For some reason we had trouble making the decision of whether to accept the invitation or not. (Read my earlier blog on this here)
The key issues for us were threefold; did we want to go to Scotland, a country that was not on our imagined Life List; did we have the money in our budget; was Jim’s heart up for a week long ‘moderately difficult’ cycling adventure?
Jim and I talked it over, put the decision aside, took it out again, re-examined it and finally said, “We’d love to!” The truth was, of the three issues guiding our decision, we really hadn’t been able to give an unequivocal ‘yes’ to any of them. Scotland wasn’t on our list so we had no idea if we wanted to go, we did not have a secret stash of money set aside for such an adventure and cycling would more than tax Jim’s heart.
The carefully weighed three factors influencing our decision turned out not to be the spark that lit the ‘yes’ fire under us after all.
Four years earlier, in September of 2014, Victoria’s dad, Bob, had embarked upon this identical trip. Solo. Eight months earlier, Victoria’s mother had died and in the ensuing months Bob spent a lot of time with Daniel and Victoria, hiking, biking, horseback riding and snowshoeing. For our part, we simply set one more place at the table and included him in all our family events.
Unknown to anyone, Bob had undiagnosed heart issues and he died suddenly while on the second day of his cycling trip in Scotland. Victoria wanted to finish the trip for her dad, hence the September 2018 bike trip. She wanted us along because of our relationship with her Dad.
And this was how we found ourselves cycling along some very narrow roads through the breathtaking Highlands of Scotland last week.
As it is with so many things in life, what starts out for one reason, often continues for others. So it was with this trip.
Each of us thought we were completing the trip for Bob. We were to follow his exact route and we hoped to find the place where his journey had ended, and then to continue on to complete the trip. We had a picture from his cell phone, the last picture he took, that showed him in front of a distinctive sign. We also had the police report describing the location – on the corner near the farm of …. We also knew his time of death. With this information in hand we set out on Day Two of the trip like amateur detectives with somewhat nervous hearts. Jim’s role was that of navigator, Daniel was support person and I was simply bearing witness.
After about two hours of cycling we came to the sign from the pictures. There was no question we were getting closer. We stopped and thought about Bob here and imagined how his adventure had been going. Once we started cycling again, we climbed a short hill and noticed the road bearing to the right. Immediately after the curve was the farm described in the police report. Clearly Bob had taken his final picture, one of him smiling with pleasure, only minutes before his death.
In her imagination, Victoria had a vision of her Dad in a ditch. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The little corner where he died was absolutely stunningly beautiful. There was a wide gravel shoulder, there were two large shade trees and the view overlooked a lush green meadow, dotted with sheep. There was such a feeling of peace here that we got off our bikes and stood in silence.
Tears soon followed as we remembered Bob together, gave thanks that we were travelling together and that we felt peaceful.
Victoria let us know when she was ready to move on. She told us that she was perfectly content and that even if we did not finish the trip, she would feel the journey was complete for her. It turned out that the journey was not at all about finishing the proposed trip, but rather about finding peace in her Dad’s untimely death.
Each one of us is travelling a journey, many journeys in fact, in life. We all travel the journey from life to death, but within that we travel many, many smaller journeys too. Some last only moments, some days and some years. Some of our journeys are exciting ones; new jobs, new babies, challenging projects, and cycling holidays. Some of our journeys are difficult ones; navigating cancer, grief, lost dreams and disappointments.
Each of us need good travelling companions as we journey. We need people to walk with us as we journey. We need people to read the map and navigate the tough spots when we cannot do it ourselves. We need support systems and we need witnesses. At the same time, we also realize that others need these same things from us.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What role am I playing in this journey?’
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to be your best self as you travel your most important journey of all; the journey of your life.