When we were kids, my cousin Shane and I bid on a Billy Goat at the Cedar City Livestock Auction. It is a very vague and distant memory. In fact, I don’t even know the name of the gentlemen who bought the goat for us. But boy were we proud goat owners. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Billy Goat was meant to be a pet. I think farm life was more his style. So, the day our goat bit a neighbor was our last day as goat owners.
There is something special about cousins. They are your “built in” friends. That is what Shane and I were. We spent many hours on Grandpa’s farm in Beaver chasing cows, making forts, and watching the cattle be branded. I love those cold, windy memories. Like most farms in the 80’s Grandpa’s was hit hard and the farm was lost and the Hofheins Clan gathered less and less often. Shane and I drifted apart. But our connection was never lost.
Last May, I received a text sharing news Shane had passed way. He was forty-seven years old. My heart took a gut punch in that instant. I could not recall the last time I had spoken to him. I think it was my wedding day in 1995. Regret grew in me and loss found its way into my heart.
Unfortunately, the loss of Shane was just the beginning. Death’s hunt had just begun. Loss came to be synonymous with living. I watched my girlfriends bury their husbands, my husband’s friends bury their wives, and my students bury their parents; I witnessed elderly neighbors say good bye to their spouses. Tragedy dug its claws into our Southern Utah Community. In utter innocence, our twelve-year-old son asked, “Why are so many people dying?” I did not have an answer.
Jamie Anderson, author of Doctor Who said, “grief is love with no place to go.” There is so much grief because there was so much love. This year I resolve to gather. Even with COVID-19 restrictions, I will be resolute in my wanderings. I will seek life and memories. I will treasure joy and laughter and I will wrap my arms around those who have experienced loss first hand. Maybe together we can shoulder the grief and still the sadness.