by Kari Pike
The exercise club I patronize has computerized their workout equipment. I carry a little tag that contains a computer chip holding all my personal workout information. As I use the machines, the computer keeps track of my range of motion, strength, and calories burned. It can even tell me the percentage of energy each of my muscle groups contributes to my workout. Little green or yellow lights flash at me to let me know if the intensity of my efforts is meeting the goal that will improve my fitness. When I earn a green light for so many workouts in a row, the computer raises my fitness level and as a result, the intensity of the workout needed to get another green light.
The thought occurred to me that life is a lot like that. Just as soon as we think we have our challenges figured out, new ones pop up. Sometimes, though, new challenges confront us before we resolve the previous ones. I often feel as though I am in the middle of one of those “Life Comes at You Fast” commercials. Take July 3rd for instance:
Doug (hubby) got up at 3:30 because he had drawings to finish for a work deadline. About 7:30 am, my brother came to drop off his children for the day. Terry did not look well at all, but he said he was okay. A few hours later, my friend Pamela called. In between sobs, she told me her doctor was sending her to St. Joseph’s hospital to meet with an oncologist. Instead of being pregnant, he thinks she has cancer. I offered to keep her children so her husband could go with her. A couple of hours later, my friend Kelly called. Her daughter’s best friend had just committed suicide. Kelly needed a listening ear and a sounding board to calm herself and to know how to help her daughter. Another hour, another phone call. Debbie’s car broke down and she needed a tow. Could Doug help? The phone rang again. My neighbor Dot was in distress. She missed the last step on her way down her stairs, fell hard on her back and could not get up. I have a key to her house and was able to run over and help her. As soon as I returned home, the phone rang again. Vicky wanted to know if I could keep the kids longer because she had to take Terry to the hospital. Another minute, another phone call…Good news! Pamela does not have cancer! She came to pick up her children and we all had a spaghetti dinner together and shared hugs and tears of relief. Vicky called back. Could I please keep the children over night. Terry was being admitted to the hospital. Then Mom called. She had thrush. Yuck! She felt miserable.
After dinner, Doug left with one of our sons to tow Debbie’s car home. Yep. The phone rang again. It was Mom Pike. Dad Pike laid down on the bed a couple of days ago and refuses to get up. Mom just wanted to talk and let us know how things are going. We are not ready for the end, yet at the same time we have been expecting it. After that last call, I announced to the family, “Nobody move! As soon as Dad and Jared get home, we’re having family prayer and going to bed!”
About 10:00pm, our guys returned safely. We had prayers and Doug went right to bed. That’s when Jared turned to me and said, “Mom, we need to get Dad a new tow rope for his birthday. The old one broke while we were towing Debbie’s car tonight.” I had to laugh. I think the adrenaline wore off about 2:00am and I finally fell asleep.
The next 72 hours included attending a labor and delivery, unexpected company from Texas, and the sewing of 2 more sets of pioneer skirts and aprons and bloomers. Another 24 hours saw us loading up the buses and heading our for our first youth trek experience as a Ma and Pa.
The trek was a new challenge in and of itself. I was a little concerned how my grandma-age body would hold up to the rigors of hiking 17 miles in 3 days and sleeping on the hard, rocky ground with nothing but a sleeping bag and a tarp. (Sleeping bags trigger claustrophobia.) I knew I would see growth in the youth. I didn’t expect the growth that came to me. I will end this long missive with an entry from my journal about the trek.
“Somewhere along the second mile (on the second day), we were met by a group of men dressed in Cavalry uniforms. They said they represented the President of the United States and they read a petition calling for our men to serve in the Mormon Battalion. Since the Forest Service wouldn’t let us use a different road or trail, the men, young and old, had to walk beside the handcarts and pretend they weren’t there. We women had to pull the handcarts as if we were all alone. We couldn’t speak to the men, or they to us. I gathered the young women in our family and we had a prayer together asking for strength and endurance and safety.
Shortly after we began pulling the handcart, the road turned very rocky and became a rather steep hill. The five young women pulled the cart from the front and I pushed from the rear. I carried “Charlie” and one of the Stake leaders told me I could hand the sand baby off to Douglas if the going got too hard. I think we pulled the handcart a total of nearly two miles. Whenever the road leveled out, many of the young women would go back and try to help the other carts in our Company. My bonnet acted as blinders, limiting my peripheral vision severely. Being at the back of the handcart, I had to look down at the road to keep from tripping over rocks and debris. I couldn’t see over or around the cart to know what lie ahead. Just when we would reach a particularly difficult spot, when we would stumble and get stuck and think we would never make it, I would see a pair of feet appear next to mine and two hands grab the back of the cart and start pushing with me. When the way became easier, our “angels” would disappear. I remembered the stories I read about the presence of angels when the real Handcart Pioneers crossed the plains. I cried the whole last half mile of the pull. I cried for the hardships my ancestors experienced so that I could enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel. I cried for the joy I felt at knowing the Lord gives us strength and sends others to strengthen us. I cried because I did something I never knew I could do. I cried because I saw those young men stress about not being able to help—and then run out in front and move rocks out of the road so that our way would be easier. I cried because I could see the great power that is available to all of us as God’s children. He did not put us here to fail. He sent each of us to the time and place he needs us most. He wants us to succeed and has given us all the tools we need to prove ourselves worthy to return to His presence.”
On the bus ride home, we received news that Dad Pike passed away. I'm glad he finally got all his green lights and moved up to the next level!