A few years ago when our current home was our cabin and the property was new and less familiar, I went snowshoeing one blustery winter’s day. Admittedly, I do not have a great sense of direction. Add to this that I was focused on making my way through deep snow, having only been snowshoeing a few times in my life, and the result was a few moments of panic. I realized I might be turned around when things were no longer familiar and I came upon some old abandoned buildings I’d never seen before. This was after being out for nearly an hour and I have to admit, all that high stepping had my heart rate up. I yelled out to my husband a few times, but of course, got no response. At this point, I was exhausted. I started to pick up my pace as I turned around to follow my steps back. My fear was that I would collapse and be stranded in the woods. My emotions got the best of me for a few minutes before a pause, a deep breath and a whispered prayer brought back a sense of calm. I could find my way back as long as the snow didn’t fall so heavily as to cover my tracks. Well needless to say, I made my way back and as I burst through the door of our cabin, I also burst into tears of relief and embarrassment, if I’m to be completely honest. My husband gave me a hug and seemed to know better than to ask me what the hell I was thinking by going so far alone.
A few days later, I was visiting my dad, who was in a nursing home on hospice care. He always had such a good sense of direction. I remember feeling safe with him. In recent years, though, he had started to lose some of this sense as early stages of dementia were beginning to set in. During this conversation, he was lucid and intently listening to my story. He looked off in the distance and said, “It’s a hell of a feeling, ain’t it?”
I believe sometimes God gives us particular experiences to help us understand or have more empathy for others. I started thinking about how scary it had to be for someone with dementia when they suddenly don’t know where they are or who is with them. In that moment, my heart went out to him and others in a similar circumstance, in a very personal way.
I’m learning to be more aware of my surroundings, whether out in nature or around others. We don’t know what they may be going through. We’d do well to assume they have their own silent challenges and approach them with much patience and kindness.
And when it comes to our physical surroundings… If you wander off too far while picking morel mushrooms and find yourself turned around, be sure to have your cell phone with you for your GPS. Asking your husband to honk the horn of the truck does not work. Trust me. The sound bounces all over the place and only causes confusion. God Bless – Becky