The smell instantly transports me.
It’s January 2008. Ryan and I booked a last minute ticket to ski during Presidents weekend in Tahoe. We are amazed at our timing – it snowed three feet overnight the second night there. He wears his red Cloudveil coat and I spot him easily as I chase him down the slopes. He was always ahead.
He loved that coat. It was such a good color on him. It brought out his red hair, at least his facial hair as his head didn’t have much hair left on it. He kept that part short. But in the winter he would grow his beard out and it was red, red, red. Just like his coat.
That first day I found out he died I went to our cabin. He had been there less than 30 hours before. His red coat hung from a wire hanger next to the bed. I checked the pockets and found a bottle cap folded in half. And I left it hanging, with the bottle cap tucked in the pocket for safe keeping.
Years later, I asked a friend to stop by the cabin and mail me its contents: the red coat, a wooden sculpture, a small jar of his ashes, a journal, a Leatherman and two wool blankets. I sold our little patch of land in Mazama because now that I live in Colorado, it just doesn’t make sense to keep it. We were supposed to grow old and raise children on that land, together. And now that he’s gone it just didn’t feel right.
This morning a UPS driver dropped the box off. It smelled of must, even on the outside and thousands of miles away. I had to build up courage to open it. I knew what was inside, but I wasn’t prepared for the impact it would have.
“This is it. This is what’s left,” I thought to myself as I used scissors to cut the exterior tape.
I couldn’t choke back the tears. I closed my eyes as I brought the coat up to my nose, inhaling the scent. With the weight of the jar in my right hand, I sat down and marveled at the last physical connection I have to a life that seems so long ago, so distant.
Oh to have known love. Oh to have experienced loss.
Oh to risk loving again.