Standing in the Appalachians of South Carolina was not on my list for 2023. However, a few weeks ago, I got a sobering call from my Dad. I expected the chat to be very warm and lovely, as our chats often are. This one broke me into pieces. His wife, Sharon, a mother figure in my life for more than 40 years, received a very serious diagnosis.
It came at a truly terrible time. My aunt had just died. Emotions proved tender. Due to COVID and other factors, I hadn’t seen my parents in years, and never been to their house in South Carolina.
I caught the first plane I could and headed southward.
The moment I stepped through the door of my parent’s place, the emotions overcame me. So much to contend with. So much to say. We contended. We said it all. I cried for almost two days straight.
And, then, my dad took us on a drive.
Let me back up and note that, as a child, drives with dad were a weekly occurrence. We’d head deep into the mountains of Colorado and spend hours on the road. Lou Rawls on the radio. Windows wide open. We never talked much, but the open road (or the winding one) cleared the air of whatever needed clearing.
And, so, I sat back and let the road do its job.
Finally, we made it to the ranger’s station at Table Rock State Park.
The peacefulness of the Appalachians of South Carolina proved to be the salve all of us needed to ease back from our sadness and fears. Table Rock sent my imagination wandering to Cherokee legends and giant goddesses who inhabited the land long ago.
My dad and I watched for owls and hawks while Sharon took in the breezy afternoon from the porch of the ranger station. Winter on the water made it stark, but brimming with life that comes from still times.
As we headed back to return home, dad and I lingered in the silence for a moment more. We let it settle into us. It let us ease down and find peace on the pathways.
I talk a lot about pilgrimages here and, yes, I do think that nearly any journey you make can transform you. Being with my parents in these precious, tender moments, finding my way back to their home, and deepening our connection is most definitely a pilgrimage. One of family, of love, of healing, and, of course, home.
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