Wednesday, we’re almost there.
Tired, sunburnt and dirty, she sank into a comfortable lawn chair outside of the RV at a beautiful, mountainside campground. At 49 years old, soft lines have appeared around her gentle smile. She props a swollen knee up on another lawn chair as 7 of her 8 children gather around their stationary campfire in the center.
Today is her oldest son’s birthday. 28 years ago, she was experiencing the pain of childbirth.
Today it’s not her aching muscles that pain her, but the pain of grief. For 13 months and 21 days, she has been waking up to the reality that she’ll never get another phone call from her son. She’ll never be able to send him a birthday card. Today she watches his small daughter growing up without knowing her daddy.
She just finished hiking to the top of a mountain with her 7 remaining children. At the very top, they put a homemade plaque to honor a son, husband, father and sibling that they lost tragically. She’s not athletic. Last year she was unable to physically make it to the top. She tried. This year she took on that mountain again with a slow and steady pace and completed her journey to the top.
A couple times everyone stopped to hold each other as they cried, or laughed hysterically as they remembered a funny joke, or silently took in the incredible views from the trail. She limped the final miles of the trail’s descent with a swollen knee, but she never complained. She completed the day’s strenuous hike with the grace of a saint and the courage of a warrior.
That woman is my mother.
The mountain symbolizes many things.
It reminds me of my brother’s life in the way that he overcame countless obstacles as a child and then as a soldier in the Marine Corps. It reminds me of grief in the way that it is always there, no matter how the rest of the world changes. Climbing it reminds me of the process of getting through any challenge — one step at a time.
On the way up to the top of the mountain, other hikers will let you know that “you’re almost there” as they pass you on their way back down, but those words feel like a lie when you round yet another bend in the trail without an end in sight!
Today Wednesday is the halfway point in your climb to the top of this week’s mountain.
We’ll get to the top. Stick with me here.
Last week, I intentionally counted my daily wins and wrote some of them down. It was a difficult week, to be sure, but I found myself handling the intense feelings of pain mixed with joy better than I expected. Just like reaching the summit of a mountain, I had to focus on one step at a time. Sometimes that meant focusing on the next hour or the next task.
My mother gave me a helpful piece of advice when I was a little girl who thought she couldn’t get to the top of a long flight of stairs. She said, “Don’t ever look up. Just look at the step in front of you and step on it. Now look back, see? You’re already higher than you were.”
Don’t think about all the things you need to get done this week or all the things you haven’t gotten done. Look back at the morning you’ve had so far and count your smallest wins and then move to the next step.
Keep your head down and keep counting your wins. Keep moving. Keep taking one step at a time.