Today I framed a photo taken of Steve and set it up on our mantel. It was taken during his Trinity backpack trip. It looks like late morning: probably the beginning of the group’s day hike up to the peak.
In it he is peacefully walking through a pine forest, with manzanita at his feet and clear, mountain-blue sky visible between the tree tops. He looks relaxed, but purposeful–as if he’s found a steady, comfortable rhythm. (I think you can tell how much Bob loved his good friend Steve, as he captured him in his most beloved place, doing his all-time favorite thing, away from the cares of the world.) God bless you, Bob, for loving my Steve so well.
Steve put on his favorite hiking pants that day (the ones with 500 pockets), sturdy boots, his floppy khaki sun hat (that made his teenage daughter roll her eyes!), and his go-to hiking shirt: an old button down that has been enlisted to keep the sun and bugs off his fair Irish skin.
From the front you can see a black strap that runs horizontally across his chest, securing his pack and keeping his shoulder straps from slipping off. Below the strap, the sight of a bit of middle-aged belly shaping the front of his dirty shirt moves me to tears.
At that moment he was still with Bob; his clothes were not torn; his body was strong and whole, his mind at peace. So perfect, even idyllic. Little did he know…
Looking at this scene makes me feel a sick tension, like when you’re watching kayakers paddle downstream, seemingly oblivious to the rapids and waterfall you can hear pounding in the near distance.
Within a matter of hours, Steve would fall from the peak and so begin the most painful, challenging days of his life. Everything shifted in an instant–like Alice through the looking glass.
But even with the surreal discomfort I feel in my gut as I take in this frame and what I know of the scenes to come, I find myself feeling so very glad that Bob’s photo captured that peaceful walk in the woods. I’m equally thankful that Steve didn’t have to know what was coming.
I’m grateful that none of us knows for sure what we will encounter any given hour, week, month or year… We have such a wise God–to leave omniscience out of our basic human packaging. If we knew the searing pain and losses that would be peppered among the everyday–as well as magnificent–times, the fear of pain just might immobilize us.
We could all end up sequestered away in our safe, little houses…never to put on our boots, hat and pack and set out on a hike through a peaceful wood with our very good friends.