On Top of the World
The warm breeze coming in the open widow from the Old Town Trolley licked my face and pushed my hair back clearing my view of the San Diego Bay on a perfect summer afternoon. Seated in a worn leather seat in the back of the orange and green sightseeing vehicle, the other passengers and I were heading up the distinctive inclined curve of the beautiful five lane 2.12 mile San Diego-Coronado Bridge at a good clip towards the island of Coronado as a part of our two-hour visit of the neighboring cities. The bright blue steel girders lifted us up to a maximum height of 200 feet making it possible for U.S. Navy ships operating out of the nearby Naval Station in San Diego to pass underneath us.
As we reached the summit, “Bill” our driver blasted the 1972 Carpenter’s hit song “Top of the World” over the loudspeaker. Karen’s angelic voice filled the air and gave me goose bumps. I truly was “…on top of the world looking down on creation…” on many levels. Inspired, I sang along in my oh-so amateur voice along with the professional duo and together our message drifted down below to the entrance to the Pacific Ocean.
“Come to the edge”
“We can’t. We’re afraid.”
“Come to the edge”
“We can’t. We will fall.”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came, and he pushed them and they flew.(Guillaume Apollinaire- French Poet and Philosopher 1880-1918)
How many of us allow ourselves to be totally pushed to the edge? How many of us have the courage to do this?
I observed all of the attendants of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation’s Camp Widow West convention doing just that this past weekend. Widows and widowers gathered from around the country for a weekend to heal and find hope. It was truly humbling to be in the presence of so many survivors who freely opened their hearts to share their lives and learn more about authentic living. I was blown away by the number of fresh, young faces who were single again. I was inspired by the founders who gathered us all together and I was grateful for their wisdom.
The identification tags that we wore not only introduced us by name and origin, but the ribbon on the bottom of the plastic card announced how far into the grief process each one of us was involved.
The time frame did not matter. At the unforgettable point of separation, death, the journey began for all of us and our feet were to forever remain on that pathway in some form. Time makes the curves less sharp and the hills less steep, but we were all travelling together.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” (Ambrose Redmoon)
For one short weekend these wonderful people were given an opportunity to step out of their daily lives and enjoy the company of someone else who “gets it.” There was no need for a long detailed explanation, “the nod” and a warm hug was enough. No one had to keep his or her guard up and wait for those insensitive remarks from well-meaning, but uninformed friends and relatives. Instead we laughed, ate good food, and danced.
At the San Diego Airport late Sunday night, I observed a woman broadly smiling behind me. Her t-shirt read “Widows Rock”. I instantly recognized her as one of the “campers” that I met Saturday night as she entered the ballroom in her full length black sparkly dress. I introduced myself and told her that I remembered her. Her eyes lit up even more and she said, “Oh yeah, you did a workshop!”
She proceeded to tell me what a wonderful time she had and how she was returning to Wisconsin with a much lighter spirit. She showed me the picture on her cell phone from Saturday night’s event and said,
“I felt so beautiful, almost more beautiful than the day I got married.”
On top of the world!
Strong, smiling and ready to go back to her children, we individually boarded the plane and hoped to see one another at a future Camp Widow.
I foolishly used to think that support groups were a sign of weakness. They seemed to imply to me that a person had been diminished and was broken and unable to function.
This weekend reinforced a well-needed lesson.
None of us has all of the answers and we are all renting the same space. As our lives unfold, we will be faced with challenges and imperfections. This is the time to build on them and become stronger. It is not a sign of weakness to extend our hand in search of another one. We are all here to help one another and the fear not to do so instead becomes our weakness.
I held on to so many wonderful hands this weekend. I could feel the genuine caring in their hearts.
I reflected on the two day event as I was travelling on the pre-stressed concrete/steel bridge after the conference. As I replayed familiar conversations that I had and flipped through my mental snapshots, this connecting span supporting the trolley became a symbol for me of my evolving strength and continuing passion to reach out to others.
I truly felt “on top of the world”.
I hope that someday you will have an opportunity to reach out and feel the human power of another. And then in turn, maybe you will have the chance to return the favor. Don’t let fear get in your way. We never know until we try and the view from the top is fabulous!