“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings” – Lao Tzu
Setting out early, he smiled a warm smile as he saw the sign for the Boreal trail. This spot was special. He had taken many a long stroll through the high pines and trembling aspens. Over the years, he walked it alone but more often he held the hand of a grandchild or listened to one of his daughters tell stories as they wandered through the curves in the trail. Now the path narrowed into the moist morning air as he looked for the boat he left at the edge of the river which wound its way along the trail side. Over the raised boardwalks, his feet seemed to know the way without help. Soon the trail brightened and there stashed beyond the halfway marker sat the small craft; its sail wrapped up like a gift waiting for today. His tired legs shoved away from the bank to start the journey he had been thinking about taking.
He had talked about following the river out to the bay for a while. He had talked a bit and asked a bit and decided that if the river really eventually wound its way out of the forest–he wanted to see it. So this was the day, as if it were picked just for him, and here he was. There were more twists and turns than he had bargained for and he even thought he had lost his way for a while. Then just as he was about to give up and turn back, he saw the water widen and felt the current speed up under him. The mist was still on the bay as the boat cleared the edge of the forest pines and sliced ahead through deeper water.
The sun cut through the mist like curtains opening and he glanced over the side to see the reflection of the bright morning sky in the water. Catching a glimpse of his own worn face, he did a double take and was shocked at the smoothness where deep lines had been. Strange to look so young – he had felt so old lately. The dark green and brown of the receding shore line drew his eyes away from thoughts of age and into the memories. He was glad to sail away from the dark edges. The darkness had called to him time and again in his life. He feared it – lately, more than ever.
Today ahead of him the darkness was nowhere to be found and he felt no fear here.
Tears suddenly sprang to his eyes as he thought back on the many years. He missed his mom and dad so keenly today. It’s like the ache was palpable. They had passed away so long ago but today it felt fresh and close again.
He stood to unwrap the sail and the giant creamy pile above him collected a warm wind and popped full with a loud crack. The sound jarred him back to reality. He set his chin toward the eastern horizon and wiped the sides of his eyes. There was a strange bright glow on the far side of the bay and he wanted to know what it was.
The lights’ calling was strong as he steadied himself in the boat against the coaxing wind which now pushed the sails along. Leaving the memories of love and darkness to float hand in hand back down the lazy river into the past, he sailed on…
He thought back to a few days before when he felt an odd pang in his leg as he climbed the steps of the house. Taught to be tough, he put off the thought of having it checked out. He certainly didn’t tell his wife, she would just worry. But later that night, it all caught up with him and he ended up at the hospital. At first, he had been so disappointed and thought he would have to put off this trip. It was all becoming very clear to him now that this had all been arranged so he could go. That would explain his young reflection…everything seeming so effortless and warm…
…Suddenly he missed his wife more than he had words for. Gripping the wheel of the small boat, he shut his eyes against the pain of the last sad look on her face. He whispered a prayer for her as the light ahead became warm and wide. He felt the mercy of smooth sailing and the release of all dark things slipping away, even his tears. Looking up into the light he saw the gentle face of the Father and heard the strong deep voice saying, “Welcome home child”.
In Memory of David Muller – 1942-2015
“Start your day, not with the broken pieces of yesterday but in the mercy of your new beginning.” – Unknown.