Two versions of the path, but somehow the same. Look down to the left in the Blue Lake mountain photo. Is that a tiny path? And what would it take to get there? On the right, is the light on a path? Or merely where the sun is shining? Neither path is clear, much like the paths in our lives, even when we think we know what's ahead.
Two recent and ongoing losses experienced by dear friends embody that not knowing. Yesterday I received a note from a priest friend in his 90s who recently lost his wife of more than 60 years. He said "You knew hard times and you survived and so will I." He knows survival and counts on his faith, but doesn't know what it looks like or how he will move through his days without her.
I awakened Tuesday morning to find an e-mail written about 1:45 am titled "Lynnette had a stroke tonight." Nothing had prepared for that. Recovering well from knee surgery, we had visited by phone on Sunday. She was upbeat, getting stronger and having less pain. She had no stroke markers, and her stroke was a bleed so not at all related to the knee surgery as her doctor husband first surmised. The reason--sometimes as we age the artery thinning breaks. No way to predict when or for whom that might occur. My friend is a couple of years younger than me--not old as we think of it today. They had had, as we all should, the conversation about how they would want to live -- or not -- in the event of a catastrophic stroke. Lynnette did not want to live with years of rehab, with mental and physical defects that drastically limited her lifestyle. Her husband moved immediately to implement those wishes. She was in the ER within minutes of the stroke, but he followed her wishes and denied that immediate treatment that might guarantee the years of rehab. Today she will be moved to Hospice for her few remaining days or weeks.
Since there is no way to predict what the path ahead holds, whether there are years, months or days remaining on this planet, I am struck with how often little things get in the way of savoring the moments. The path isn't clear, I complain. Why don't I know exactly why I needed to make this move at this time? I can see that I might not have had the energy a few years later, but then I might have been able to hire more help. Perhaps. Maybe not.
As I sit here in my 17th floor apartment with Nashville's tall buildings in view out my windows and a clear sky belying the stormy night that preceded this morning, I wonder. I would usually be at my son and daughter-in-laws or flying in from Colorado today. But then, were I still in Colorado when the e-mail came, would I have cancelled my holiday plans and stayed to support my friends?
Our Christmas holidays always include a birthday celebration for my younger grandson here, and those plans were changed several ways when his older brother needed to stay on his job in Florida. After a busy weekend, dinner for Mike, Margaret and friend Tiffy on Monday evening, a walk with Will on his birthday afternoon since he wasn't here in time for Monday's dinner, his birthday dinner and our family's movie outing afterward--StarWars this time (!), yesterday was open, as is today. Yesterday I grieved, walked in rain that spit and stopped and spit again, and was fortunate to have wonderful telephone visits with two friends who walked so many mountain (emotional and spiritual as well as physical) paths with me. One was with me last summer on the hike to and past Blue Lake where the mountain photo was taken, the other with us on earlier hikes to that lake. This year, one is in her lovely mountain townhouse alone, the other walking California's beaches and I am in this still sometimes strange high-rise apartment in Nashville! A few years ago, we wouldn't have predicted this physical separation.
The St. John's hiking group, pictured above, heading down from the Butler Gulch meadow, one of my favorite spots!
I've written a lot about getting settled, finding paths, and being here. I've written less about leaving behind my beloved mountains, friends and what will likely always be my church and heart home. It hasn't been easy, in fact, harder than I expected when I knew it wouldn't be easy.
Yes, that's my RMNP water bottle on a bridge in Radnor Lake Nature Preserve in Nashville!
The most encouraging happening, other than the dedication of Mike and Margaret to getting together with me regularly, was connecting with a small group of like-minded folks with whom I shared a retreat at the Sister of Loretto Abbey the 2nd week of this month. I will write more about that soon. Finding a few soul friends to go with a few long-timers is encouraging. Below is the sunrise over a lake at the Abbey.
Most important is looking each day for small things for which to be grateful, seeing wonder in faces and spaces, savoring each bite of food, appreciating each step, each kind voice, loving with a bigger heart, realizing that all is a gift. Have a blessed Christmas season.
Peace and love