10 hours to get to Corpach Scotland
10 hours to hike up the tallest Mountain in all of England (Ben Nevis)
10 hours to get home to Cambridge England
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was this past weekend offering students a four day weekend. For me there was a great collision of events beginning with a hospital visit on Friday where I had a conversation with an elderly man. He shared his life story with me which ended in tears. His wife had passed away less than a month ago and he expressed to me that he didn’t see a point in continuing with life. He said “Life will be fine, but it just isn’t going to be as good as it once was with her.” He later expressed a desire to die.
Ironically, I was assigned to write a paper for an ethics course on euthanasia, not the lightest of topics. In the collision of events beginning with this encounter I have had several epiphanies, and a jubilee of my own (of the jewish sort). A few months ago my parents as a generous birthday gift purchased a rail pass. I spent a month trying to decide how I was going to use this gift. After some research I decided I was going to go to Corpach/Fort William and climb the tallest mountain in all of England; Ben Nevis.
In this journey I had ten hours of travel time that I used to work on the earlier mentioned paper. So what do we really think of euthanasia? I must admit before meeting the man I mentioned earlier I would say I was adamantly against euthanasia. My empathy however took over as I visited with him and I thought; “I wish I could stop his pain.” Not that I wished him death, but only that I wished for what he wished for and in that moment it was death. Upon reflecting and thinking on my paper I wrestled with the idea of “Is it okay to exit this life when the pain is so great and the burden so heavy and the promise of eternal life is so much more appealing in the midst of pain?”
Ten hours up the side of Ben Nevis. My legs were shaking, my feet hurt, my hips were sore, my stomach hurt and I was nauseas all day from the intense physical activity. My climb only consisted of 10 more minutes to get to the summit and each glance upward felt no closer to the summit than the one before. There were combating dialogs going on in my head: “I’m never going to make it” “One rock at a time, just keep moving” “I was crazy to think I could do this” “Your committed now, you can’t turn back. You Can Do this!” “I’m going to die, I just know it” “One foot in front of the other, you are the one in control! Don’t just tell your body what to do, make it do it!”
When I made it to the summit, it was not at all what I thought it would be. It was almost surreal, as if the summit was real but the idea was driving me more than the reality of it was. The summit itself held nothing for me, the journey did. The journey made the summit a place of victory (I am reminded of what my father often says; “It isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey”).
I reached that summit with my legs shaking, and stomach all tied up and my lungs hurting. There wasn’t any sort of fanfare for me and yet, from that moment of being on top, there was no other place to look except where I had been. I had taken the climb and enjoyed various perspectives of the Mountain that others wouldn’t have seen climbing up the path. Looking back, it wasn’t about the summit at all, it was the climb.
I’m not saying that life means more than the eternal life that God offers us through his Son. Rather I am saying that in those moments of trial, in those moments when we want to give up; don’t! Even when it seems like the future holds no point or meaning, press on! God never fails, his promises are new every morning! His faithfulness endures forever. Know that God is present in pain. Know that while it may seem as though there is no purpose in the pain, it doesn’t matter because there is a summit, it is there even if you can’t see it. If you need a goal, fix your eyes on the summit, otherwise enjoy the climb.The promise of eternal life is there, it isn’t moving and in the face of loss grief, pain and suffering it will still remain. We cling to that! Not to the present sufferings, but to the future glory that God has promised! Fight the good fight! Finish the race! This is the conclusion I have come to: In my final hour, when I wish for death, I will continue to live because it is a promise of the life I have been given and will be given. I will take one stone at a time, one foot in front of the other knowing that God is the one in control and that he has already promised me life even in my dying, and what is more is that he is with me in that journey.