Death in the Spring

By Colin Field.

Photo courtesy Forestwander.com
Photo courtesy Forestwander.com

There’s nothing like a couple of deaths in the spring to throw your whole perspective for a loop. Spring, the great literal bringer of life, isn’t always so. Sometimes lives end in the spring. At the funerals held in great antiseptic halls, tears are shed and the life lived is grieved upon. But while ceremony can help heal the pain of loss, there is something disheartening about the whole thing. It’s the finality of death and realization that life really is a raw deal: it’s too short; there are no answers to the big questions; and funerals are the only trigger to get you contemplating the whole thing. But we leave behind the grief and go upon our way. Soon enough, I found myself swishing down a slope, the grey sky that’s all too prevalent in the mountains blocking out the life-affirming sun. And while I knew I should be having the time of my life, there was something nagging in the back of my mind. Again it was the uncertainty of life. The injustice.

The mystery. As if I were just going through the motions.

There are times in all our lives where we struggle more with these eternal questions—the angst-ridden teen years, the dramatic 30th birthday, retirement, or the news of a terminal disease. It just isn’t fair. But here I was “working,” swishing down a mountain doing something that many can only dream of. I don’t have the right to be depressed about anything. There are people in the world that can’t afford to feed their children. How can anyone go on living in such a godless universe?

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Aspen Snowmass. Photo by Jeremy Swanson.
Aspen Snowmass. Photo by Jeremy Swanson.

As the sun finally broke through the clouds and the overcast day turned to perfect toque-free spring skiing, I found myself stopped below the crew, watching as they carved, slid and jumped down to where I stood. As they laughed and whooped, I thought, “Look at these people. They’re hilarious. So what if the worst is true? What if this really is it? How could I let this unbelievable experience on Mother Earth pass me by? How can anything be as pure-hearted as having fun and playing in the sun in the mountains with gravity and new friends?” A spring day on the slopes is a miracle like no other. The perfect mixture of warmth, sunlight, gravity, snow and nature herself is proof that if the universe is godless, at least the planet isn’t. Heaven could only hope to be as fun.

You can’t spend your life adrift in the sadness of lost friends and loved ones. If anything, they’re the ones that would want you to celebrate life the most. When it comes to life after death, “maybe” is all we’ve got. As I dropped into the corn of a perfectly spaced glade run, I finally relaxed enough to let the beauty of life seep back in. And, in the wake of spring death, I actually began to enjoy myself.

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