Sunday, August 10, 2014

Learning to Love the Scenic Route :: A Guest Post By Vicki Stilwell

For the past seventeen months, Vicki Stilwell has been learning to live without her husband. One day Rick's heart simply stopped beating during his morning commute. His car careened across the median, then several lanes of oncoming traffic and into the ditch on the other side of the highway. He was 43 years old; their children 17 and 15. Every day since, Vicki has been carving a new life out of what remains. It's been public and private, broken and beautiful, dignified and not so dignified. When I found her reflection on Facebook, I asked her to share her story here.

  : : :

After we got Max, we quickly discovered that Jack Russells need exercise in order to not eat things like shoes and furniture, so I started walking the dogs. Little walks turned into longer mileage, and Rick encouraged me when I said I wanted to walk a half marathon.

Two years ago, I was training for the first one, and while I was comfortable with mileage, hills scared me. I am slow, and hills made my calf muscles scream.

Rick and I were here at our condo in Lake Lure, and there is a particular route on the back roads of the resort that I had always wanted to walk. It is quiet and in the woods, and of course, filled with twists and hills.



Rick, always my biggest cheerleader, encouraged me that I could do it. He even promised to meet me with the car at the end of the route and take me to get coffee.

I was able to follow that path that day with his encouragement. I finished and got my coffee.

 He always said, "I don't care how far she goes as long as she comes back."

I have now done three half marathons so far: one "virtual" half with Nike (done on my own) and the Savannah Half twice.

 
Last summer, I did that Lake Lure route again, on my own. I needed to prove to myself that I still could.

Soon after, I began training again for the Savanah half, this second time last year with a group of amazing women ... because they love me and know I needed the encouragement. Getting back out there was hard because I did not have Rick here waiting when I got back. But I know he'd want me still out there, doing the mileage and learning how to do all this a new way.

The kids and I are at our condo at Lake Lure again this summer, and this morning, in the rain, I did that route again. But this time, God made me aware of how much this stretch of road mirrors my life.

The route is not one I ever thought I could do, much like living without Rick. There are parts of this path that are hard; those hills still make my calves scream, but not as badly as two years ago.

When I am in the quiet of the woods, I can feel God's presence. He showed me this morning that some of this road is smooth, some is filled with bad patches, but I am never far from Him or those who love me.

There will be hills, and valleys, and stretches that feel so lonely — but in the end, the walk is worth it.
This route finishes with a brilliant view of the lake — just like this life will finish with a awe-inspiring view of God. I pray that God will say to me "Well done," just the way Rick did when I made this trek the first time.
Vicki Stilwell is a high school drama teacher, a curator of Disney movie trivia, a pinch-hit social media and computer tech pro, and a walker of half marathons. Follow her on Twitter @MrsCaffeinated.

Related Post: Walking and Talking: A Tribute To An Unfinished Friendship
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