My hiking trip to the Swiss Alps was an extremely meaningful adventure.
It was my 50th birthday present to me and my husband. But much more important, it represented my daughter’s survival. It actually symbolized all the steps she took in rebuilding her life.
I had come across an article on a Swiss Alps hiking trip at the time that my daughter, Nava, was very ill. It seemed like a nice pipe dream then, not knowing what the future would hold. I cut out the article and filed it away in my night-table. I would often see it and dream that maybe one day, just maybe…
Nava was on a ventilator in a drug-induced coma for 3 months. When she had pulled through the worst of it and was stable enough, she was transferred to a rehab hospital where she remained for the next 9 months. Had I known in advance how long she’d be on a respirator and then how long she’d be in rehab, I would’ve said, “I can’t do this; there’s no way I can get through and wake up to this day after day. Wake me up when it’s over.”
But as life has it, we don’t know the future and in this regard it was a blessing. Not knowing how long it would be, allowed me to take one day at a time. I had no other choice. Somehow you wake up in the morning and almost robot-like put one foot in front of the other and go through the motions of living with the horrific pain of seeing your child teetering on the brink of life and death.
Miraculously, her life was spared. Then began the arduous uphill climb to regain her functioning abilities – from breathing on her own to swallowing, from lifting a finger to walking. And for me, it meant waking up every morning to begin another 12 hour day by my daughter’s side encouraging and prodding her every step of the way. Many times it required tough love to push her despite and beyond the pain.
Finally, one day after a complete cycle of seasons, we spoke of finally going home.
A couple of summers later as our mid-life birthdays were upon us, our lives having resumed some semblance of normalcy, my husband and I were able to fulfill our (I really should say “my”) dream trip.
Every step I took on those hikes in the magnificent Swiss mountains was a step in appreciation of life – the awesomeness and fragility of life. Every one of my senses was attuned to the natural beauty around me. All was a gift – breathing the air, walking the trails, smelling the flowers, and of course struggling to make the arduous climb upward. If Nava could do it and so much more, of course I could do this. She was my role model for living. And every time it felt hard and I had to stop to catch my breath and rest a bit before continuing along these 8 mile up and downhill trails, I thought of her torturous fight to reclaim her life and relearn all her functions, one step and one muscle at a time.
If I would’ve looked to the top of the mountains, I would’ve said, “I can’t do this, I can’t make it up there.” As I had done in the hospital with Nava, I focused on the moment and put one foot in front of the other and kept on going. One step at a time.
Beginning steps to get through a difficult journey:
- Focus on the moment – keeps you on task; and sometimes the future is just too hard to fathom
- One step at a time – slow and steady, along with patience, adds up to a lot
- Breathe – it keeps you grounded, present and calmer
- Appreciate – there’s always something, even during the hardest times
- Hold onto a dream – it just might actualize