenir of the four most memorable days of my life. Not only did I remember, but I felt it, all of it.
So instead of thinking about the tail-wagging unconditional love I was no longer greeted with at the door whenever I came home, I thought about the joy my little man brought to my life. And how now, more than ever, he would want me to give myself the same gift I had given him, a happy life.
And I began thinking about the pristine beauty I was witness to on that tragic day. Despite the light that unknowingly went out that afternoon, and the darkness that unfolded, I still knew I had never seen anything more beautiful. I witnessed nature’s perfection. Atop the summit, he would have stood, witnessing the same – looking, breathing and taking it all in – wearing a smile for the ages. And he would have been alive. But instead, the beauty his eyes and soul should have been blessed with were mine to see and feel that day. He gave me the gift of sight and taught me that I need to look around, with my eyes wide open, and see beauty where even light refuses to shine. And to live, fearlessly.
There will always be a part of me that remains broken. Some things aren’t meant to be fixed, and that is ok because the weight is mine to carry, and for reasons only I will know. But no matter what, I am always determined to see what I wish he could have seen high on the mountain that day, beauty.
Over the course of the last three weeks, I have felt myself slipping and in need of something to hold onto. Forward is the only direction I wish to go, and though I know, only my feet can take me there, every once in a while they refuse to move. So I wrote this as a reminder of all the gifts I have been given, the vision I have been blessed with and the dreams that are within my reach.
And also to hear my love whisper in my ear, “Keep moving. Go.”
There are two types of pain in this world: pain that hurts you and pain that changes you ~ unknown.