In our front window is a wooden case with two shelves and two grow lights: Theresa’s spring rig. One tray is covered in the adorable shoots of baby plants, some peppers, mostly tomatoes, more than we’ll know what to do with and fewer than we’ll want.

Our forsythia are in full bloom.

The spicebush are creating yellow-green pointillist patterns within the still-skeletal woods.

It’s time for our annual debate about which size farm share to buy, an estimate based in part on how much T thinks she’ll grow and how often we’ll want to enjoy the community of the farmers market.

And while T can happily eat ice cream all year, I had my first scoops of the season last week after we took a beautiful hike by the Roanoke River: dark chocolate cayenne and orange cardamom piled together in a waffle cone. The scooper was skeptical and while it wasn’t the combo for everyone, I was delighted by my choice.

I’m grateful to live in a part of the world that has proper seasons, times to witness the greater cycles of life in the microcosms of a handful of months at a time and, particularly, these times of shifting from one season to another.

During the winter, when the trees and the deer alike change their coats in homage to the monochromatic landscape, we are reminded that all lives end, that all cycles continue (however changed) and that both are true at the same time.

Now, we are reminded to live while we are here, knowing the bright greens of the early Spring are quick to deepen, that the yellow-studded coif of the forsythia will soon only hint at their kinship to school buses.


Last month, a dear friend sent me a text:

“Something just struck me. I know you get a lot of release and ‘therapy’ from writing and you’re going through a lot with my situation. I’m not sure if you’ve written about it anywhere or not but I wanted to tell you it’s okay if you do…”

At the time I demurred: I have lots of ways of processing, I don’t need that one.

She was insistent, though, and so I thought on it and eventually started writing this and immediately felt all of my emotions moving and I wanted to stop and I thought, “Damnit, she was right again.”

Being more right about me than I’ve been about myself has long been a role she’s played in my life.

Or, to paraphrase Arne Garborg, if love is singing the song of someone’s heart back to them when they’ve forgotten it, she’s been singing mine to me since high school.

And it is just like her, exactly like her, to see through the sharp-edged fog of stage 4 cancer and insist that I care for myself.


Loving someone who is dying is terribly inconvenient.

I know I’m not supposed to admit that.

I know I’m supposed to say things like: This terrible thing has set straight all of my priorities.

And: She’s such a fighter!

And though there’s truth to both of those, it’s also true that it – the dying and the loving someone who is dying – is terribly inconvenient…

…that even as cancer is overtaking her body, she continues to work as much as she can because health insurance doesn’t magically appear when your 46-year-old body is too exhausted for the slog of a job…

…that my clients have kindly and patiently rescheduled sessions when cancer has decided it’s time for me to be more present, to attend unexpected doctor’s appointments and, this week, take a turn ensuring she gets up the stairs safely and has what food she can tolerate…

…that I want her to navigate this final phase of her life like I want her to, not like she is, not with fight and optimism but with acceptance and clear vision, even while I do everything I can to support her in her optimistic fight.


Last week, I read a moving reflection by Sarah Wildman on the first year without her daughter, in which she wrote,

“How are you?” each of them asked, as people often do. “Aquí estoy,” I said, as I have come to say. I’m here.

That keeps running through my mind: I am here. And: Here I am. So similar but one an observation, the other a discovery.

I am here, among the new growth and still-dormant trees.

Here I am, in the midst of the life cycle in its fullness.


Just as spring doesn’t burst forth all at once but in a progression – daffodils and crocuses, redbud and ornamental pear trees as some of the early risers – our emotions tend to be more complex than on/off…



We’re capable of such complexity.

We’re made of such complexity.

And so even in this season of grief when tears come more quickly than usual, I find they do so not just in waves of sadness but also waves of awe…

…of the caring presence of Theresa and friends and family…

…of stories of human collaboration and acts of service……

…of the courageous explorations of those I get to coach.

It’s all here, friend. All of life. All around us.

Our job – our incredibly simple, incredibly difficult opportunity – is to embrace as much of it with as much wholeheartedness as possible.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

The only thing missing from The Bigger Badder Crew is you. Join here.

You have Successfully Subscribed!