This is part two of a series about Cora, who enrolled in hospice services with end-stage pulmonary disease. Cora stated, “I enjoy watching HGTV. I’m kind of burned out on “Fixer Upper”, so now I watch, “The Property Brothers”, and “Love it or List it”. And I love watching the barges go up and down the river.” Cora lives adjacent to her daughter, Tammy, her primary caregiver. Cora’s living room window faces the Ohio River and her front porch is only a few feet away from the downward slope of the riverbank.
Cora reflected, “I used to love walking. I walked six miles every day. I was in my fifties when I started. I was overweight and I was going to Weight Watchers and they told us to walk. So after I dropped my granddaughters, Candi and Kacy, off at Roosevelt school I would walk. When I first started I only made it about three or four blocks to Morton’s Pharmacy, and I liked to have never made it back to my car. But I was determined and I kept walking a little farther each day. I would never walk up the hill to Hill View Retirement Center until I saw an old man walking down the hill and I asked him, “Did you walk up that hill?” and he said ‘Yes I did.’ So I thought, “Well, if he can do it maybe I can too”, so I did”.
Cora eventually recruited her friend Betty to walk with her. Cora reflected, “When Betty started out she only walked from the New Boston Kiwanis’ Apartments where we lived to Lake Side Church. She had to sit down two to three times to make one mile; but she kept walking a little farther each day and before you know it we were walking six miles”. Cora and Betty’s determination reminds me of what my friend and fellow pilgrim, Mike, said about walking following a major surgery, “If you don’t go farther you won’t get stronger.”
Cora continued, “Betty and I were called ‘The Street Walkers’, in New Boston. We walked even if it was cold. If it was icy we would find clear spots to walk on. We even walked down the alleys of New Boston at five o’clock in the morning. We were told it wasn’t safe but I did it anyway. I remember Betty trying to kick a cigarette butt off the sidewalk and falling down. I looked around and saw her on the ground and said, “What are you doing down there?” I even got dog bit and once we almost got ran over by a deer (I so wanted to write “a reindeer”). Cora and Betty’s perseverance reminds me of what a hospice patient’s son said about walking regardless of the weather, “If a man won’t brave the elements he won’t accomplish anything”.
I stopped by Cora’s yesterday to draft this story and Cora’s son, Bernard, also one of our hospice chaplains, was providentially present. We engaged in an impromptu discussion about why some people give up while others keep going. Bernard helped coach a cross country team and observed that, “Some runners resist the pain and they don’t do very well. But the outstanding runners embrace the pain and even say ‘bring it on’, even in practice. Then when it shows up during the race you’ve seen it a hundred times before and you accept it and run through it.” That’s it, the willingness to run through the pain. And Bernard knows what it’s like to run through pain; he won “Athlete of the Year” three years in a row at Rio Grande College and placed third in the nation in the 1,500 meter run.
I was intrigued to calculate how many miles Cora had walked and it conservatively totaled over 26,000 miles, more than the circumference of the earth (24,901 miles). When I told Cora that she’d walked around the world she looked down at her feet, wiggled them, and said, “Gee, these feet sure have taken me a long way haven’t they?” But in my opinion it wasn’t her feet that took her such a long way, it was Cora’s determination to go farther, her willingness to brave the elements and her willingness to run through the pain.
Scott Peck, M.D. suggested that love is the willingness to embrace the tools of discipline, to run through the pain, (The Road Less Traveled). And Jesus declared, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends…” (John 15:13). Seeing how Jesus braved the elements, ran through the pain and laid down His life for us, surely we can live for Him. Hence the writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts us to, “…lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith…consider Him who endured such hostility (“pain”; my interpretation)…lest you become discouraged in your souls,” (Hebrews, chapter 12).
Is there something you’ve desired or longed to accomplish but are overwhelmed and paralyzed by the magnitude of the inherent tasks and challenges? Mark Twain suggested, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” Like with every journey in life, Cora’s 26,000 mile journey started with her first step. So what’s stopping you from starting? If Cora can do it, maybe you can too.
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.