Sunday, August 26, 2007

We Did It!

Yesterday my sisters, mother, husband, brother-in-law and I hiked Mt. Lafayette to honor my father's wishes of scattering his ashes off the summit of his favorite of all the White Mountains. I can say without a doubt that it was one of the two hardest physical challenges I've ever put my body through (walking in two Breast Cancer 3-Days was just as difficult). I woke up this morning basically unable to move and am still finding it really difficult (read: impossible) to get up, walk, go up or down stairs, get the point.

So the truth is that yesterday sucked. Initially, when I thought about the hike, I always knew that it would be a difficult physical challenge. But as the time got closer and closer, I was more concerned about the emotional aspect of this hike- thinking about scattering my father's ashes at the top of that mountain was heartbreaking. And as lame as this may sound, after watching My Life on the D-List, I had these ideas of what we would do...gather our own ashes, maybe say a nice memory of our father out loud and then toss them into the wind. Anyway, it was enough to make me cry every time I thought about it. So going into the actual hike, I ignored everything and just knew that I didn't have a choice so that was that.

We started the hike early in the morning. And we were greeted with a really beautiful sight:

It helped remind us why we were doing the hike and also of how f'n beautiful New Hampshire is.

Then we were slapped with a hard cold reminder of what exactly we were about to do when we saw the entrance to the trail. It was 3.7 miles to the top of the mountain and we'd get a rest after 2.6 miles when we reached the hut.

In the first hour alone I thought I was going to die. I had a hard time catching my breath and I really kept thinking "How the f am I going to finish the whole hike?" I realized I hadn't eaten anything so I sat down and ate a Clif Bar while everyone else went ahead. When Steve & I finally caught up with the rest of the gang a few minutes later, I found out they had all been joking that they thought I was on a conference call...very funny. Luckily after the Clif Bar incident I did feel much better and continued to power up the mountain (silently and not so silently cursing the entire way up).

I have to pause for a second and say for the record what an amazing woman my mom is. (Side note, she will be 56 this October). She did the entire hike. During the times when I didn't think I could go on, I thought of her and how if she could do it, I certainly could. Honestly though, just when I think I couldn't be more amazed and in awe of her bravery and determination, she goes and climbs this goddamned mountain with us.

Anyway, my mom is an absolute rock star and should win the trooper of the year award.

Hiking in the White Mountains is unlike anything I've ever done before. And even though I've hiked Mt. Lafayette before (nine years ago actually), I don't remember anything, certainly not how freaking hard it is. You can't take your eyes off the trail for a second. You need to keep your head down and carefully decide where you're going to place your foot so you don't fall or trip or slide off the mountain. Take a look for yourself.

Hard shit, right? It was, trust me (and every sore body part I have and didn't know I had).

We reached the hut, 2.6 miles into the 3.7 mile hike and stopped briefly to get some water, go to the bathroom, take a seat on something other than a rock or the side of a mountain, and then got back out on the trail just in time for a very brief but wet rain shower. Thank you L.L.Bean for having inexpensive high-quality rain jackets.

After a few pictures, we were on our way again.

The last mile was ridiculous. An entirely challenging terrain filled with big boulders and loose rocks the entire way up to the summit. For that last mile you could see where you were going and it was very deceptive. Just when you thought you were done, you had more to climb. I was, of course, bringing up the rear with my mom. She was adamant about adding a rock to the rock towers or castles or whatever they're called every single time we passed one! (Which had to have been at least 20 times. At one point she asked me to stop, pick up a rock and put it on for her because she was too tired to do it herself.

When we finally made it to the top, it was hard to really enjoy it because
1. we knew we had to go down.
2. it meant it was time to scatter the ashes and
3. we weren't planning on spending too much time up there because of how long it had taken us to get up.
oh and 4. we were all exhausted.
But it was a huge sense of accomplishment as well. We all felt great about reaching the top and although it wasn't clear skies, we were rewarded by the beauty that stretched before us- in all directions.

As I was saying...getting up to the top of the mountain meant it was time to scatter the ashes. Kara ordered a plaque for us to put on a sign post at the top of the mountain. Here's what she had to say about it back in the beginning of July "I had a small plaque made that can go on a tree at the summit (someone remind me to bring my tools). My hope is that it will serve as a more permanent marker of what he wanted and what we will achieve. Personally, I'll feel better knowing that it's there...and let's face it, if it ever falls off or is removed, I'll probably never know." It was a great thought and definitely made us all feel better about what we were doing. We wanted to leave something behind, besides the ashes, and this did the trick.

We decided to put it on the back of one of the summit markers. Since we didn't have much of a choice, it wasn't a hard decision, just a matter of getting it on there. After the sign was hung, we went off the side a little to actually scatter the ashes.

It was one of the most anti-climactic things ever. As we were talking about where we wanted to do this, we heard my mom say "Done. Done with it all." And then watched her walk away from a rock where she poured my father's ashes into.

As you can tell from the picture, me and my sisters had NO clue what my mother was up to! We were all in our own little world, waiting to do it all together I suspect.

Regardless, when we asked if there was anything else she wanted to say, my mother looked up and said "Are you happy now?" Typical Corridan humor and the typical Corridan way of dealing with really sad, shitty situations. If you can't laugh your way through it, then what else can you do?

From there we all did our own thing. Picked a spot, silently thought about my Dad and then let the ashes go right where he wanted them.

First Kara

Then Meghan

Then Katie

And then Me

After a few tears, it was time to head down the mountain.

Now let me take some time to tell you a little bit about this hike and my Dad. He didn't do this so we would have a nice bonding experience. He didn't do this because he thought we would enjoy it. He didn't do it because he thought it was something we would ever want to do. He did it because he knew we would all hate to do this. Wherever he is, he has gotten one hell of a kick out of this whole thing. Anyway, he did this to make us suffer. He did this because he knew we'd be miserable and in pain and we'd hate every single part of it. And while all of that isn't true, by the time we finished this god forsaken hike, we were cursing him out, rolling our eyes at the thought of him and hating every step we had to take in his honor. In other words, it all went exactly according to his master plan. We were suffering. We were miserable. And we were stuck. The only way to be done with this ridiculous task was to complete the hike. There was no stopping halfway. There was no quitting when you felt like it. The only choice was to climb up and climb all the way down.

Going down was more terrible than going up. My mom was using the hiking poles basically as crutches. We were tired and not as steady with our footing. We slipped more. We did the almost fall thing way more too. We were cranky, hot, tired, hungry, sore and completely over the hike.

We were under the (false/stupid) impression that going down would be much easier than going up. Boy were we wrong! Going down took just as much time. We barely recognized anything that we had done before so we kept wondering if we had gone the wrong way. We thought we would have finished much sooner than we did, so we all kept wondering aloud if we were "almost done."

At some point on the way down, all the sentimentality of what we were doing was lost. My mom was on the verge of tears, but couldn't even cry "because it would take up too much energy." Katie and Steve flew past the rest of us and finished a good hour before the rest of us because it would have been too painful to slow down and hike with the rest of us. (Who cares about obligation, right?). Kara's shirt which declared "No Whiners" was ignored, "we all earned it" she said about eight hours into the 10-11 hour day. Meghan was carrying my mom's bag. Steve had taken off with my bag which had my water, sunblock, food, etc. Our legs were beyond tired- they were shot. We were all fried. And it seriously felt like the neverending hike.

You get the idea- we hated it. In the end, it was just like old times; being put through some ridiculous physical challenge all at the hand of our torturous father- I say that lovingly, sort of.

I am amazed that we all did it- proud that we climbed that friggin' mountain and scattered the ashes. We gave our father the resting place that he wanted and it definitely feels wonderful having that behind us. Who cares that I can't walk today right? Who cares that I'm having nightmares thinking about how everyone says "you really start to feel it two days later." How could my body possibly feel worse than it already does? In the end, I'm even more proud of my own father, knowing that he hiked that mountain at least three times and was part of the AMC White Mountain 4000-Footer Club.

By the time we got down the mountain, dehydration, exhaustion and borderline delirium had set in and all we were focused on was getting back to the hotel to shower and eat.

When I woke up this morning, I looked up at the mountains we had been hiking just the day before and it all felt a little different. I was in awe of what we accomplished and I guess in a weird way, it was a nice feeling to know my father was up there- his body and spirit and his girls' sweat and tears.

As we left New Hampshire this morning, today on the 3-year anniversary of my father's death, I was really sad. Ever since he died, I feel like we've been going through these important milestones in small steps and stages. It's been hard to drag out all these sad things- selling the house, meeting with the team of doctors from Dartmouth, mom moving to Alexandria, scattering his ashes, etc. This one marked the last tie and task we had to take care of in New Hampshire. And while it was really strange to drive up to New Hampshire and not have a house to go home to, it felt just as awkward and sad to be leaving there today without any clear idea on when I'd return. I left knowing that there was nothing else bringing us back to New Hampshire.

Being in Lancaster and among the White Mountains was an amazing experience. I have always felt lucky to grow up in such a beautiful part of the country and as we were driving away today, I felt like I was looking at all of this with a different set of eyes- ones that knew I needed to take it all in and remember the beauty that I once took for granted.

I thought of my Dad and the life we shared together in New Hampshire, the life he wanted for all of us, and the life he gave to us too. I realized that the pain we experienced in hiking up Mt. Lafayette was totally worth it. It was my way of saying thank you to my Dad for all the experiences he shared with us and provided for us. And it was my way of doing what we said we were going to do. Cause as my Dad always said, "Corridan's aren't quitters."

Dad- I love you very much and I think of you everyday and miss you. I really do hope you enjoy the view.


Anonymous,  August 27, 2007 at 9:22 AM  

Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. You guys did it!!! Love you!

Anonymous,  August 27, 2007 at 11:16 AM  

You did it! Congratulations Molly, I am really proud of you and am sorry it was such a difficult hike. I was thinking of you!

Anonymous,  August 28, 2007 at 11:48 AM  

Dear Molly,
Hell Yeah! You did it! I'm glad that you, your mom and your sisters were able to do this together. Hope your path to recovery is swift.

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