This is the first week I can say that I have felt like myself for a while.
It’s not like that isn’t normal. Losing two parents in five months has been a lot to process. I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has reached out to me and my family. It has literally been a Godsend.
Grief takes time. It also takes energy. But the journey still looks different for everybody. And for me, it hasn’t been the kind of grief that comes on like waves. It has been more like been being in a constant fog – or if you are someone who knows anything about skidooing – being snowblind in a squall.
Through it I have learned something: The quality of your friendships and the depth of your faith is sometimes more important than having it all figured out or having all the right information at your fingertips.
It sounds like a meaningless “mindfulness meme”, I know. So bear with me, while I tell a story to plant an image in your mind.
Many of you already know that I spent the better part of four years in a place called the Lower North Shore (basically the Quebec side of Labrador).Travel from isolated village to isolated village happens by boat in the summer and by skidoo in the winter. You can fly by plane, but you really only do that if you have to because of the cost.
I had never traveled by skidoo before. And I found it odd that the trail marks (those branches that you see installed in the photos above)were placed so close together. I mean they are only twenty some feet apart. Wouldn’t it make more sense, I thought, to place them several yards apart? I mean, surely it would be simple enough to know the way. Any map would certainly do the trick. I mean, with some planning, things would be so much more efficient, and the overkill of placing so many marks could be avoided, no?
Well, the evening I got caught in a snow squall taught me the reason why such thinking was foolishness.
Even though we were in convoy, we were forced to go at a snail’s pace. The crosswinds were strong enough that it took effort to stay straight. And we literally could not see more than a few feet. It was a matter of each of us staying apart enough that we wouldn’t ram into each other, close enough that our tail lights wouldn’t disappear in the distance and the skidoo in front just focussing on getting to the next mark. Literally, veering off course was a source of danger. Skidoos falling through ice claim lives.
I remember panicking. I was hyperventilating some even. And the only way to calm down was to realize two things: I was not alone. All that mattered in the moment was getting to the next mark – nothing more, but nothing less either.
At one point, the skidooer in front of me hit the brakes for some reason and so I was forced to as well meaning that we lost contact with the one in front. We were two for a brief while, but eventually we caught up. It was just a question of not losing sight of those two essential facts: Not alone. One mark at a time. Nothing more, but nothing less either.
And then, just like that, we were through the squall. And it seemed miraculous even. The big night sky dotted with a million stars. One minute – snow blind. The next – peace under the heavens.
Of course the heavens had never really disappeared. They had just disappeared from sight. It would have been tragic if I had never seen them again. But the tragedy would have occured because I would have been harmed, not that the heavens had disappeared.
We can’t continually journey with such caution or rely so heavily on our friends for guidance for obvious reasons.
But sometimes, life gets beyond our ability to see where it is leading us. Even if we have a clear picture of our desired destination where under normal conditions we would have no trouble getting there, sometimes conditions are not normal.
Just because the destination has disappeared from view, doesn’t mean it’s completely gone. And we had better be ready to accept that fact until things to return to some kind of normal. But accepting doesn’t mean being helpless.
It means understanding how much effort and trust, how much courage and faith, it takes in ourselves, our friends and God to make it.
So thank you and bless you – all those of you who dedicate their lives to being steadying marks along someone’s journey. Not only am have I felt the strength of your faith, my commitment to meaningful, available and safe faith community has been confirmed and re-confirmed yet again. (In my case our churches at Carleton Memorial in Ottawa and St-Andrew’s in Buckingham specifically – but the church in general as well. The church is not a means to an end. It’s the fertile soil in which grow willing souls to serve be present in the midst of someone else’s journey. Being present. Nothing more. But nothing less either.)
Be Blessed. Be a blessing.
Rev. Eric Lukacs