Waiting For the Thaw

The word appeared fully formed in my brain as I sought an adequate description for this sense of emotional paralysis. Winter. I rolled it around on my tongue, playing free-association word solitaire. 

Winter is cold. Winter is dark. Winter might be beautiful, but it’s dangerous. Winter scenes offer hauntingly lonely images of stark black branches in bright white snow. A tree stands bare, a mere shadow of her leafy green summer self. Deep inside, where none can see, she’s getting ready. Letting go of rusty autumn leaves, she began this long winter’s nap. The tree awaits her time to bring forth, once again, leaves and flowers and fruit. 

Despite the established sequence, my year spun in surreal, uneven seasons called neurosurgery, radiation, chemotherapy, epilepsy, and hospice. I weathered harrowing storms on an oft-flooded bank beside the unpredictable river of grief. I lost my amazing husband, father of our three half-grown children, to aggressive brain cancer. The water froze over completely. 

In time, I know, ice thaws and floodwaters abate. And I yearn to see new fruit borne in my life. I long to flourish, to succeed, to finish what I start, or just to start what I imagined. Yet before a bountiful harvest, the tree needs a growing season. Before fruit grows, she has to flower. Before flowers bud, she rests, preparing for the rebirth of spring. Winter does not last forever. 

Faith, I’m told, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen. Winter is a time for faith, a time to trust that God is restoring life even as I fear it’s simply, sadly, too late. 

Winter is the time between death and resurrection. It’s Holy Saturday. Good Friday has passed. Christ’s body was taken off the cross and laid in the ground. The drama seems all played out. The sun set; the crowd dispersed. Yet, buried deep inside, Sunday is coming. 

Here in the darkness among the shortest days and longest nights, can I keep the faith that spring really is on the way? One day, sooner than I suppose, spring will arrive. Even as I know it won’t be today or tomorrow or sometime next week. 

Here in the darkness among the shortest days and longest nights, can I keep the faith that spring really is on the way? One day, sooner than I suppose, spring will arrive.

Winter strains a patience that is beyond me. I want spring to come, and I want it here now. I worry, not knowing how long winter will last. I am so completely ready to let melt the sharp edges of pain and exhaustion and shame as I struggle against fears that I don’t have enough, I am not enough, to be, to do what I must. 

Winter demands courage I don’t possess. Winter requires strength and perseverance and flexibility. Holding on to my faith through these frozen days may just take the last little bit of stamina I have left. My fingers already ache. The muscles in my arms have begun to tremble. I’m nearly at the end of my tolerance, my endurance, my willingness to recall that winter will not last forever. 

I wish this were a mild, breezy, sunny Southern California beach winter rather than this frigid, snowy, 40-below-wind-chill, Midwest prairie winter. I want to pull on tall boots and knot a scarf around my neck as a fashion statement, not to keep snow drifts off my calves and block my face from icy gusts. 

Despite my exasperation, I can’t simply book a warm winter holiday. Instead, amid the harsh and wild wind, I hear a whisper encouraging kindness to myself. Somehow, I need to sit within this winter, to stop fighting its power. My mission (should I choose to accept it) is to take time to grieve all I’ve lost, and to look forward, allowing flickers of excitement to build in anticipation of springtide. I must live through this winter, resting and pressing on until I’ve passed through the dark and the cold and the barren. 

I am charged with the responsibility to let myself be loved; to take good care of my body, mind, heart, spirit; to make sure I’m bundled up against the cold, taking in the rest and the nourishment and the soul-deep communion I so desperately need. And in the joy of these moments, I may once more curl my fingers confidently around the hope that winter truly cannot last forever. 

Amy Hutchisson

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