I absolutely love the mountains; especially the Rocky Mountains. Having been born in southern Missouri, and raised in a rural area of eastern Kansas, the Rocky Mountains are a particularly spectacular sight to this flatlander. I could sit at the base of the Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park for hours, simply enjoying the amazing views. I have precious memories of watching my husband and children climb the rocks up the Fan several times. Those memories are bitter-sweet, though. A year and a half ago we lost our middle son in a tragic car accident. I miss him so much I can’t breathe sometimes, but I cherish the 25 years God allowed us to have him with us. And, I am so thankful for the years of parenting I was given. Even in the midst of sorrow and mourning, I thank God everyday for the blessings of my husband, children and grandchildren.
I recently remembered something that occurred to me several years ago as my husband and I were driving out to Colorado with my parents for a marriage retreat. As we were nearing the Rocky Mountains, I got out of my seat and knelt between the two captains’ chairs in the front of my parents’ van to better see the approaching mountain range. We were still a couple of hours away from Estes Park, CO, the small town near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the mountains loomed in front of us, giving the impression that one could be in the park in moments, when in reality the actual park was still a couple of hours away.
As I watched the view of the mountain range become clearer the nearer we came to it, my memories of other times we’d visited Rocky Mountain National Park drifted through my thoughts. I would have a hard time choosing a favorite place in the park, but my first choice would be Trail Ridge Road, if I had to choose. I remembered the times we’d driven to the top of Trail Ridge Road, then got out and walked to the highest point in the mountain range. It is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. As I knelt between my two favorite men in the world, my husband and my dad, and watched one of my favorite places come into view, the Lord spoke an analogy to my heart. Approaching the mountain range, yet still a couple of hours away, it seemed as though I could see the mountain in its entirety. I let myself be deceived into thinking I could see all the details and had understanding of them. I even fantasized that I could hike up that mountain. Others had done it, and it didn’t look that hard. I was sure I could do it, too. This is not unlike the beginning of our journey into adulthood, or parenting, or caring for aging parents, or life in general. We see, from a distance, the mountain we are to ascend. It looks easy enough, and others have done it, so it must not be too difficult.
But, the nearer we came to the mountain, the more I saw of the details of the mountain; its many crags and clefts, chasms and precipices. There are also beautiful hidden lakes and soaring peaks, places capped with snow and others covered in wildflowers. The majestic beauty is both breathtaking and daunting. We don’t see the beautiful details of the wildflowers or the daunting crags and crevices when we are still seeing the mountain from two hours away. We see the mountain as a whole. We see the beginning and the end of our task of ascending the mountain, so we think we see the task in its entirety. We see a “piece of cake”! No problem! Let’s just do it!
The interesting thing to me is that the closer we get to the mountain and the more we see of the details, the less we see the mountain as a whole. The vision seems to reverse. The mountain begins to loom so largely in front of us that we can no longer see the peak, the destination. But, we see more and more of the daunting things, the jutting slippery rocks that an hour ago appeared to be no more than pretty pebbles. The closer and closer we get to beginning our journey, the more daunting it seems. When we finally reach the beginning of our journey, the bottom of the mountain, we see that what appeared to be a gradual incline two hours ago, is actually an almost vertical ascent. But, with still youthful vigor and ignorant enthusiasm, we begin our climb. As we climb, though, we encounter those crags, clefts, chasms and precipices. Thankfully, we encounter those plateaus and fields of wildflowers, too. The journey is more difficult than we ever presumed, and sometimes we even lose sight of the destination – the peak.
Near the top of Trail Ridge Road, winding around the mountain on that precariously narrow road, there is one spot where you can look out across the valley between peaks and see the most beautiful lake nestled in the side of the opposing mountain. It is truly one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. The surface of the water has been perfectly smooth every time I’ve seen it. The color is such a deep blue, it is almost a silvery black, reflecting the mountain behind it. As I’ve been writing this, musing on my visits to RMNP, my middle son and the tragic loss of his life has been swirling around in my heart and mind, as it always does. For some reason, this spot on the mountain range – this beautiful lake that is so far off the beaten path that I’m willing to bet few people have ever had a close-up view of it – reminds me of him. I can’t get to it. I can’t touch it. I reminisce about it, because it really is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. It is not something I have ever had more than a few seconds glimpse of, because you can only see it from a narrow section of the road that has no place to pull off, or even slow down to really look at it. I had my son for 25 years. He and his siblings are truly the most beautiful things God has blessed me with. I can still hug his siblings, and my husband, and my grandchildren. I can only imagine hugging him; like I can only imagine what standing on the shore of that beautiful lake would be like. I imagine that lake to be perfect; I know he is now perfect. And my memory of him, like all memories of lost loved ones, tells me he was perfect when he was here! I know this is not true, but that is how I remember him. I now see him as perfectly peaceful, reflecting light, beautiful beyond measure.
The task of climbing the mountain of parenting was one I dreamed of all throughout my childhood, and fervently hoped and prayed to get to do during those first years of my married life. When, after almost five blissful years of marriage, I finally entered the parenting world, it was probably the most joyful time of my life. And, each addition to our family just increased the joy. But, as the years went by and more children were added to our family, the ascent up the mountain became more and more difficult, though certainly not without great reward. The tasks of parenting small children, schooling them, teaching them to care for themselves, drive, manage their money, be respectable adults, and so on, has been full of all the things ascending a mountain would be – places of extraordinary beauty, rocky places that require skilled footing to surmount, places where we descend when we think we should always be ascending, fields of wildflowers that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, beautiful plateaus that give a view like nowhere else, inverted inclines so steep you want to sit down and weep, and yes, breathtakingly beautiful hidden lakes. I have been to all these amazing places, metaphorically speaking, many times during my 30 years of parenting. Many I would love to revisit, and do, to a certain extent, through my grandchildren. Some I never want to see again.
But, I do so long to gaze upon that stunningly beautiful hidden lake again someday.