David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Did you take a picture?

I was not going on a spiritual journey, I was not going on a pilgrimage.  All I wanted to do was leave town during the Mardi Gras holidays.  Normally, I can hang, not this year!  David would be out of town and the thought of living through Mardi Gras with a 16 year old, without David's support made me want to run.  So, I did!  Brooke is an awesome, wonderful girl, gratefully though, she is human and a teenager!  My answer was to entice Brooke with a trip to Sedona, AZ; hiking, horseback riding, biking and the real clincher, how I really hooked her, was a trip to the spa. New experiences, new memories.  She said yes, I booked the flight, made the hotel reservations and loosely planned some activities.  There was anxiety on my part, I haven't traveled solo in a long time.  In my former years, working as a retail buyer, I was an experienced traveler.  Motherhood came and I tended to stay put, only traveling as a family, with the security of David, taking the reigns.  I pondered all the responsibilities I would have, taking shuttles, navigating an airport, renting a car, checking in for flight, driving north 2 hours on unfamiliar roads, etc., checking in hotel and alongside that being a "happy" mom and a "sad" mom.  The desire to escape outweighed the anxiety.  I knew I was independent in more youthful years, I needed to test myself, reclaim this part of myself;  I was going.

On the eve of my departure, I get one of "those" phone calls.  My dad has had a seizure, he is being taken to the hospital.  Anxiety on the rise.  David is gone, I'm packing and guiding Brooke on preparing for our trip (each of us choosing to carry one of Samantha's school backpacks with us, each one monogrammed with her name; she is with us), weather conditions are becoming an issue, and my dad has another seizure, this time, his heart stopping for 17 seconds.  Watching this physical spasm was a jolting experience for Erich and Paul, my brothers.  Reassuringly, my family encourages me to continue with my plans.  Everything is under control. So I do, knowing that if a life-threatening situation evolves, I will return.  However, he spent a few days in ICU, a pacemaker was installed and a boot in place for his broken ankle.  He is resting, recuperating and comfortable at home.          

Researching Sedona, I discovered that it has a world-wide reputation as a spiritual mecca. Mother Nature's red-rock temples are destined to provide life-transforming, soul-nourishing work in person. It is stated that," Sedona is a perfect place for spiritual and personal enrichment of the body and the soul. A strong Native American influence, endless, majestic skies and breathtaking views define this global power spot. In addition, there are vortexes. What are these Sedona vortexes? Vortex sites are enhanced energy locations that facilitate prayer, meditation, mind/body healing, and exploring your relationship with your soul and the Divine. This is where I needed to be, I joked that I was going to stand in the middle of one of these "things", hands lifted high and just let those positive energies swirl and engulf me. In earnest, I had no idea what to look for and if, I would ever find one. David and Brooke thought I was nuts.

Submarine Rock 

Due to weather challenges, we miss our connecting flight to Phoenix and got put on standby with 33 fellow passengers. I'm feeling bumped around a bit, nicked up a bit, put to the challenge but, I'm handling it.  I talk to God constantly, I tell myself, one thing at a time, don't look ahead, just take care of this moment.  We board our flight, land in Sedona, rent our car, make the 2 hour drive through unexpected curvy, hilly, rocky, winding landscape. Our afternoon is spent exploring Sedona, a great dinner and early to bed.  Our first full day is spent on a thrilling, bumpy, jolting Pink Jeep tour on the Broken Arrow trail.  While touring, we enjoyed the splendor of Sedona's landscape and an introduction to the famous Red Rock formations. 

Brooke and Casanova
Horseback riding was on the agenda for the afternoon, Brooke and I met up with Sue and Bill, our wranglers.  Bill, led us on a rocky trail ride with our animal companions, Casanova and Stitch.  This proved to be one of the highlights for Brooke. She enjoyed the ride and the opportunity to gallop with Casanova.  Chatting with Bill, we learned he believes in the Big Book and his brother is a Baptist preacher.  It was just the 3 of us, Bill, Brooke and myself, or 5 if you count Casanova and Stitch on the rocky trails passing the national monument of the cliff dwelling, Montezuma's Castle. The sky is so vast and open in Sedona, as well, the air quiet and tranquil.  It is a perfect stage for meditation, or sweet conversation.  There just aren't many distractions to contend with.  So, we trotted in harmony for our ride and were appreciative for the experience at the end of the trail.

Brooke hiking up Cathedral Trail
Liz at a good moment
The following day we were to "hike." We were ready, having visited a local store, The Hike House and participated in their free, interactive service.  You provide them with your experience level, duration preference and what you would like to see and they suggest trails for you.  We met Mary, my words to her were, "We have never done this before. Brooke is athletic, I'm not a pansy but...." We proceed to explore trails, we bought water, snacks and headed to the suggested spot, Cathedral Trail.  I liked the sound of that.  We park our car and greet the people who park next to us, two couples.  Brooke is full of zeal, heading for the trail, I follow.  In the beginning it is serene, Brooke comments to me, " Wow, that is the same sun that shines at our house!" It wasn't just a passing comment, I knew she was getting "it." It is so amazing when you really think about it - the same sun in Mandeville that dominates and owns the sky in Sedona.  We continue and encounter the start of a very steep section.  I struggle and Brooke films me.  She is having a ball, laughing at my inability.  The couples from the parking lot must be watching, and come to my rescue. Our groups merge and one man, in particular, helps me.  He suggests I put away my camera and he states; "We are going to the top, Elizabeth, you are going to climb to the top of this mountain, and I am going to help you. After you make it up there, you will be amazed. This climb is so worth it!" He does help me, he holds my hand, he lets me hold his arm, he encourages me, he continues to call my name and instructs me that we are going to the top. He is humble, confident and persistent.  I wanted to say no, but I couldn't. I knew I had to do it! Even with his steadfast support, the climb is challenging for me (it's not a hike, this was like mountain climbing to this city slicker, southern girl.) Fear winning me over, the scales get tipped and I cry.  I don't know why but, I did what I didn't want to do!!! I say out loud, "I'm sorry, I just need a minute, I lost my daughter not too long ago, this is just hard for me!"  One of the woman draws near to me, comforts me and explains that they are here on their own spiritual journey.  I squint my eyes and shake my head -  I say to myself - "NO, I didn't come here for that, I don't want to hear that!" - I want this to be about Brooke, about fun, and life.  She continues speaking, telling me her brother died last year, the gentleman that was sooo kind to me, was her brother's best friend, they were there together, spreading the brother's ashes over Sedona. We both cry, gather ourselves and continue upwards.  I am physically tired, breathless and emotional.  The altitude and lack of activity over the last few months is becoming an issue. Hallelujah, we make it to the top!!! It is breathtaking, majestic, open and vast. It was worth the climb! I sit to rest, the others, including Brooke explore between the gaps of Cathedral Rock. I can't even watch them.  We are high up, there are no barricades and no railings. My helper, ventures to the ultimate ledge, he invites me, I decline. He assures me, "the ledge is larger than it appears." NO WAY, I am not going!" I watch him as he sits still, in quiet meditation or prayer.  The brother's sister and her husband return and sit with me, we share more details of each others' story, we cry again and agree that there are no coincidences. The best friend's wife, nonchalantly mentions, that we are in a masculine vortex.  Oh wow, I'm in one, at one and didn't even know it! The next whammy, they tell me they are visiting New Orleans, in March.  I couldn't believe it!! Just too much!!   Spiritual journey, death, ashes, tears, fear, coincidences, faith, exhilaration, accomplishment, New Orleans, I'm about to short circuit!

My friend sits at the very peak of the ledge in silence.

I'm instructed, by my unexpected, personal guide to stand and walk around, so as to make the descent easier.  I do as instructed and we head down.  It is not easy, I go down on my rear-end, their instruction to me when I ask How?, is, " Anyway you can!" They build a human wall for me in a few spots to brace my slide, if necessary (it never was, thank goodness). At one point heading down, we stop, I can't remember why, more than likely because I needed a break.  At this moment, Brooke shrieks, "Mom, Mom, look what is written on that wall!, she demands, "Look at It!!!!"  So, I look, what do you think i saw? Written there on the rocky wall, "SAM" with a happy face drawn next to it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I lowered myself to the ground, I covered my eyes, and I wept, Brooke cried, we all cried, everyone there knew it was special and a gift, given to Brooke; me and the others were privilege guests at her party!!!  

After we all recovered enough, to reach the bottom, we hugged and I gave them my email address and phone numbers along with pleaded hope, that they would call me upon their arrival in New Orleans.  I know no one's name, nor where they live!!  I took no picture!! While eating lunch that afternoon, Brooke says to me, " Mom, I think that man was Jesus. He kept calling your name and telling you, you were going to the top of that mountain and that he would help. He told you when you got to the top it would be worth it!"  I was blown away - I wasn't thinking like that - geez, I was still trying to catch my breath, steady myself from the writing on the wall.  Enough is enough!!!  I don't know what exactly happened, Jesus, I don't know, maybe an angel, maybe just a great guy with great friends.  It is so much to process! Whatever it all was, it was special to Brooke, I could tell by the tone of her voice and her reactions.

What I do know, is that I am returning to Sedona, next weekend.  Accompanied by a dear friend, I will scour that mountainside and try to find that spot, take a picture and bring that healing home to share with others.  I believe God spoke to Brooke and me through the writing on that rock - SAM with a smiley face (it was not a typical smiley face with a circle around it - it was drawn with two slashes for eyes and a simple grin). I believe He wants me to know that Sam is happy!!  I believe He keeps his promises to never forsake us. I believe He walks with us, holding our right hand. Alas, if it is not there, having been washed away by wind or rain (it could possible have been written with rock on rock or permanently carved, I didn't think to inspect ) I will just do as suggested to me, by my friends at The Hike House.  I have corresponded with them several times, telling them my story and asking that, any person hiking that trail, to please look for my message. They assured me they would help in anyway, but don't want me discouraged if it is not there.  Debra writes to me:

Good morning Elizabeth!
So sorry I have been errant in returning your email. The store has been super busy! I shared with Mary your story. I have not heard back from anyone that they have seen the name "Sam" on the rocks of Cathedral however. It may have been your special sign from God meant for you. Some things aren't always meant to be concrete but more soul touching which clearly your journey to Cathedral rock was for you and your daughter. I wish you peace and we'll keep looking :-)
God bless

Cathedral Trail was a difficult climb for me, no one else struggled, just me. Confidently, I know why it was chosen for me to hike.  Hopefully, my new friends won't visit while I'm back in Sedona!! As well, we enjoyed the spa, the morning of our departure.

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13

1 comment:

Dutch Price said...

This one...well all of your writings bring me to tears but this one Elizabeth brought me to my knees and I wept uncontrollably. What an awesome experience. God showed up with Sam. I love you and want you to keep writing. These writings are helping us to heal too. Dutch