A lesson on living from a good friend and snowman snow

We had just buried my husband Jim in mid-December 2010, and I didn’t want to bother with a Christmas tree. My Dad wouldn’t hear of it and tramped through his woods behind his house, finding me a beautiful tree. Dad and Mom helped me put it in its stand and secure it in my tree’s usual place.

All of my Christmas ornaments were special ones I couldn’t seem to face, so I bought some inexpensive expendable ornaments just for that year, and family tradition was maintained.

We stumbled through Christmas. My stepdaughter, niece and I, who usually celebrated Christmas together with my husband, tried to keep it a positive experience, but I barely remember it.

My one clear memory of that day is my stepdaughter giving me a gift from my dogs, which is something her father did each year — an action that warmed my heart even as it let loose the tears I had been holding back.

We survived the day.

After the Christmas holiday, my stepdaughter went back to work and her life. My niece, who was staying with me during her college break, was working. It was New Year’s Day 2011. I had the holiday off and we had just had a nice, new snow.

My phone rang, and it was my good friend Denyse who, among other things, had helped me with the dogs through Jim’s visiting hours and funeral process; and who called me nearly daily to make sure I was putting one foot in front of the other — and eating.

As with any good Maine conversation in January, the topic turned to the weather and the most recent snow. One of us mentioned how at least it was good snowman snow, and Denyse exclaimed, “I will be right over!!!!!”

And she was.

We spent the rest of the day playing in the snow, each building a snowman. Mine was a dog sitting on its haunches, and hers was actually a snowwoman. We used food coloring to dress up our creations. The snowmen faced an access road to a business, so we managed to entertain others too.

My niece Jessica took this photo for us after our creations were complete. My friend Denyse is on the right.

My niece Jessica took this photo of my friend Denyse (right) and me after our creations were completed.

We took photos to capture some of the day’s memories, and played with the dogs in the snow after finishing our creations. In typical boy-dog fashion, Bullet watered the dog snowman.

We were laughing and playing like children, complete with wet mittens, rosy cheeks and runny noses, when my niece came home from work. The look on her face was priceless — it was like she questioned the health status of my mind. My actions clearly did not fit the matriarchal image she had of me.

My dog snowman had sumac legs.

My dog snowman had sumac legs and “paws.”

Tired, wet, and thirsty, we finally trudged into the house and drank hot tea, relived our afternoon’s funnier moments, and eventually parted ways. My friend had to go make supper for her husband.

When I think back to that dark time, the memory of frolicking in the snow like a child shines as a bright spot in those black days. The wound of my husband’s death was still open, raw and new, but that afternoon was an affirmation I needed. Denyse’s actions subtly told me it was okay to keep living and to experience joy again, even if Jim wasn’t there to share it with me.

It was, in a word, freeing.


Denyse's creation was undoubtedly a snowwoman, complete with sumac arms and weed hair.

Denyse’s creation was undoubtedly a snowwoman, complete with sumac arms and weed hair.

Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.