Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. My feet rhythmically crush the crystals of ice on the forest floor as crimson sunlight reflects from their intricate architecture. I lift my face towards the mist that is swirling from the depths of the granite canyon, and notice a rainbow emanating within it. The thunderous rush of a stunning waterfall below vibrates inside my chest, and I can see through the emerald water to the very bottom. I take a deep breath of the crisp, tangy forest air. The phenomenal wonders of this place seep into my thoughts. How precisely atoms are added to a growing ice crystal lattice. How rays of golden sunshine are dispersed into the spectrum of wavelengths by the prism of mist to paint the splash of colour our eyes can pick up. How gravity produces such a spectacular waterfall. How geologic processes carved this bottomless canyon. And even how all elements combined in such a fashion to cause a river of life to develop. Yet surrounded by endless beauty, my heart is drowning with an immense sorrow.
I once knew a beautiful person. Sheena was part of my competitive Irish Dancing team, and we travelled to many competitions throughout North America. Tall, lanky, brunette, she was often partnered with me. After finally medalling at the North American Championships in Ottawa, she moved to Australia to begin a new life that would lead her to graduating with honours and becoming a nurse. She taught in Cambodia for a year, and was nominated as an executive of a non-profit organization that reduces health inequalities in rural and indigenous Australia and around the globe. She then pursued her Master’s degree in speech pathology. On the side, she was scouted to become a model and actress. More importantly than her many accomplishments, I remember her as a wonderful friend and genuinely nice person.
Recently, she suddenly entered my mind. I’m considering a trip to Australia in the spring, and was hoping to reconnect with her. Though we hadn’t been in touch for a long while, I had this strange feeling that I should contact her, and couldn’t get her out of my mind. Later, I received the news that around the same time, she was leaving her final exam for her Master’s degree, and was hit by a car mere steps away from her vehicle. She passed away at the scene.
Whether my feeling was coincidence, or whether there was something more to it, I will never know for certain. I like to think that her big heart and spirit filled every corner of our Earth as she passed, and that her short but wondrous presence on Earth will continue to paint rainbows in the hearts of many.
Several years ago, I myself was hit while bicycling. The aftermath involved serious injuries that tore from me all of my passions, career paths, and even social networks, including Irish Dancing. Years of physical and emotional recovery ensued. In the midst of the darkest times in my recovery, I felt completely hopeless although intellectually I knew that it could easily have been much worse. I was the lucky one. Eventually I reached a point where I could be grateful enough for everything I did still have to realize the beauty that exists in our world. And occasionally, during the fleeting times that I had a glimpse into my pre-accident life, the beauty of life was vividly sharpened.
This unexpected tragedy is a harsh reminder that life is too short to be taken for granted and to spend it in sorrow. Though one life is over, it continues for everyone left behind, including the driver of the car. A life forever wracked with guilt, this life will likely also face seemingly unbearable challenges in the coming years. It may never be in the hearts of those who loved Sheena to forgive such a devastating mistake, but the truth is it can happen to any one of us. More than ever before, I am determined to make the most of my time and enjoy life fully in the wonders and the sorrows, and also to make an effort to bring happiness to others. Life is but a fleeting falling star. As the kids these days say, YOLO! Does that mean I won’t feel sad? Of course not. There exists an eternal and infinite sadness in my heart. But it is through this very sadness that the beauty and preciousness of life shines through even more clearly.
It is my hope that through these words, anyone who is navigating through loss may find solace in the idea that the very loss has the potential to highlight the wonders of life both in the cherished memories, and in the time yet to come.
As I’m standing here, feeling the waterfall of tears plunging through the granite canyon, the mist off the water rises once more. Catching the fluid rays of shimmering light it dances in the breeze before being carried away. Is it just my imagination, or did I catch a brief glimpse of the sparkling rainbow of an Irish Dancing angel?