If we’re Facebook friends, you might have read this story. This is one of the most important lessons I gleaned from this year. While I learned huge things about how to anchor to myself, I also sought to create communities of folks that are holding tight to each other. This is the way of the future. Together.
I met a man, and no, this is not a dating story.
My guy and I were hiking down from a Colorado peak when a trio was trying to figure out how to take a picture at the first summit.
I stopped, “Can I take your picture?” I asked. I’ve been finding I deeply want to connect with folks. There’s something joyful to me when they say, “YES!” But also, I offer because I want to see them smile.
The trio gracefully accepted. One of them, an older gentleman, asked the couple he was with to pull pictures out of his backpack. I was confused….but I patiently waited (a hard earned skill that my inner New Yorker is still practicing).
Turns out, the pictures were of his late wife, taken in 1985. His face turned red and his voice wavered as spoke. In one picture, his wife stood– arms spread in the sunshine at the top of the very same peak. He cried as he shared how they came to climb these mountains every year together.
I’m not going to lie. Listening to him speak about his late wife, his love for her and his devotion, had tears squeezing out the corners of my eyes, burning behind my sunglasses. For a fleeting moment, I was relieved he couldn’t see my tears. And yet, I don’t want to live in a culture that is so bad at grief. I want to live together, grieving and celebrating.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Please, don’t apologize,” I said. ” I’m so glad that you’re sharing.” I touched his arm, because I wanted him to know that I was listening and that it mattered. He went on, “This is the last trip that I’m making.” The couple who were taking him to the top and getting him back down sniffled.
My chest constricted, and my throat tightened up. Even as I write this all down, the lump in my throat appears. All three gathered around the summit sign. All of us were sniffling. The trio smiled through tears. He held the photos of his wife, proudly.
The trio graciously thanked us for stopping and offering to take the picture. “I’m sorry for my emotions,” he said.
We assured them that, no, really, thank YOU, both of us wiping our eyes.
“I came up here in 2013 to spread my wife’s ashes” he said. “I was looking for someone to take my picture, but no one was around. I sat down and asked, ‘Drusilla, please help me. Send me someone.’ I turned around and there were four guys hiking up, no packs, no water, no nothing. But they stopped. They took my picture. When I turned to thank them, they were gone. I swear, I saw angels that day.”
Y’all, my eyes would not stop leaking as I mumbled something about angels coming in many forms. I felt so discombobulated by his sincerity and I wondered about the mystery of life. I felt sure that I was about to start straight blubbering and I was not gonna blame it on the altitude. We thanked him for letting us be a part of the moment. We said goodbyes and we all hugged.
As we turned to walk down the mountain, he pointed to us, Hold tight to each other.
They were both words of wisdom and a blessing.
Shortly up the path, I stopped. I sobbed. We held tight to each other.
I forget that I don’t have to go on adventures to be reminded of angels and love. Simple gestures, offering to take a picture, lead to incredible connection and wisdom we might have otherwise missed.
Your story matters. Your life matters. Your love matters.
So a blessing for you: Hold tight to each other. Offer to be present, as much as you can. When you cannot offer, receive those that are offering. More than ever, I’m sure we need each other.
I heard this beautiful talk with On Being and I gasped my way through it. I want to live like this.
I’m currently reading Emergent Strategies. It’s the kind of book that shifts your world in wild wonderful ways and has me reaching out to cocreate the world that I want to live into.
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