It’s been four days now since we pedaled that final mile and crossed the finish line at the end of the world – and we haven’t fallen off the edge yet. It’s been four days of whirlwind, four days of feeling prouder than I ever dreamed I could feel, four days of wondering and marveling over the very fact that we – a very ordinary family – are here in Ushuaia.
And it’s been four days of thinking and analyzing and pondering the lessons we’ve learned. I know it’ll take a while to truly grasp it all and understand what it all means – maybe we’ll never get to that point at all. Right now, it’s all so fresh and raw and my thoughts are all so conjumbled up that I honestly can’t see that day coming any time soon.
But these past few days have also been filled with incredible sadness. A few hours after reaching our goal, I got word that my brother in law was in the hospital. The next day word came that he had suffered a minor heart attack and would be going in for an emergency triple bypass. And a short while later came the news that he died.
So now – as I think back upon our grand adventure, I can’t help but think about Rory’s adventure as well. Rory had been ill and in pain for many years, but the past year had been excruciating for him. After one of our particularly tough stretches with long distances with no access to water, biting flies attacking us, high temps and steep hills, my sister wrote to say, “I don’t get it. We endure this pain and hardship because we have no choice, but you are choosing it. Why?”
We did choose this life. We chose to put ourselves on the open road where we would be blasted by everything Mother Nature could dish out. We chose to push our heavy bikes up never-ending hills and battle headwinds and blowing sand. We did that, perhaps, because of the flip side of the coin – the many, many days when we had warm sunshine on our faces and winds at our backs. The days when we met kind people who reached out in every way imaginable to make our journey just a little bit better. Or when we came around a corner and gasped in amazement at the sights ahead.
But perhaps we did it because we can.
And Rory couldn’t. Rory fought a battle a thousand times harder than ours. He woke up every day in pain so great he could barely get out of bed. He lost his eyesight. He lost all feeling in his feet and legs. His kidneys failed and he went on dialysis. He and my sister spent hours wading through the stacks of medical bills piled up on their kitchen table. And they wondered. About the future. About next week. About today.
And so, I look back upon our journey and all those “hardships” we endured have come into perspective a little bit. I still won’t say our adventure was all easy, but it wasn’t “hard” either – because we knew at any point in time we could have thrown in the towel and headed home. But we didn’t.
Because it was wonderful. Yes, even the hard days were wonderful.
Those were the days when I learned what I was made of. That was when I learned just how deep I could dig. When I thought I couldn’t take another step and a headwind was howling and sand was blasting into my legs like little BBs and we had an impossibly steep hill to climb, those were the times when I learned who I was.
We could have called it off. We could have turned around and headed back to our nice, comfy house in Idaho, but we didn’t. Because you know what?? It wasn’t all that hard. I knew it could be worse.
We all face struggles in our lives. Some of them are of our own choosing, some are forced upon us. But we can’t give up. We plod through placing one foot in front of the other, at times not knowing where we’ll end up.
Rory’s struggles are now over. My sister’s struggles have taken on a whole new direction. We will face struggles too, as we figure out what comes next. But we’ll keep going, taking life one day at a time and learning what we can from each one of them. And that’s what life is all about.