G L E D E
"...I think I want to jump."
"You want to jump?"
"Okay. Then you will."
It was nothing, really. Well, except that it was everything...for me. We were in the midst of some magical, mystical days on Cuttyhunk island for our annual family reunion, and Luke had just left on the ferry.
I vacillated between going and not going this year. My condition has worsened since last year when I could get around with a pair of trekking poles. I now require a walker at all times; my stability has worsened; my energy has gone UA (unauthorized absence); my fatigue is unrelenting; and my speech has gotten a lot worse over the past few months. Oh, and I can't swim anymore-- can't manage my my shortness of breath; one stroke and I'm in distress.
Level of effort now weighs into most, if not every, decision I make. And practicality-- would my walker(s) even fit through the doorway to the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club where we were staying? And what about the entryway to our room? To the bathroom? How would I take a shower-- are there grab bars? Would my walker even fit in the narrow hallway? Would I need both of my walkers (one is smaller but unstable outside, the other larger but stable outside)? Could I have them load the walker(s) on the ferry or would I need one on the boat? I better bring my cane to help with stability for when someone is holding my other arm on the boat, or for times I can't use my walker...? Just stop, already! Right? This is exhausting!
I study future escapades now, treating them more like research projects than a trip. Every outing becomes an exercise in risk management and ROI for the enterprise (me). It's a bit frustrating to do so and the process tries my patience, since I'm often more inclined to throw caution to the wind in the spontaneity of the moment, each one full of endless possibilities! But I often find myself stepping back from it all and asking myself, "How do I want to live my life?", or rather, "How do I want to live my life now?". Say "yes!" is my response. Say "yes" to life.
I'm going to Cuttyhunk.
I can't do things the way I did them before, but I can do most of the things I've always done-- just in a different way. A Different Way. And "a different way" doesn't mean less; in fact, I'd argue that my journey now can be just as rich or even richer with possibilities, fulfillment and joie de vivre. I recently wrote a letter to some new friends at a wonderful organization called CCALS (Compassionate Care ALS), who knew I was going to Cuttyhunk and had asked me how my trip had been. In my labored, stick-like penmanship, I described my magical adventure to Cuttyhunk as one of the most profound trips I've ever taken...in my entire life. Then I read what I had written, seeing the irony of it all...the magic of it all.
There is a tradition on Cuttyhunk that when someone departs on the ferry, friends, loved ones and anyone else who's so inclined, jump off the dock as the ferry leaves. I like to think of it as a joyous expression of love, support, care and joie de vivre for the departing traveler. For me, it is one of those wondrous and powerful moments where joy and sadness collide.
And so it was on August 12th at 3 p.m., when I found myself at the dock with 20 or so cousins and other loved ones, ready to wave "good-bye" to my son, Luke, who needed to leave the island early in order to prepare for school. I wasn't going to jump, of course. I had already nixed that. (Bill, #captainoffun #anythingispossible, quietly tossed my life jacket into the back of the cart.) Luke embarked; the ferry got underway, I waved, and everyone else jumped, save for my cousin Matt who sacrificed his jump to hold me upright, a constant battle (and a constant beloved companion!). The smiling sea of bodies in the water slowly wound their way out of the water and back to us as the ferry exited the channel, its image shrinking in the distance.
"Yes," I thought to myself..."I want to..."
Me: "...I think I want to jump."
Matt: "You want to jump?"
Matt: "Okay. Then you will."
A few minutes later, I had donned my life-jacket and was making my way to the edge of the dock, escorted by Matt on one side and Pat, his brother, on the other. I stood on the edge, gripping their forearms as a lifeline, a crowd of support and encouragement gathering around me. Hesitation crept in, adrenaline started to flow and my knees began to tremble. I didn't know if I could physically step forward and off the dock; we talked through the process-- I'd jump alone; as soon as I surfaced, Matt and Pat would follow. The moments seemed long, too long... "Say yes," I thought. "On 3", I informed and prodded...1, 2, 3...and...off!
And so it went. One moment in one trip. A jump. The Jump. The Jump! The Jump that says "YES" to life. That says, "I CAN." That says, "I WILL."
But the jump, or rather, The Jump!, is not possible without the cousins, friends, and others I've never even met who were with me that day, who are still with me today and always will be, helping me utter those three phrases:
Yes. I can. I will.
Many others were with me that day, including you. I wish I had the skill to articulate my gratitude for the love, support, care and encouragement that all of you give to me, helping me move onward, helping me move upward. Thank. You.
G L E D E
A friend I met on Cuttyhunk introduced me to this word. It means "joy" in Norwegian. And yes-- Swedes and Norwegians actually CAN be friends, but I am no match for his Norwegian accent!
Until we meet again...
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