Retreat on the Frio

March 23, 2012

Our family spent the week after Christmas in cabins on the banks of the Frio River, surrounded by cliffs and caves, sequestered away from the rest of our busy lives.  We surrendered our cell phones, TVs, internet, and yes, even our Xbox.  I spent a lot of time sitting by the river studying it’s strength and analyzing it’s ability to cut through solid rock, making even the jagged edges smooth.  The boys played football with Kyle and we all hiked up cliffs, investigated caves and walked along the river.

We thought retreating as a family would be a cool way to kick off the new year. 2011 was a tough one, beginning in February when my mom was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. She lost her battle 4 months later and has gone on to a much better place. My mom was beautiful and energetic and I never dreamed she would be gone before I turned 40.  Watching her suffer and die has changed me forever.  I don’t think I am capable of seeing life the same as I used to see it, and grieving her loss has been hard on my family and me.

Grief reminds me of the river, powerful and relentless.  She flows with such force that even the most ridged of rocks are worn smooth by her tenacity. I’ve fought her presence in my life, only to realize that my efforts were futile, leaving me exhausted and nearly drowning at times.  Surrender leaves me feeling helpless and alone, vulnerable and scared, but still alive and still moving.

Most of us would probably say we wish we could be free of pain and suffering.  That it would be nice if there were no cancer, financial stresses, or children with disabilities. But without the tremendous force and pressure of the river, we wouldn’t have the beauty. We don’t want to hurt and we don’t want to see those we love hurting.  But a pain-free life is not what builds our character; it’s not what smoothes the rough edges of our hearts.  Some days I completely understand that. Some days I try to swim upstream. Some days I refuse to look in the direction of the force that’s shaping me. But today, right now, as seen in the photo, I am grateful.