A Long, Winding Road
This will be the final post for the Golden Lone Star blog. There may be other projects in the future, but it seems like the right time to end this part of the journey. Thank you for coming along.
Today marks the second anniversary of Simon’s passing. Two years later, there are still moments when it’s unbelievable that he’s gone. Two years later, there is still anger and profound sadness. Two years later, there are still fractured relationships, slowly beginning to heal. Two years later, the kids still ask heart wrenching questions and don’t quite understand that he’s not coming back. Two years later, there is a little more hope and a little more laughter than each day before. Two years later, I still strongly believe in God and His providence yet in the same breath, I don’t understand why some people live 100 years and other only 33 years.
We spent half of July in Ireland for a pilgrimage. Jason has led students on summer trips of all kinds for 16 years; I had the privilege of attending to experience the clarity that pilgrimage provides. Our trip included retreating in a monastery, discovering ancient ruins, hiking in secluded locations, and exploring a remote island. Jason and I also had a few days to ourselves and made a point to visit the places Simon and I visited during a 2008 Ireland trip. The whole experience was healing and cathartic.
The most prominent time of reflection was hiking up to the Cliffs of Moher. I’m not a hiker. The steep four mile trek along cliff edges in relentless wind and rain was mildly challenging for our well-traveled group but for this novice, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Our driver delivered us to the start point then drove off to meet us at the Visitor Center. The only option was to move forward or be alone in the middle of nowhere. I looked ahead. It was a long, winding road. I couldn’t see the end. I couldn’t see the upcoming obstacles or the hidden beauty. We walked and walked and walked in silence, with the ocean on the right, hills on the left, and the occasional well-cared-for livestock to assure us that there would eventually be human contact again.
Halfway through, I looked back. Behind me was a long, winding road. The same daunting road that had been stretching ahead was now falling behind me. We continued in pouring rain for hours. The discomfort was overshadowed by the emerging views of the Cliffs, each more spectacular than the last. I was beginning to understand why we took the unconventional route instead of just driving to the Visitor Center with the rest of the tourists. In the final push, we each had to navigate a narrow staircase in violent wind just yards from the face of the Cliffs. I clung to the rickety handrail to keep from being blown over. For a split second, I didn’t know if I could make it to the end. Then, as quickly as the fear overtook me, we conquered. The throngs of tourists were the signal that we had made it to our destination.
That hike became a metaphor for the past two years. When the doctor sat with us to deliver Simon’s devastating diagnosis, I became overwhelmed at the long, winding road we faced. How could I put one foot in front of the other and move forward? I had never faced anything like this. Some days, the victory would simply be getting out of bed. A huge victory was being able to love again. A fellow widow told me that grief is a journey no one can take for you. Others will stand by you, supporting you along the way, but it is yours alone. I pushed my body and mind to the limit these past two years. I look at the long, winding road behind me and see how far I’ve come. The person I am today is stronger, more intentional, and more capable than the person from two years ago.
One more revelation that was analogous to this grief journey happened near the end of the pilgrimage. We were staying on the small island of Inis Óirr and spent one afternoon hiking the six mile circumference of the island. The majority of the island is rocks, including smooth stone tide pools near the ocean, jagged rocks along the island interior, and countless rows of mysterious manmade stone walls that some would argue should be added to list of World Wonders. I would agree; it’s a sight to behold. Hours in to the hike, we paused for a time of quiet reflection. I sat on a rock (obviously) and saw an unlikely combination at my feet. A thriving, flowering plant was growing out of the rock pile. Sure, there could have been rich soil, access to ample sunlight, and flowing fresh water somewhere deep under those rocks near the ocean’s edge, but it seemed improbable. Yet, there it was. Something life-giving was growing from something barren. God reminded me clearly at that moment that he can do the impossible. He can heal what’s broken. He can bestow beauty instead of ashes. In the darkest, most desolate place, there can be light, growth, and wonder.
Again, thank you for coming along on this journey. Thank you for keeping Simon’s memory alive for the sake of his wife and children. My prayer for each of you is to love anyway. There may be risk. There may be hurt. It’s worth it. Love is worth it.