I like to believe, in an optimistic kind of way, that I’ve got a busy life ahead of me until I’m ninety years of age! After that I’ll start to slow down a bit, but in the meantime, the world is a wonderful place to be and I’ve hit the half-way mark this week. It means I’ve been preparing for this next half for forty-five years. Wow, I thought, that’s an enormous investment of time.
So this is an opportune time to begin to make notes here, along the way, to share this journey with others who are also walking. In this photo my son and I are on our way up to Berg Lake at Mount Robson. I’d been along this trail many times, years before, but it was the first time with my son. There’s something wonderful about charting a course and setting out together, whether it’s a new path or one you’ve walked before. I’m hopeful this blog – a space for the words we share, reflections about where we’re going and what we’ve learned – will capture those moments as we walk. We can travel together this way, even though we might be on different journeys. And when you can, I hope you’ll share your journey with me – in the comment section below.
My father is seventy-seven years old. This Christmas we learned that it would be his last. Insurmountable cancer. Some nights during the holidays I spent with him, he’d wake me up in the middle of the night just to sit together in the dark, the little Christmas tree glowing silently in the corner.
One night he said to me: “What’s your most memorable moment?” he asked. “Like in your whole life?”
I thought for a minute but couldn’t summon my thoughts to any coherent order at 2:00 am. “I don’t know,” I said. “What about you?”
Before he answered he spent a long time explaining. Not to get him wrong, he assured me, there were lots of moments being a father that were wonderful, but at the end of his life the stories that leapt up to be told, demanding a hearing after all these years, were moments from when he was a young boy, long before he was a grown-up:
“I remember one day, sitting on a huge rock. I’d been hunting partridge for dinner, because there wasn’t anything else for us to eat. It was up to me.” He was ten years old. His family was poor. His dad drank all the money they had, which wasn’t much. He grew up believing he was nothing, he said. Literally nothing.
But that day on the rock he looked out over the valley and thought, “I wonder what this life will have for me.” I wonder what this life will have for me.
He remembered that thought so clearly that night we sat in the dark, as if it still echoed in his mind. And looking back over his life, as if he could stand up and point far across some valley all the way back to that rock where he’d sat as a ten year old boy, he let himself tear up a little, deeply grateful and surprised at all his life had been, as if he was somehow showing that ten year old boy that he was not nothing and that life had been good.
And so this is my plan, too. At the end of my life, when I start to slow down a little, I want to be able to point back across the valley and see it all. I want to be grateful and humble when I look back. Like my father.
So making notes here, in this space, is a good beginning as I set out on the next leg of this journey. I wonder what this life will have for me.
Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark, is better than walking alone in the light.”
I invite you to join me, even if the climb is steep.