I went to see the movie Wild. The story of Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail after the death of her mother and it took my breath away.

I walked out of the theater and into the fresh air, squinting through my headache as the sun bleached any chance of my seeing where I was walking. Sunglasses covered obvious tear stained eyes; protecting me until I made it to the sanctuary of my car. The car door opened and I sat as words, wet and unintelligible rose from my throat like dry heaves. It seems these days I never know when the creep of grief will overtake me. However, this grief was different, more tangible, less flighty, I needed to listen to it.

I needed to resist the pull to go home and make dinner, take the dogs out, load the dishwasher. I needed to resist reverting to the grind of self-preservation wrapped in bows of daily chores and instead lean in and soak up this lesson. I wanted to hang on to this feeling, not try to get over it. This story had somehow connected me with Beau; maybe he would share with me something I had missed that he wanted me to know. Maybe God would speak to me, guiding my next steps with the sureness a Savior. Listen, I told myself. And so I did.

In silence I rewound the story of Cheryl Strayed in search of the voice that was speaking only to me. In the end it was the vastness of her world that enticed me, the space in the wilderness where she could scream without notice, pain she could ponder in the quiet, love and memories she could replay, beauty absorbed and the time counted in steps, mistakes, sunsets and sunrises, all harrowing yet healing. An ache began to grow in my gut, the ache that is satisfied only by doing what you must. “You must have a journey” were the words spoke boldly to my soul. Ok. So I grappled with where I would go, what exactly would this journey entail? I got nowhere. Then God answered…..”It has already begun”.

Through this raw story I had connected with Beau. I lived the ache that had pulled him out of contact with those who loved him. I saw the dream he carried, to find healing in his own version of a “journey in the wilderness”. That night, through her story, I had walked with him. I observed his steps, his choices, smiles, and his sadness through a distant screen, unable to reach him, but feeling everything. At that moment Beau and I were in tune in ways we had never experienced before. And so I speak to you now my child and I want you to know I understand your pain and the gut wrenching “must” that lived within you. Finally, I get it and may my lesson bless others while God readies me to listen for whatever is next on my journey.

I wrote Cheryl Strayed to let her know I was up for buying her a cup of coffee and I shared with her my deep appreciation for her story, raw and real. We’ll see if we ever share that cup of coffee.


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