The last place I expected to learn a big life lesson was in the quart of strawberries on my counter.

It’s funny how we associate things–snow with Christmas, baseball with summer nights. Here in Virginia Beach, the surest sign that Spring is in full bloom are the strawberries. There are pick-your-own patches dotting the city and as many farmer’s markets and produce stands as you could want. There’s even a strawberry festival.

Sweet, local strawberries

The sweet, ripe berries of this area remind me of the first Spring after we got married. We were living in Sandbridge, and every day on my way home from work I passed one of the best produce stands in the region. I bought quart after quart of those succulent berries. Every morning I would take Ginger for a long walk on the beach and come home to a big bowl of nutritious cereal with fresh strawberries–bursts of flavor every morning.

Those days were wonderful in so many ways. The cold of winter had given way to the freshness of Spring. Things weren’t perfect, but life was good. Husband and I had our whole lives ahead of us, our whole marriage to shape and nurture.

This year, I began craving those sweet strawberry-filled bowls of cereal. I think, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking that if I could just get my hands on the strawberries, life might hold such sweetness once more.

Fresh strawberries

And I did get my strawberries. But though they may be delicious, the feeling that everything is right with the world just didn’t return. And I think that is what I truly wanted–the reassurance, the happiness, the peace, the hope. But really, strawberries can’t bring that feeling back. The fact is, I am no longer the person that I was when I felt those things.

It’s a little like my experiences witnessing extreme poverty first-hand. I can’t go back an unsee what I have seen. I cannot unknow what I know. And after losing my brother-in-law last fall, I cannot unfeel the aching loss. I cannot return to ignorance or naivete. I cannot change the experience. I will never be the person I was before.

I know it will get better. Because we are better today than we were three months ago. That is proof that while the loss remains, life continues and God is faithful. There are new hopes today, new sources of happiness, but it will never be like it was before. No matter how many strawberries I eat.

And I think that is yet one more thing I must grieve.

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