Every spring, it happens the same way.
As Dave and I walk our dog Edmund around the block in the morning, we spot the signs and pause. The bulbs are coming up. The white crocus that looked to be barely budding yesterday is in full bloom today.
Sometimes, when spring comes early like this, it makes me feel a little panicked. I worry that it will snow, and all this hope will be cut short, will prove premature. I want to ask the fat robin in my yard, “Are you sure? Is it safe?”
A few days ago, for no good reason, a friend brought me some unopened daffodils. They looked like nothing, plain and green. I cut the stems and put them in water in a pretty copper pitcher on the island in my kitchen.
I knew what would happen. But that didn’t lessen the shock the next morning when I stumbled downstairs half-asleep and intent on nothing but coffee and—Bam! Yellow glory. So bold and bright it took my breath.
Spring came early in 2007, too.
But first, there was the winter of 2006. In November, Dave and I moved from Oregon to Colorado Springs. Moving always sucks, I knew. But I didn’t know that the following six months would be the darkest of my life.
That winter, my alcoholism took me to new lows. I drank to blackout almost every night. Often, I jotted notes while drinking so that in the morning, they could help me pretend to Dave that I remembered some of what I’d done or said the previous evening.
Near the end, during March of 2007, I woke up in the guest room a lot. I would have no memory of how I got there. Obviously, my husband and I must have had another “dumb drunk Heather fight,” as Dave had come to call them.
I would stumble into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror, at my puffy face, swollen eyes, my smashed hair, and my heart would fill with hate. Until the end I held onto the hope that I could hate myself into changing.
Now, every year as April nears, I ache. Some mornings, I can’t decide if my heart hurts—or if I’m mistaking stabs of joy for pain. I feel like I could cry over the blue of the sky. I feel fragile, tenuous, whip-lashed by hope.
These are anniversary feelings, I know. Deep in my soul, I’m remembering a collision that happened seven years ago. On April 4, 2007, the darkest days of my life smashed head-on into my brightest.
Like the daffodils in my kitchen.
Like spring come early.
This was the day I first walked into a treatment center to get help for my alcoholism. But I almost didn’t make it into the building. For a long time, I sat in my car in the parking lot having panic attacks.
Maybe that’s why I feel this funny ache in my chest every spring when the anniversary of that day draws near. It’s scary to remember how close I came to turning back—to losing my marriage and maybe my life, to missing the miracle.
When you lay death and life right next to each other like that, the way spring does, you see it more clearly: how violent God’s love is, how risky his timing, and how close on the heels of despair hope starts rising.
And always this ache until Easter.
*If this post seems familiar, you’ve been with me a while. It first ran in March of 2012. This weekend, I was feeling the ache again… and so I’m reprising it.