Each Day

This post is actually about winter biking, so bare with me as I get to that.

Eight years ago tomorrow was a day that changed my life. It was a day when I thought that I was going to die. I don’t think I’ve thought that I was going to die as much as I did that day. The events of that day are etched in my mind and I curse that it falls on the same day that my brother was born. It creates conflict within myself as I am happy that my brother was born and upset about the whole “I almost died” thing.

Since then I have been thankful for every day that I’ve lived. I’m not thankful EVERY day because I don’t think about it everyday, but most days I think about how grateful I am to be alive for one more day (yeah, I have issues with death… I know, I know). I have had almost 3000 extra days so far and I expect to have many more extra days. In the extra days thus far, I am grateful as much as possible for the many amazing friends I have that remind me all the time that I am loved, for my family, and for all of the simple things that I take for granted: a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes to keep me warm, and clean water to drink.

On Thursdays I coach a winter cycling class (it is 16 weeks until spring). Last week it became “winter” here in Saskatoon, even though it officially doesn’t become winter for another month. We have a lot of snow and the temperature has dropped to -30 a few times already. It has been a quick transition for us from fall to winter, but that’s not unusual in these parts.

Over the past few days I have slowly been getting my winter gear out of its hiding places from their various locations in my house:

I found my neck warmer that has a place for my nose and a mesh part where I breathe out of my mouth. My several pairs of long underwear are out of my “Winter clothes” box and in my drawers. I wear at least one pair everyday (they are key to winter survival in Saskatchewan). When I bike, I like to have an extra layer on my thighs so when I’m biking (and if I’m not going anywhere for a long period of time), I wear my tri shorts or bike shorts. The shammy is nice for my butt and the extra layer is nice for my thighs.

I have brought out my winter biking mitts that I absolutely love. They keep my hands toasty warm. For my jacket, I usually wear a t-shirt and a sweater or bunnyhug* under my cycling jacket that I use all year long.

I have yet to figure out a way to keep my toes from getting cold, but I blame that partially on the winter that I delivered newspapers at 5am and froze my feet many many times – it was truly brutal. Hot shots have been recommended to me, but I haven’t tried them yet. Big bulky boots are another option, but I don’t like that one as much because it is not handy for traveling to places. Usually I bike to commute so I prefer to find methods that are convenient for this. I have also heard about a trick where you wear a plastic bag on your feet and use an elastic band around the ankle. Maybe I’ll try that one.

Anyway, I was biking to the coaching session tonight and the snow was coming down around me and I was just reveling in the beauty of life. Winter and falling snow often does that to me – it brings my thoughts to ones of life. The cold reminds me that I am not invincible and that Mother Nature affects us all, whether we like it or not.

The ice that forms on my eye lashes makes me aware of blinking and each breath is punctuated by the cold air. I become aware of each part of my body as it warms up or becomes cold, of which both happens. If my ears are sticking out of my toque even a little bit, they become very cold. I don’t make that mistake much anymore. Even though it is -25 outside, I sweat inside my jacket and even my hands become sweaty inside my super thick mitts (gloves suck, mitts are the way to go). As my toes become colder and colder, I scrunch up and relax my toes over and over again to try to keep the blood flowing to prevent them from freezing.

Winter reminds me that I’m alive. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for each day.

* Bunnyhug: This is a Saskatchewan-specific term for what people in other places call “hoodies.” I love this about us Saskatchewanites.

In Memory

Today I was feeling sad about my friend when I remembered that I had a tree that I was intending to start soon. I planted it in the biodegradable pot that it came in, in memory of my friend Nic who passed away only a few days ago.

The tree is a Heartnut Tree, the tree of love (also known as juglans ailanthifolia var, cordiformis for all of my scientific friends). It is named that because the nut that the tree produces is in the shape of a heart. I will plant it on the day that I bought this house, the house that Nic helped me to acquire. He was a real estate agent like none other. He offered his truck to move, his lawn mower to deal with the weeds in the back, and his insight about the house. I would trust no one else with such a big decision.

His memory will live on forever in the hearts of every person he touched and in the tree of love.

Another Lost Life

The sudden loss of a someone in my life has become a fairly familiar event. However, it haunts my heart every time anyway. There is no worse feeling than the sinking of the heart as the news of a friend/family member/loved one being no longer in his/her physical body. This seems to be even worse when the death was intentional. There leaves so many questions, thoughts, and wonderment.

“What would have caused them to do this?” Is usually the first question. This is the bargaining part of the grieving process. We look for a reason, an explanation, anything to make sense of the act to have made this occur. To hear of someone going to their favorite place on this earth and end their physical presence on this earth is just so terribly confusing. We remember things that they used to say like, “If I was any better, I’d kill myself.” We think about how a phrase like that is thrown around so carelessly and how it has so much more meaning now. We think about our last encounter with that person and whether he/she seemed “normal” (whatever that means). We cry and cry and cry because we will never have another bear hug from this person again or get another heavily accented phone message that only he can leave. We mourn the loss of a great spirit.

Unfortunately, I have mourned this type of loss on more than one occasion. As someone who suffers from mental illness, I can understand, in a way, what the person was thinking. Generally, it is that there is no other option or solution for whatever problem they are struggling with. There is also a sense that the world is better off without the extra suffering of this human being. Essentially, people with mental illness have a different truth than healthy people. Their truth insists that these statements are true and they feel very true at the time.

This loss has reinforced in me to cherish each and every person that has touched my life, whether it be positive or negative, brief or extended. We all die one day and it’s only the lives that we touch that remain after we are gone (I think I heard that somewhere). Life is so short and precious… we must hold it in our arms, rock it gently, and love it like a mother does her newborn child. We must love each and every single moment of every day. This is where my experiences with death has led me. I thank you, Nic, for reminding me. I will remember you forever. May you rest in piece, comrade.