I've had a hard time knowing what to put on here over the last few weeks, but when Antonio, my site coordinator for Denver emailed our group of volunteers today and told us that one of our training exercises is going to be climbing Mt Yale: elevation 14,196, it hit me. Mountains and valleys, based on a scripture I remember reading at Youth quake in high school: "Without valleys there'd be no mountains."
I've had a very eventful last month at home. Almost 3 weeks ago, my best friend proposed to me in front of my whole family: mountain top experience. We've known since we started dating that I was going to be leaving for a year, so we've been able to work it into our minds that this was a challenge that we were going to have to overcome. He decided, and I agree that the best way for us to bridge this gap of distance over the next year is to make a stronger bond and commitment to each other.
This past Sunday, I found that my grandfather had past away: valley experience. If you are not familiar with this terminology or haven't caught on yet, this particular usage of mountains and valleys stands for high and low points in our lives. My gut reaction when I found out was concern for my mother and fear of the guilt she would feel. My grandfather lived with us for the last 5 months while he went through radiation treatment. Over that time, and time before that after he had broken his hip, my mom and her 3 brothers had a relationship with their father that was better than it had ever been. But after the 5 months were up, and my grandpa's psa has dramatically decreased, the decision came: stay with my parents or go home. He reluctantly made the decision that he knew was right. Go home and start his life back to normal. He got involved at the senior center there, which during his time with my parents was something he found he really enjoyed. The night before he died he had written on his calendar: "felt great today, had a great meal." He was notorious for writing EVERYTHING down, but this time it gave some comfort to his loved ones. He passed away that night.
Of course my mother's initial reaction was: "Should I have kept him at home?" We've all come to the conclusion that the decision that needed to made was made, and he died after having "felt great" and eaten "a great meal." You can't really ask for more than that...
Aside from recent events, I still think back to last summer, when I had to make the decision not to go to Guatemala. That was the hardest decision of my life, and it was definitely felt like a valley experience experience at the time. But, without last summer, I wouldn't be engaged, and I wouldn't have had this last year with my grandpa.
The bible gives us many different examples of valleys, the valley of the shadow of death, valleys of battle, valleys of discouragement. But, the bible also shows us that valleys are also literally and symbolically places of supplication. Valleys were where the crops were grown, where the people generally lived. You have to spend time in the valley to grow, to learn, to trust, and you become stronger so you can make it up to that mountain top, and truly feel the sense of accomplishment in what you have overcome.
Without the valleys there'd be no mountains. Without effort there'd be no reward (or RE-ward, as my grandpa would have said). And, without our extremes, there would be no means of comparison, no separation from amazing experiences like saying yes to the love of your life, or holding your first great grand baby, 62nd wedding aniversaries (Congratulations uncle Eck and Aunt Marge!) or climbing the highest mountain to times like saying see you later to a loved one. I will revel in getting to the top of that mountain when I get there, but I hope to look back down on how far I had to climb and love the experience for what it was.