Today, I am thankful for Florida weather.

Granted, it almost reached the freezing point last night. The forecast says it will freeze tonight. But! that’s only overnight. During the day, the sun will make the day feel warmer, even when the air temperatures are low. And these temperatures will be gone by the end of the week. Freezing temperatures don’t last long down this way. Just long enough to give everyone a real taste of winter. Then it goes back to “normal” temperatures, not too cold and not too hot. And there’s always plenty of sunshine.

The hardest thing about living in Japan was, for me, the weather. When I arrived at Narita airport, I’d lived in Florida for 15 years. I hadn’t seen snow in ten. I had a wool coat that I bought with my aunt in Indiana, because I couldn’t find one heavy enough in Florida. For the first package my mother sent me, I asked her to include a scarf and gloves. That first winter in Isesaki, I had never been so cold in my life.

Then I moved to Moriya, and it snowed. A lot. Well, not a lot for people who are used to snow, but for me, it was a lot. I slept with five blankets covering me. Getting out of bed in the morning was a struggle.

Worst of all, the light disappeared. Perhaps that is what I’m most thankful for, here in Florida. Sunshine. Winter sunlight in Moriya was weak, filtered through gray skies and ponderous clouds. Winter was the only thing I didn’t like about the city. I needed the light. For the first three months of the year, I suffered terribly from the “winter blues.” Oversleeping, reluctance to get out of bed in the morning, carb cravings, and periodical depression were all a part of my life during the winter months in Japan. Even my unrelenting love for the country and for Moriya could not counteract the effects of the winter weather. Each year, I waited impatiently for spring – which came belatedly compared to Florida – to make its return and bring light to me again.

This year, I worry about how the weather is going to affect me. Three months after Lauren’s death, I still feel disjointed and unstable at times. I’m still prone to fits of crying. Still going through deep grieving. I need the sunlight. I need the warmer temperatures. Even now, with the outside temperature sitting at ten degrees above freezing (Fahrenheit!), I’m comfortable. I look out the window, and the sunshine is pouring down from a clear sky as blue as blue can be.

This is why I love Florida weather. Even in the depth of winter, there  is still light. Bright, warm sunlight. I need that this year. I need to be able to find the light and know that I will come out of this darkness. I need Florida this year. As much as I need to mourn my daughter, I fear being drawn too deep into my grief, too far down, where there is no light or hope. Only despair. While there are plenty of people willing to pull me back up and to keep from going too far down, I need the light to guide me back. I need the sun on my face, the promise that winter will not last forever. I need to know that there is still hope in life.