When Mary made the goal to climb Mt. Timpanogus– a trek of 15-18 miles– I promised I’d stay with her every step of the way. I wouldn’t let anyone rush her: she could stop in the middle of the trail anytime she wanted, eat and drink when she needed.
And I think our climb is a parable for every mountain in life– if we let people go at their own pace, stop when needed, fill their needs and lovingly walk with them, they will reach the summit. I think it’s an apt parable for raising children, for education, for missionaries, for any kind of healing and most especially for grief.
We gathered July 25th to honor Parker Dalton Bradford– our vibrant, strong, extraordinary friend who drowned while rescuing another boy– but we also gathered to honor all who grieve. It’s fitting to climb a mountain to honor Parker. The climb teaches everything important in life: take care of each other, smile at strangers, share your food and water and mosquito repellent, cheer people on along the way.
Our first year on this hike, we knew only the Bradford family (and not very well) and Sharlee Glenn. Now we count our fellow hikers among our closest friends. It’s extraordinary how one day a year binds us together, creates friendships stretching across the country and across the world.
We’ve gone on trips together and stayed in each other’s homes; we’ve traded recipes and beekeeping and chicken coops and puppy raising; we’ve cried together and made messes and laughed until we cried.
The first year, we huddled together during introductions– now we’re scattered all over the circle.
The moral of my story? If you’re invited on something like this– go. Just go. And you are invited. Come next year.
It was beautiful Claire’s actual birthday, so we brought a balloon to bob along behind her during the hike. I thought she’s protest, but she was a great sport.
Lucky, lucky Mary who has all these bright and beautiful role models– her almost sisters.
Alisa– a friend of mine from high school– and her beautiful family knew the Bradfords in Paris. It’s a small, small world.
Our friend Justin Brown who’s headed to Lyon, France on a mission next month.
This is Gabe’s hair BEFORE the hike. It’s a thing of wonder.
And this is the last I saw of Hans and Xander until the end of the day. The hike began and Mary and I started at the back of the line.
We kept pace for a little bit. Enough to watch Claire’s balloon bob up and down and to take a birthday photo of Claire with Dalton (now on a mission in London South).
And one last hug from Melissa before Mary sat down in the middle of the trail to rest.
We crossed streams and bridges,
walked through wildflowers up to her shoulders,
admired the view, soaked in the sun
and let her sit any time she wanted. She didn’t pick usual spots like the shade or a nice log. She just sat.
About halfway up, we met Randall Bradford on his way down.
There were times she wanted to give up.
But she was skipping moments later.
Just as we began the rocky portion of the hike, we met friend after friend.
The timing was perfect. One friend after another cheered her on.
And Dean even gave her his jacket (everyone needs a Dean and Lisa in their life).
Hugs from Melissa.
Even in the rockiest cliffs, wildflowers bloom.
Almost there, almost there.
We’d just met Greg Sorensen, but he knew exactly what to do– he gave Mary half a Toblerone.
And then, best of all, we met up with Daddy.
I’d cheered her along the whole hike up: telling stories, doling out cookies, rehashing the entire plot of Pride and Prejudice.
But the hike down is frightening, and Daddy was just what she needed.
After we got lost, they built rock cairns to assist future hikers,
they gloried in the views,
and slid down the glacier.
We soaked and froze ourselves, laughing all the way down
to Emerald Lake. Hans and Xander jumped in the lake, but we skipped it this year.
Can you believe we were just up on that mountain?
After the lake, we still had six miles down to go through rocky shale
and wildflower fields.
But she danced and sang most of the way,
put flowers in her hair
and offered oreos to the chipmunks
with her best chipmunk face.
Erik told stories, loaned out his hat, and even danced a bit along the way.
Mary admired every flower, every animal den– she found an image in each rock– “that looks like a piece of cheese… a toaster… the Eiffel Tower, an alligator, a pineapple.” On and on and on– hundreds of names.
So it took a long time,
a very, very long time.
But even into hour thirteen, she was cheerful, skipping, intoxicated by her success.
It grew dark,
our feet weary,
and it wasn’t until the last half hour that she really wore out,
but on Daddy’s arm she made it. All the way down, all the way home.