THE WEARY TRAVELER
I stumbled across this photo recently and was swept back to this very moment my weary son leaned into my arm – like he so often did. For a moment I forgot about our troubles. Everything seemed normal and dreamlike. I couldn't believe it … it was all a bad dream. That was until I saw the cables coming from Mitchell’s arm … cables that reminded me my dream was in reality my worst nightmare.
Baby Marlie, ever the faithful comforter, sat patiently and lovingly on Mitchell’s lap. I was in the presence of two tender beings that were meant to be together – even if only in passing.
At that moment I couldn't help but think these two little ones were fellow travelers on their sojourn through life: one sick little boy about to die and would travel to that place beyond the hills, and a newborn puppy who had just arrived. They were unaware they were passing each other in opposite directions, but for a moment they gave each other comfort and I thank God for that. Although I experienced the absolute horror of losing my son, I witnessed a tender mercy for which I will be forever grateful.
Since my son’s passing I can’t help but think we are all travelers: some travel the straight and narrow, others take crooked paths, while others get lost in the wilderness. Some go nowhere. There is a saying, “Beware the man or woman who boasts 20 years’ experience, when it is the same year repeated 20 times.” I hope I’m always travelling forward – never backward or in circles. Still among the travelers are those few of whom M. Scott Peck wrote, that take the “road less traveled.” Whatever journey we find ourselves, we are travelers just the same. Sometimes we are weary travelers.
I have discovered on my own journey the work of grief is the hardest work I have ever known. It is emotionally catastrophic and everything is a wasteland. In truth, there are some days night can’t come soon enough. For my pillow beckons me and offers rest and escape from the sorrows that weigh heavy on my mind and heart. There are many nights long after everyone has fallen asleep, I wet my pillow with my tears. Tears for my son. Tears for my broken-hearted wife … and tears for my children who miss their brother with all of their hearts.
As a traveler who stumbles on a broken road I find myself weary and very much in need of rest. I don’t rest to run from my troubles. I rest to re-calibrate. I learned years ago we cannot run from our troubles, at least not for long. At some point, if we don’t work through them, our troubles will multiply. Rest we must. But work we must do, also.
A few years ago I learned baby chicks about to hatch must break through their shell on their own. Any attempt to break the shell for them, trying to make their life easier, is not only counterproductive but often fatal. The very act of their struggle gives them the necessary exercise to build strength so they can survive on the outside. What’s more, the time it takes to break free is also vital for their bodies to adjust to their new life. If done hastily, if they are robbed of their struggle, they often die.
Like those baby chicks who struggle to break through, at some point I will come out on the other side of this stronger. While I might be tempted to pray to God for relief … that He might make things easier, I know better. Instead I pray that He gives me strength equal to the task - for it is in the struggle we are made stronger.
I am a weary traveler on a broken road. I don’t feel strong. I often collapse. But like those baby chicks that are destined for a life on the other side of struggle, I will fight on. God willing, I will fight on.