I have always loved the water. Some of my earliest and best memories are of my family fishing in the White River in Northwest Arkansas. During the summer, we would tumble early from our cabin and fish until the fog burned off and the rising sun began to warm our skin as it cast a hazy shimmer against the bluffs, turning them orange and red. There was freshness to the scent of the water, and those beautiful rainbow trout could often be seen just under the surface. I liked to catch fish but I didn’t have the patience for the baiting, casting and waiting for an elusive nibble. So, while my family fished, I would trail my fingers in the water, making up songs and stories.
I don’t think anyone loved that river more than my sister, Lisa. She had more patience than anyone I knew and would sit for hours, content with the rhythm of the water and a bobber that never seemed to move (at least to me). Even as a youth, Lisa seemed to understand the water’s language and how it fed her soul.
My beautiful sister died unexpectedly April 12, 2008.
My grief is like that water, at times dark and turbulent, sometimes smooth, but always moving and shifting. It sometimes washes over me, threatening to knock me over but I eagerly lean into it, searching my memory, remembering my sister’s patience and hearing her laughter as it echoed off the bluffs. I believe my capacity to mourn is in equal measure to my capacity to love, and just as our father taught us to respect the water, I respect the depth of my grief and willingly choose to embrace every blessed moment of it.
I find that since Lisa’s death I crave the nearness of water even more than usual. The day after her funeral, I sat on the banks of the Arkansas River surrounded by its scents and sounds, and like we were taught the rhythm of casting a rod and reeling in a fish, I began searching for the rhythm of letting Lisa go while holding her close.
Lisa had often made known her wish that her ashes be sprinkled in her beloved White River. Our family will honor that wish, scattering them into its crisp water, along with the petals of the yellow roses she loved, as well.
I believe that somewhere inside me, my grief will always be fresh, just like the fragrant water of the White River but I also believe that in that sacred space, that same water will refresh and heal my hurting soul.
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