As I woke up on a warm Sunday morning on the Appalachian Trail (AT), I faced 14 miles of walking in 98F heat, and blisters the size of small grapes on both my feet. I was not looking forward to hiking my way out of the mountains. But the weekend in the
Although I have expected the eventual end to dad’s predicament, my Friday night call with mother filled me with fear. More than my fear of dad’s expected passing, I fear for his comfort during his last days. But most of all (perhaps selfishly), I fear for my ability to make the right decisions. As he nears his end, we are faced with a most difficult final question; should we shorten the process and let dad go peacefully, or prolong the inevitable and spend limited resources for medical procedures that will briefly extend his life without addressing the core issue? What is a son to do when faced with these questions? These thoughts stayed on my mind all weekend.
We started our walk at VA-605 Saturday morning and planned on arriving at
However, rather than driving the demon out of my mind, the more I tried to focus on the trail, the more I thought about mother and dad. As I struggled to find the strength to fight that mountain, I could not but think about what the right decision is for dad.
The 2.5 miles downhill hike on the Ridge to River Trail was the longest walk in my memory. Looking at the topo map, we assumed that it would be well-worth the effort to get off the AT and camp by the
Day two was tougher than day one. With my blistering feet, I could no longer move quickly. Advising my hiking partner to move ahead to meet our ride without me, I was left to walk at my own pace. Having gained my solitude, I also earned the pleasure of monopolizing my own pains. Somewhere along the way at approximately 3 miles from our predetermined meeting spot, a butterfly with black and teal wings playfully danced around me, willing me forward for the next few miles home.
The AT always does wonders for me. It is a beautiful and challenging place that always gives me space to reflect and come away a different and hopefully better person. While I still question myself about my decision, I have my answer.