One April in particular, I found myself back in my childhood home, caring for a dying sister. Days overflowed with the visits of a corps of home-care professionals, performing the hosts of chores required by everyday life and chauffeuring Jeannette to endless rounds of hospital visits for treatment that served only to delay the inevitable. In between, I worked at dismantling our family home of forty years.
Needing a break, I decided on a walk into the neighboring countryside. With weakening gasps of defeat, winter had finally relinquished its frosty hold and spring now burst on the scene, full of enthusiasm. Patches of white puffs overhead-nothing more than window dressing-dotted the crystal-blue sky. As I walked, a mellow breeze lifted my weary spirits. The road I followed climbed steeply and left me light-headed with calf muscles protesting. Determined to take advantage of this however-brief escape, I pushed on.
I passed homes sporting newly-set-out shrubs; patches of flowering plants sprinkled the dark earth of garden beds. One or two tenants stopped in their labors to send me a friendly wave.
My meandering took me beyond the houses and into an undeveloped area. I soon found myself at an overpass bridging two ridges high above a steady stream of Interstate traffic below. I climbed the low metal railing and sat on the grass. The mélange of vehicles whizzing by far below mesmerized me as tired muscles relaxed.
It seemed strange to be thousands of miles from familiar home-grounds yet these surroundings evoked old memories. Like being trapped in a time warp, the transience of my situation filled me with ambivalence. Was the path of my life also predetermined by the genes I inherited? The decisions I made, the options I chose--were they all conditional responses bred into me through past generations?
The Bible teaches that man was the only creation to which God gave freedom of will. Yes, it had been my decision to undertake this overwhelming task of accompanying a sister along her final days on earth. But was it really a thought-out choice or was it only the conditioned response of an elder sister who always felt responsible for her siblings? No matter what predisposed the decision, I had made it willingly and would remain to fulfill my obligations. But just for this moment, I took time out to pause and absorb the quiet and peace of my surroundings.
When a change in the air’s touch brought goose-bumps, I looked about. Something in the distant western sky caused me to catch my breath. Billowing clouds tinged with a gray that forebode coming showers were gathering. Beyond their mass, an ominous blue-gray cast already replaced the sky's clear, azure coloring. Sure signs of an impending storm headed my direction.
My peaceful interlude ended abruptly. Time to return to the house, to seek it’s shelter from the coming storm. With reluctance I climbed back over the barrier and retraced my steps, refreshed and ready to pick up the burden I had willingly taken on. It brought a sense of peace knowing that even in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, those islands of quiet and restoration were available. The walk I chose to take had turned into not only a change of scenery but a settling of my uneasy mind.