(For travel in Asia, go to 11/2008-1/2009)
I was talking with Chris H, who asked what I have planned after Grand Canyon. I told him probably a festival in late spring or early summer, then the Beartooths about 8/15-8/30 and Wind Rivers 9/1-9/15. Part of the Beartooths and Winds will be with other people (Mike H and Jeff, so far) and part alone. Chris expressed concern for my safety when I’m alone in the wilderness, “What if something happens … it’s the suffering you might go through that worries me.” (Mara?) Okay, what if something does happen? All garden photos taken April 2009.
Like anyone else, I’ve gone through various stages in life: the usual (which is not nothing!), then war, then healing, love, being a husband, momentary glimpses of enlightenment that led me up the path of service for 40 years (hospice, refugees, immigrants – life as a quest), working with Leslie, travel, being a father and my/our relationship with David, getting tired, and now this partial retirement, backpacking and through it all, since the war and all the killing, a deep awareness of mortality – thinking about the fragility of life and considering my own dying and being dead (I’m not sure how I can be dead, since when I’m dead there’ll be no “I” “to be” anything at all, except gone). I’ve studied dying and death and I’ve worked in and written on hospice. So I’m no stranger and I really do know that death don’t have no mercy in this land.
I haven’t written about this all that much, but truly, since Leslie said in 2004, “Why don’t you and David and Jeff go to Vietnam?” it’s been as if my life is complete, though it’s been complete for quite awhile. The trip itself brought several things full circle (war, Cambodians, my relationship with Leslie, David), but her saying that, right then, right there was where I went over the line.
And all this with no intimation of imminent death; but who knows except for people with cancer and like situations? I’m just trying to say, whatever comes, comes and I think about these things. As for the grief, I’m sorry. On some level, at some time, knowing these things may put things into perspective and thus be helpful.
I hope to have a long time left, but if I die before I wake, it’s okay. I’m not looking for it and I don’t embrace it, but I know, having faced this thing before, it’ll be like, okay. Kind of funny when you think about it – all this drama, loving, striving, suffering, joy, dreaming, risk, living, and … okay.
What if there is suffering? What if I have a heart attack and take 2 or 3 days to die alone in the wilderness? Far out, that’s what. I’m sure I’ll be saying, “Oh man, not this much suffering!” But when there’s no place else to go, you can bet it all that I’ll surrender and at worst, it will be, “Okay.” More likely, at this stage of life, it’s, Into the Light.
And I bid you good-night (a little further up the road).
Photo above right, from the right: Chuck, my chair, Julius, Jim, Dave, Bryce, Chris - G5 men's Bible study at Bryce's ranch. We sang (or mostly Jim sang) In the Garden, Old Shep, White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation), Crazy, Streets of Laredo, You Win Again, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Your Cheatin' Heart, St. James Infirmary, Amazing Grace (and so it was).