We trained on hills and trails. We finished that race. We have the hardware to prove it. When my family moved to the east coast, promises were made to celebrate that year. We wanted to commemorate, remember and keep our friendship alive through our relationship we made with those mountain trails. So we decided we would have a 5 year anniversary hike. Five years after we conquered that mountain, five years after she conquered cancer.
So on our family trip back to Utah, we made plans, met at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon and gave each other a massive hug that made the years apart fill in within moments. We hopped in her car and drove to the trailhead together. As we hiked, we caught up. We talked about our kids. Our husbands. Good times. Hard times. We talked about aging parents and growing pains. We talked about what her new normal was after the chemo and years of being on drugs to keep the cancer away. We talked about Jesus and grace and faith and all the lessons that come from having access to these things.
So our hike through the wildflowers with empty ski lifts above our heads became our quiet celebration of hope. We paused at the top to take in the still lake. (Quick pause. Mosquitos were eating us alive.) We spontaneously paused in the middle of the trail on the way down and embraced, overcome with gratitude. We soaked in the view and each other's love. It was a perfect morning to celebrate.
It also gave me time to think about the grace and faith it takes to face something like cancer. Because Steph is one of those that is a living beacon of what it means to carry hope around. But I know women in my life who have lost loved ones, yet the faith, grace, hope and love is still carried around in them. I've seen it carried around in births of children. Joyful, exciting times where I know the pain of missing their person must have been so palpable it was an emotion that they never knew existed. Such joy with such aching. (I actually can't even imagine, I'm feeling inadequate writing about it.)
I've seen it in wedding plans being made and missing their person so much, sometimes choosing shoes for a rehearsal dinner turns into welling tears of longing, never mind thinking about the actual ceremony. But still, hope, grace and love are carried around. They are choosing those things in life that matter. That really matter. They are choosing to create those very bonds of love and life and family that was so very painful to lose. Knowing the crater of loss, they still choose to fill it up with love. That's hope. That's grace--knowing that we can't always choose when we get to say goodbye, but we also know we don't have to do it alone and have access to that Divine Love all around us.
These are the things I thought about as I drove home. We celebrated life. The same way we all do whenever we choose to open our hearts to all the beautiful, painful, and exquisitely wonderful parts of loving and living.
So cheers to you Stephanie! Cheers to you and cheers to us all who love with our whole hearts, holding nothing back. Life is beautiful.