[at-l] The Bittersweetness of Life
icw at wardanddavis.com
Wed Apr 18 15:50:57 CDT 2007
I’ve cried a lot the past few days – more than I ever though I would over
something that has happened so many miles away. In the spring of 2001, when
I set out on a cold, foggy March afternoon from Amicalola Falls State Park,
little did I know how I would forever become so emotionally tied to national
tragedy. Those old wounds for me were torn open again by this week’s 32
murders in Blacksburg. When my hiking buddies and I clambered over Dragon’s
Tooth, and chowed down at the Homeplace, and later when Leif and I hitched
into Blacksburg, little did I know I would be brought back to that time in
such a bittersweet way. The generosity of Bill Wilson at Blue Ridge
Outfitters provides a sweet antidote to some of the pain. Not knowing Leif
and I at all, Bill and his wife put us up at their home, took us out to eat,
and then Bill drove us all the way to Damascus and back as part of his
annual store trek to Trail Days. In just now doing an internet search on
Bill’s store, I was saddened to learn that he was forced to close his doors
earlier this spring – yet another apparent local store victim to the
purchasing power of the internet and national outfitter chains. Blacksburg
was also a symbol of my own personal angst back then as my close hiking
friend Leif was struggling with his own personal issues and ultimately ended
up leaving the Trail there, and I was left feeling a huge hole in my heart
at the loss of such a great hiking companion. I walked on northward alone
in the rain and fog, over the Tinker Cliffs and beyond, with the earthy
goodness of the Trail helping to heal my heart.
Later on in my bittersweet 2001 AT journey, I too left the Trail in PA to
return home and be with my (pregnant!) wife and growing family [but I still
am chipping away northward towards Katahdin!]. I returned later that summer
to reunite with many great hiking friends for 10 days of walking in Vermont
and in the Whites of New Hampshire, and – after yet another hiking escape in
the Canadian Rockies, I ended up back at home, scheduled to return for my
first day of work back at my law firm the very week of September 11th . . .
that terrible day came back to me hard this week, as did the suicide death
of my older sister just weeks later . . . I know I cannot fathom fully what
pain and anguish many with loved ones lost at Virginia Tech this week are
feeling, but I can get damn close . . . I think the hardest lesson is that
something like this can come along, years after your own struggles with
tragedy, and re-open those wounds so painfully . . . yet there are always
choices to be made in the memories we decide to keep closest in our hearts
and minds. My choice today is to work hard to remember, with a big grin,
the great times I had in Blacksburg, the incredible generosity of Bill
Wilson and his family, the wonderfully wild times we had at Trail Days, the
impact the Trail has had on me in terms of changing my career path,
inspiring me to undertake the NC special AT tag project, and – most recently
– accepting an invitation to join the ATC’s Board. While not without many
struggles and challenges, my journey also has encompassed working through
the challenges that my strange journey in 2001 reflected in my relationship
with Johanna, my awesome wife, and our two girls. Lord knows, I have it
good, and I still have my children to hug and love tonight!
Life is indeed a journey; life is indeed precious; life is indeed cruel at
times, too. In the end, I think I can begin to say that my own personal
tragedies have left me with more empathy and sympathy for all, including
this week for all the familes and loved ones of those so unfairly and
brutally murdered, but also for the murderer’s family, and for his own
tortured soul. This is not easy stuff, and it is not an easy time, but a
long journey on the Trail of Life is not supposed to be easy all the time.
I think it IS always worth the effort, and we just have to accept however
far we can get on any one day.
In these tough times, let us resolve to do better with our expressions of
love, understanding and prayers for all we know and love, and for all we do
not know, and may even have good reason not to want to love. In the end,
our memories are the eternal burdens and blessings we will carry with us to
the other side – at its essence, what else do we ultimately have to hold on
to when we, too, face our time to pass on, and face that time of passing
with those others whom we love? I, for one, vow to try and shape those
memories for the good, in my own imperfect, stumbling way.
I. Clark Wright, Jr.
Ward and Davis, LLP
409 Pollock Street
New Bern, NC 28560
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