Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad

I took this photo when visiting my childhood home in Milledgeville, PA, a few years ago. This is the country road to what was my grandma's farm when I was a kid. It's no longer in the family now.
This picture seems symbolic as I reflect on the long and bumpy road where my life has led me.
There was a time when I knew every bend and tree along this dusty dirt road to my grandma's. I knew nothing, however, about the world beyond it.
I had no way to visualize back then what my life would be like in 2009 as I near my 60th year. It was incomprehensible to me then, as a child.
But even a year ago, I could never have foreseen my present reality. Being so alone and sad is nothing I would have dared to contemplate.
Some people by my age have already made out their wills, planned their funerals, bought scenic cemetery plots and plenty of life insurance. My husband and I never did. Neither one of us could bear to think that far ahead. We didn't realize our end was so close at hand.
I've come a long ways since my Milledgeville days, but I've made even greater strides since just this past June. That's when my husband, my forever love, suddenly died.
Here's a picture of us at a high-school dance in 1969. Forty years is a long time.
For several weeks after his death, I didn't want to live. I just couldn't see how I could. When I tried to visualize a future without him, it was blank.
Jack Daniels and Marlboros were my main sources of comfort. Their effects on my nerves were welcome; their familiar smell and taste reminded me of my husband. I was also attracted to their dire consequences of fatal disease. When I heard on TV that smoking one cigarette takes 11 minutes off your life, I ran right out and bought a carton.
I was consoled by well-intentioned folks who said that when God closes one door, He opens another. I thought, "Sure he does. But when?" I'm beginning to see it happen, finally, in my life since I started this blog.
It was hard at first. I'd have to sober up enough to write. Then I'd cry as I read what I'd written, wondering if anyone else would ever read it. But I felt I had to do it. I was being pushed by an invisible hand.
Now I'm receiving support from people all over the country. Let me take this opportunity to tell each of you this right now: Your words are a kindness I can feel. They're flowing like a healing elixer through my veins. I don't need any whiskey anymore. The nicotine will be gone soon, too.
There's a song in my heart tonight from my early days in rural western Pennsylvania. It seems appropriate to end this post with the lyrics, which ring as true today as when they were written 100 years or more ago. I'd add the familiar tune on this page, too, but such tricky widgetry eludes me yet. You can go to my Profile page and click on "audio" to hear the tune, if you'd like.
It's an old-time gospel song, a bluegrass classic, I guess you'd say. It's long been one of my favorites. Maybe you've heard it. It's called "Life's Railway to Heaven," by Charles D. Tillman:

Life is like a mountain railroad,
with an engineer that's brave,
We must make the run successful,
 from the cradle to the grave;

Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels,
never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
and your eye upon the rail.

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
in our praise forevermore.

You will roll up grades of trial,
you will cross the bridge of strife;
See that Christ is your conductor
on this light'ning train of life;

Always mindful of obstruction,
do your duty, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
and your eye upon the rail.

Right on, Mr. Charles Tillman. Amen, brother.