I was recently making the three hour drive to visit my daughter in the hospital where she remains gravely ill. It was a glorious summer morning driving through the beautiful Ozark Mountains. I’ve loved these mountains since camping in them as a kid. They’re not the majestic Rockies, of which I also have fond memories, but they have a peace and serenity to their beauty that just makes you feel this is the way life is supposed to be.
On this particular morning, the clouds were still resting among the tops of the mountains. The rising sun lit up their east sides a lush, summer green. Their twins on the west were allowed to sleep a little longer in semi-darkness; they would make up their extra snooze that evening, basking in the sunset. It was a scene of beauty which would normally make my heart soar. But this particular stretch of road has a thorn–bridges. Really high bridges, between the mountains. Exactly ten of them, I’ve counted. I don’t have a phobia of bridges, or even of heights, but I don’t really like them either. High bridges or bridges over large stretches of water are particularly troubling. I didn’t look forward to them this morning.
Entering the mountains and taking in their beauty, I braced myself for the bridges ahead. As I experienced the tug of war over these opposing emotions, I was suddenly struck how so obviously inseparable they were: I could not experience the serenity of a drive through those beloved mountains without the burden of their bridges. I quickly made the connection between my journey over the bridges and the journey we’re on with our daughter. I have loved being her mother – she has brought us laughter, sunshine, and love. But the path we’re on with her now is dark and twisted, frightening beyond any fear I have ever known. Yet as stressful as living in a hospital is, never knowing what the next day or the next doctor’s visit will bring, my husband and I both long to be only there. We use the same word–privilege–to describe being by her side through this horrific ordeal that no child should have to endure. I already have emotional scars in just this first inning, but would be nowhere else. I have also experienced wondrous strength and faith and love, at a depth I hadn’t known possible. I have loved my daughter since I first laid eyes on her, yet I know I will be welded to her the rest of my days in a new way. It is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. I wouldn’t give that back.
On the drive home, in spite of darkness setting in, I did not count the bridges this time. Instead, as I passed over each one, I thanked God for them, as they allow me to experience the peaceful beauty of His mountains. I thanked Him for the trials which allow us to see His heights. And I had peace on my journey home.
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are ok. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” –Thich Nhat Hanh