I took this picture in Colorado last October after scaling the first thousand feet or so of this ’14-er.’ (For the uninitiated, a mountain whose summit is higher than 14,000 feet above sea level.)
The truth of the matter is, a bunch of us were waiting to rappel from a cliff about 500 feet below this photo, and I grew impatient with waiting in line. Looking up at this outlook, I decided to just scoot up, look at the view, and be back before the interminable queue reached its end. I let another lady take my harness and helmet and turned to face the mountain.
Huffing and puffing like – well, like an out-of-shape, middle-aged lady, who, finding herself at 8,000 feet, decides to claw her way up another 1,000- I dragged myself upward, stopping every few feet to gulp large breaths of the thin air. And to let my racing heart calm down.
The view was definitely worth it.
I looked up at the treeline, and the empty alpine rocks above, already touched with early snow and thought, “I could totally make it up there if I had a full day to do it.” Looking up the valley as if it were a three-dimensional ‘Google Earth,” I plotted the way I would go. This trail to that road, a stiff pull up the rocks, and voila! Without hassle, without lots of planning – the summit of a 14-er!
All the way down to the rappel house, and from there down the cliff, I amused myself with the thought that this ’14-er’ mountain wasn’t so tough, even if I had started at 8,000 feet and was puffing like Gandalf on a pipe in front of the fire.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a full-day available to hike. I gazed condescendingly at the mountain from the window as the bus hauled us back to civilization.
About three miles away from the camp, the shape of the summit began to change. It stretched and suddenly rose, until, as the bus began to climb out of the valley on the other side, I realized my “summit” was nothing more than a shoulder of the mountain! And a small shoulder at that! The full peak towered upward and outward, splitting the clouds at a height more than double my little bump!
I rode home in silence.
Which brings me to the month of April.
On April 10th, I began my third miscarriage.
I was further along – 12-weeks by Creighton NFP dating – than with the other two, and the pain of having to tell our youngest that “his baby” had already gone to heaven was heavy on my mind.
A hard pull over some sharp rocks was coming, I knew, but we would get to the top. I could already see the summit.
We took a weekend trip out-of-state, a mother/daughter affair intended to last only overnight so I could get back to a busy schedule.
Instead, I started hemorrhaging.
Four beautiful strangers saved my life with their blood donations after I lost 60% of mine.
“This mountain is steep!” I thought. But I would make it. How much more could there possibly be? I achieved the summit the day I stood up without passing out! I went home subdued, but confident I was on the mend.
Instead, my health declined.
Another visit to the ER. More tests, in which I gave away precious vials of the blood gift recently given me (“Oh, that’s smart,” quipped my daughter’s boyfriend).
This time, I knew the sly tricks of this mountain, and I waited, walking cautiously.
Sure enough, new developments. More tests, possible surgery. And I’m tempted to wonder…
Then, I picked up the “Imitation of Christ.” Bathroom reading at our house, I’m sorry to say, but truly, the sole seat of solitude in a busy house – provided you lock the door.
Here’s what I read:
“But as long as suffering plagues you and you seek to run away from it, then you will know that it is not well with you. You are a long way from perfect patience and the tribulation you flee will follow you everywhere. If you resolve to do what you ought, that is, to suffer and to die to yourself, things will go better with you and you will find peace.” [Book 2, Chapter 12, Paragraphs 11, 12]
(See? you might want to pick up a copy for your bathroom, too!)
In other words, I must patiently slog uphill. I must huff and puff. Accept the racing heart, the straining muscles. Be content to continue hiking even when I discover my whole life’s progress is only a low outcropping on an Rocky Mountain. I’ll find the true summit when God judges I’ve learned patience.
Virtue is all uphill, but patience is a ’14-er!’