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How We Change

I’ve never enjoyed cooking. It has always seemed like a burdensome chore. The preparation, the presentation, the cleanup. It felt tedious and menial. Yet here I stand…cooking. Slowly chopping an array of brightly colored vegetables. Jim Brickman playing in the background. I have a thousand worries and a million other things I could be doing. I turned off my phone because the weight of the outside world is sometimes just too heavy to bear.

My dog is dying, but she stands beside me…ever faithful. It’s been a hard year. A growing year. I take a snapshot of this moment both figuratively and literally. I want to remember this sacred time.

I am learning to be still. To embrace the rhythms of the day. I welcome the seasons, each one symbolizing a new movement of life. This winter brings solace, reflection, solitude. The memories of the past run through my veins. I am keenly aware of how everything connects…the intricate web of my past which has led me to this day.

My dog was there. She is both a part of my past and my present. My son’s little hands once wrapped around her neck, his fingers lacing through her black fur. Life moves on in many ways. We file these memories away and then every so often they resurface when you least expect it. A familiarity in the way the leaves dance in an early fall gust of wind, walking the worn path on our wooded hike while the sunlight darts between the trees, the sights and sounds and smells of our past. Eternal until it’s not. Unpredictable. And somehow just out of reach. Often buried so deep in your mind that you’ve forgotten that moment in time. Then it resurfaces right there. Almost touchable. And it breaks your heart for the reminder that it happened and that no matter how much you try that fleeting moment is gone.

There is peace today. I’ve found slivers of joy and there is always deep gratitude for what remains.

Garlic is sizzling in the pan. My hands are busy, my mind is distracted. This is focus. Being present. I know now that life changes in an instant. That you can wake up one morning with all the best laid plans and still by nightfall your future has changed, your dreams have died and life as you know it will never be the same.

I suppose it keeps changing after that moment. And over time we evolve into people perhaps we might never have become. Better versions of ourselves hopefully. It’s simple because we have no choice. It’s complicated because we fight it.

I listen to jazz now. And piano. I let emotions wash over me. I no longer fear love. I sit in silence. I am not afraid to be alone. I savor words and hugs and candles and connection. There is beauty here. It’s ok to feel. To cry, to laugh, to throw your head back and dance when the first snowflakes of winter fall softly to the ground.

I fell to my knees the other day as the overwhelming reality of grief gripped my heart. Surrender. It’s familiar there. I clutched a worn wooden cross as I have so many times before. This too is sacred.

Breathe. Remember.

There is room for both.

Shannon Shpak is a writer who is rebuilding life after loss with her 5 children. She believes in hope, perseverance and being strong…all legacies her son left behind.

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