Faithful readers may have been wondering why my posts have dropped off the past week or so. Truth is my mother is dying in hospice and I have been visiting with her during her last days. This is a season of passing.
One of the lessons I have learned from backpacking the Appalachian Trail is that it offers more than a challenging trail to walk. It offers a passageway to heal the hurts of life.
Many come to the trail for fun and adventure. Many also come to deal with the disappointment and losses life brings. A recent book entitled “Hiking Through” tells one man’s story of hiking the A.T. after the loss of his wife. Walking the trail, he found healing there. Job losses, divorce, disillusionment with life, lack of direction and clarity, personal pains of all kinds are processed and healed by hiking the Appalachian Trail. I cannot say why this is so with clarity. I know only what happened to me:
I processed personal loneliness there. I dealt with lack of career direction there. I walked off countless hours of thoughts about life and the meaning of if until I stood at the end of the trail hollowed out like a scoured vessel ready to be filled with something new. That filling – that refreshing – came not many months later, and led to a new life filled with purpose, compass-sharp direction, and rewarding relationships. A new me was uncovered in many ways which still unfold to this day. I learned to accept loss and grief of all kinds with an open heart and arms. I learned that even amid staggering grief I can uncover gratitude so deep words cannot express it. Joy and sadness can live beside each other – in my heart – and hope has become a sure foundation.
At Christmas, regardless of your personal faith and belief, we are reminded of a new and significant birth. So even while human weakness and death are all around us, there is hope reflected to us by this story of miraculous life. I challenge each of you to join with me during this season, to open your heart to love and hope, whether you are struggling with a personal loss such as mine, or the national and global tragedy which happened in Connecticut. We are all frail. The Appalachian Trail teaches that lesson, too. But it’s also a safe container to test limits and release grief. In doing this we, each of us, know we are alive. And that’s reason for gratitude as well as resolve!
May your trails teach you. And may rock-solid peace console you during your own season of passing!