Nature’s healing promise


My mind is the fog on a rainy day protecting me from knowing the extent of the grief yet to come. I am in a trance with a list to finish. Checking off each item keeps sadness hidden. When all is finished, grief enters and I weep for what was, what could have been and will never be.

Out of my window, I notice people walking, getting in their cars, talking to each other, tending their gardens. They seem so happy, especially those with husbands. I weep again and then again and then grieve for another day and another day. It seems endless.

I want permission to howl, cry, pound my fists and hit something; anything. I want to hold his love close to my heart and when the tears come, be given permission to burst with sadness and not hold back.

I say to myself: “Today, I should open the door and face my new life.”

I open it and almost move into the hallway. I can’t.

I close the door. I think; “Maybe tomorrow.”

And then one day, reluctantly, I walk out the door and it closes behind me. My path leads me to the forest near The Village. I feel the wind, the sun on my face and the crunch under my feet. I walk. It’s somehow soothing. After a time, I head back to that door of my apartment and open it knowing I will go out again. My journey has begun.

I am drawn to the woods and the walk and even though I am alone, I am not lonely. I notice. The vibrant flowers that were once adorning both sides of the path are dying. The wind has blown the seeds in many directions. Winter will come and then the spring and then the beautiful flowers. There is the life cycle of that flower that tells me it never really goes away but merely changes form and waits for renewal. Somewhere in this realization is a knowing.

After that first day, walking the path is a constant. My mind is open to finding meaning that will calm the grief. Sometimes, wanting to be with my beloved overwhelms me and I pretend he is the warmth of the sun on my face or the breeze. I see a bird who seems to linger and I believe it is he who is with me. I love this illusion and if it be true, I love that even more. I look and listen carefully for clues to the mysteries of life.

I decide to add sitting to my daily walk. I sit on a fallen tree. I sit silently and see trees reach for the sky. What a beautiful sight! And I think “What about the fallen one I am sitting on?” It will become my waiting place. I look forward to that seat on that rotting tree. I ponder the purpose of all that is around me. I love the mystery of it all. I may not be able to untangle the intricate web of this world and yet I can find solace in that there is a knowing in that the universe is complex and interconnected in some mysterious way. I realize that we all are connected, have life spans, purposes and endings.

This journey to the woods has given me a place to be. It has given me a place to grieve, to seek a knowing, to remember my beloved, to feel the warmth of the sun and the cold wind of winter, the autumn leaves and the spring flowers, the magnificent variety of trees; fallen or not. I am closer to my beloved than in any other place. Now I can grieve and go forward and remember.

I am grateful for the walking, the sitting, the waiting. I now know there is a reason for everything under heaven. I have learned to accept. I will go on with the promise so aptly written by Alan Pedersen:

I will be your legacy

I will be your voice

You live on in me

So I have made the choice

to honor your life

By living again

I love you

I miss you

I will see you again

Jane P. Butler is a retired educator living at The Village at Penn State in State College. This column is coordinated by, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.

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