We left the sunny wetlands behind, as the current on the Ichetucknee river pushed us forward into a dark tunnel of cypress trees. They stretched upwards, so tall they seemed to join each other at their tips, blotting out the winter sky. Bright orange foliage poked between the bleached white trunks. Gnarled stumps jutted from the rich soil. Nature’s art, worn smooth from years of river flooding. Turtles perched on half-submerged logs, stretching their legs out in a ‘plank’ pose. And schools of fish dashed beneath our kayaks, their bodies silvery flashes over the pools of turquoise on the limestone riverbed. It was us and the river. The only sounds were the swish of our paddles stirring the water and the birds in the trees.
My mom just died by my side a couple of weeks ago. My friend Jae told me that the stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Letting Go and Acceptance and they don’t necessarily go in that order. I think I ran through them all- twice (maybe more) and sometimes all at once. My mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer over two years ago and chose the chemotherapy route. She was far braver than I.