There are many stops along life’s journey — some very pleasant, some very painful, some beautiful, some are ugly and heartbreaking.
Each of us is on a unique journey. Some journeys are over way to soon. Some journeys last longer than we ever anticipated. What we have in common is that we are all travelers together.
Our paths cross time and again. Sometimes our paths run parallel. Sometimes we travel the same path. Some people step over other people who have stumbled and fallen along their journey.
Some people reach out to those who have fallen and help them get back up and keep moving. They dust them off, make sure they are OK and walk with them for a while. Helping others and walking together makes for a much more pleasant experience.
At times, we might have to travel alone, but it’s always better when we travel with someone we care about.
My parents have been married for over 68 years. As you can imagine, they have seen a lot of highs and lows during that time. Through it all, they have stayed together, on the same life-path.
My grandparents lived in southern Indiana, about halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville. It took nearly three hours for our family to drive there from Germantown.
I would like to have a few dollars for every time one of us four kids would ask, “Daddy, are we there yet?” A few miles, later, “Are we there yet?” The answer was always about the same: “Just about.” “Just a little bit longer.” “We’re almost there.”
Mom and Dad would keep us busy counting the number of cows on each side of the road. Dad taught us the words to all of his favorite Hank Williams songs (Hank senior, not junior). We played the alphabet game. Sometimes we just slept. At times, we just waited for our kid sister to get car sick.
It was usually a fun journey. We used to make that drive several times a year, but after our grandparents died, we rarely traveled to southern Indiana. Those journeys are now part of our family history.
My young grandson, Clayton, has been on an amazing journey. Before he was even two years old, Clayton was diagnosed with cancer – retinoblastoma. To save his life, his right eye was surgically removed. He then underwent six-months of chemotherapy. He had an IV port inserted under his skin. He had to receive anesthesia each time he had an MRI exam. Blood testing became part of his life.
Like most cancer patients, he lost most of his hair. Later, as it started to grow back, it came in stiff and wiry.
Through it all Clayton became my little cancer-fighting superhero. He was almost always happy. When we were scared, he would lift us up. He just journeyed on and on. Clayton had his one-year, post-chemotherapy exam earlier this year. His oncologist declared him cancer-free.
I told the oncologist that I thought Clayton would be a perfectly normal little one-eyed boy. The doctor immediately corrected me. He said. “No. Clayton is going to be a perfectly normal little boy.” Thank God.
The entire Riley family has been traveling together on Clayton’s journey. At times, it’s been a scary ride, but Debbie and I have noticed something very interesting about our little Clayton. Rather than asking, “Are we there yet?” Clayton frequently looks around and asks, “Where are we?” There’s a big difference.
Clayton is not impatient. He just keeps traveling on his journey. He doesn’t get too angry or frustrated. He just wants to know where he is. He has never asked, “Are we there yet?” Without even realizing it, he is preparing for the future by living in the moment. He now has a long, long life ahead of him. Thank God.
Recently, we have been working with attorneys to get my parents approved for Medicaid. As sad as it is, as Clayton begins his journey, my parents are nearing the end or their long journey together. Many times, over the past several decades, Mom and Dad have reached down to help their children and grandchildren. They have lifted us up and, at times, they have carried us through some rough times.
Now, we are helping Mom and Dad through the final miles of their journey. Eventually, all journeys end. My parents realize this, and have even taught us, that it’s not the end of the journey that matters; it is the years, the miles and the smiles we have shared along the way that are most important.
Thirty years ago, Debbie and I met. Our first date was on Valentine’s Day, 1987. Since then, on our 30-year journey together, we have shared joy. There have also been times when we had to support each other and carry each other. We picked each other up, dusted each other off and continue life’s journey. Always together.
My parents and Clayton have taught us not to worry about when the journey might end, but to cherish the time that we have. It’s not about the end – “Are we there yet?” It’s about the journey – “Where are we?”
Let’s enjoy where we are on our life’s journey, and not worry about when the journey might end.
Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.