Regular car maintenance, we all do it. Unless we want to be stranded on the side of the road because the engine exploded, we get the oil changes, tires rotated, fluids topped off. Just like the DMV, it is a necessary evil that must be endured. I am lucky that the place I take my car is pretty honest and they know I know a bit about cars (thanks Dad). But even I was surprised when the technician asked “14,000 miles since your last oil change in June?!? Where have you been driving?”
You can travel a lifetime in fourteen thousand miles. In those miles I have traveled several. What started out as simply assisting Mom during recovery from a minor procedure ended up as so much more. And that seems several lifetimes ago already.
In 14,000 miles I have traveled to heartaches door and back. I have carried more love and compassion than all the luggage in the world could hold. Each mile, each inch, each centimeter, has paralleled each beat of my heart.
I have traveled to confusion, and denial and desperation and fear and loss. I have visited darkness and knelt humbly at faith’s doorstep. I have sat, hunch over, crying, sobbing, begging, pleading, admitting that I don’t know how to do this, how to watch my mother pass, how to be strong enough to be the leader, how to be what is needed for this task. I have prayed for wisdom, and grace, and compassion and understanding, and patience; sometimes failing, sometimes not.
In those miles I have bargained, promised, negotiated, fought, and bled my soul. I researched the best course, sacrificed sleep because it was not important, and seen acceptance in the nurses expression when they looked into my eyes and knew the term “visiting hours” did not apply to me. I have prayed that as much as I love her, please, please let her not suffer. I have broken my own heart into minuscule shards, trembling, as I prayed for it to be peaceful.
I have seen compassion and true heartbreak watching my father. And I have witnessed the truest love, watching them the last time they interacted.
In 14,000 miles, I have seen the most beautiful and striking rainbows, as rays of hope break through the clouds. I have seen eyes look into mine with love and compassion, shoulders that truly are strong enough for me to cry on, arms that are strong enough to protect me, and gentle enough to be shelter. In those miles, I have seen how blessed I am to have a wonderful man and partner who is willing to be there, even when I am so terrified that I cannot stand to be in my own company. And then seen him stay and stroke my hair so I sleep in peace. I have carried whispers and secrets and writings, and journals, and anger, and fear, and love and joy and everything that is life in those miles.
There have been miles of boxes packed. moved and unpacked. There have been countless sleepless nights, up planning and figuring, writing and praying. There have been men payed, volunteers asked, friends talked to and letters written. Interviews and jobs declined and accepted, tasked completed and left undone. There have been pictures taken and voice mails saved, phones traded and flowers smelled. There have been countless meals cooked and eaten, many bottles of wine and water and coffee. There have been long goodbyes and short visits, lengthy conversations and easy decisions and heavy burdens. There have been cards and songs, and work and play. And love, most of all.
Fourteen thousand miles is a short distance for where I have traveled and returned. And when you think about all of that in 14,000 miles, it is humbling to think of how many miles are traveled in our time on Earth, and by how many travelers.
And in the miles ahead, I see that the road is rich with hope and dreams, and love, and kindness and all the good that can be held around the next bend. And it makes me wonder what the next miles have in store. Just like looking at the blank pages of a new journal, I am inquisitive about the future. Even when the road is long and hard, we must never lose our hope, our wanderlust, our curiosity, our sense of wander or our optimism. We must always strive to learn and grow and be better.
Yes, I saw all of this flash before me, in an instant when the technician asked that simple question. I just said “I had a family illness that required a lot of driving.” He smiled kindly and said he was sorry to hear. Then he rang me up and went on his way down his road, continuing his journey. And so it goes.