The Stops Along the Way


They were an elderly couple rocking in the green wicker chairs on the porch of Sunset Mountain Lodge. He wore a khaki wool sweater slightly frayed at the cuffs, patched with leather: the kind of sweater that, after many years, warms its owner from without and also within. She wore a knit woolen hat and fleece coat to protect herself from the brisk October wind blowing off Brant Lake.

I had canoed over to Sunset for a glass of hot apple cider and found a vacant chair next to the pair. Thus I overheard the conversation of these octogenarians, Clara and Hank, who were planning their wedding, both previous spouses having died years earlier. Sweethearts in high school, they had come together at a reunion in Pottersville and their conversation confirmed that the human spirit remains indomitable.

The couple agreed that the wedding would be limited to family. They also concurred that the wedding should be brief. “The Reverend Watson is a wonderful pastor but his services—they never end. Remember that Father’s Day when he traced his family lineage? I counted 35 Watsons from the Civil War on. Maybe more. Hank, do you want to speak with the Reverend or should I?”

At that point, taking a final sip of cider, I introduced myself to my rocking chair companions. “Excuse me for intruding but I am a clergyman and, although I am reluctant to admit it, sometimes we do speak endlessly. An occupational hazard I suppose! I understand your desire for a brief service.”

Clara interpreted my words to mean that considering their age they could not waste time on words. After all, weren’t they entering the autumn of there lives?

Not at all!

Clara raised her hat to hear more clearly and replied. “Do you know why we wish a brief ceremony?” Silence.  There are times when even a clergy person needs to be quiet.

Clara explained. “We are catching a bus in Chestertown at 7 PM and the wedding is scheduled for 5 PM. Then, from Chestertown, we are travelling cross country to California. Big Sur, San Francisco. All along the Pacific Coast, a 99-day trip.”

I asked the obvious question: “Why don’t you fly?”

She smiled— the kind of smile that implied that I was still a novice in the wisdom of life.

“My dear, if we fly we will miss all the stops along the way.”

I do not know how far into their 80’s, or perhaps 90’s, Clara and Hank’s life extended but I am certain that until the end they traversed time fully, never missing a stop along the way.

Brant Lake

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