By Nancy Lou Henderson
Jill turned onto the dirt road that led to the house. Looking out of the car’s windshield, she could see the house up ahead and the towering Mountain that stood behind it.
Stopping the vehicle for a moment, Jill slowly inhaled as she took in the breathtaking sight in front of her. Jill was home and would soon climb her Mountain. Continuing to drive the car down the road, once Jill reached the house, she parked the car, unloaded her things, then entered the home. Nothing had changed, and the place looked the same as the last time she had been there. It was as if time seemed to have stood still. Suddenly flashes of the day she left this home and the Mountain came into Jill’s mind, and then tears rolled down her face.
Jill took her father’s hand into hers, saying, “Daddy, I am here. I came as soon as they called me. Please, Daddy, don’t leave me all alone.”
Jill’s Daddy opened his eyes, smiled, then softly replied, “Jill, I will always be with you. I love you. Don’t forget to climb the Mountain.”
Then he closed his eyes for the last time.
Suddenly, Jill snapped out of her memory. She would not have the strength to get to the top of the Mountain if she allowed her memories to drain her energy. Jill took her things into her bedroom, then went into the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea. Once her tea was ready, she took the cup with her and then opened the kitchen door, which led to the back porch. Jill sat down in the rocking chair on the back porch, sipping her tea and staring at her Mountain. A gentle breeze of crisp fall air swept past her cheeks as a new memory filled her mind, and she could hear her father’s voice again.
“Jill, you will have many hills and valleys in your life, but when the mountains come, you will have to climb those mountains to reach the next beautiful valley in your life. When you find life is too hard, look at our Mountain, climb to the peak, talk to God and the Mountain, scream out loud, or cry many tears. God and the Mountain listen without judgment and will give you comfort even in their silence. When you are through letting your emotions out, look at the valley below to see the beauty in the world that surrounds you and a new future that awaits.”
Jill sipped her tea and smiled as she remembered her father’s words that beautiful summer day as they walked together on the path up to the top of the Mountain. It was the first time she remembered that her Daddy had taken her to climb to the mountain peak, but it was not her first trip with him to the mountain top. Closing her eyes, she recalled her Daddy telling her about her first trip.
“Jill, my heart broke, and I was lost when your Momma died. I did not know if I could go on without her, but there you were, a tiny baby lying in the crib that I had made for you. At that moment, knowing I wanted to be a good father to you, I had to climb the Mountain to get past my grief. The next day, I bundled you up and carried you to the mountain top. While sitting on a rock with you in my arms, I sobbed while talking openly to God and the Mountain. Soon, I noticed a rain cloud in the distance, and a rainbow appeared in the valley below. Carrying you down the mountain path, I knew that we would be okay.”
Opening her eyes, Jill realized that the sun was setting, casting a beautiful orange glow on the Mountain. She got up from the rocking chair then went inside the home. Tomorrow she would arise early then climb the path to the top of the Mountain.
At first light, Jill climbed out of bed. While on her way to the bathroom, she paused a moment looking into the bedroom’s full-length mirror. The reflection staring back at her showed a fragile woman. Not wanting to think about her fragileness, Jill walked on into the bathroom, showered, then returned to the bedroom to put on the dress that was Jack’s favorite. Twirling in front of the mirror, she remembered how much Jack loved this dress. Also, she recalled the day she had first worn it with him to the mountain top. Jill stopped twirling and smiled, remembering the day Jack proposed to her.
“Where are we going, Jack?”
“We are going to climb your mountain together, Jill.”
Jack took her hand they walked hand in hand up the path to the top of the Mountain. When they reached the peak, Jack took her into his arms, kissed her, then got down on one knee and said, “Jill, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Of course, she said yes. Jack picked her up, and they twirled round and round, then they sat down on the rock ground side-by-side on the mountain top. Looking down on the spring flowers in the valley below, they embraced and kissed again.
Jill looked down at her hand and the ring finger that held her wedding rings which were now very loose on her finger. Jack would not be with her as she began her climb today, but she knew he would come later. There was no doubt in her mind that he would know exactly where to find her. Jill looked into the mirror one last time, tied a scarf turbine-style around her head, and then put on her tennis shoes. She was ready to climb the Mountain. Jill grabbed her backpack with a couple of water bottles in it and then stepped out onto the back porch.
The walk to the mountain base was only about a mile, but Jill was winded when arriving at the path leading up to the mountain top. Sitting down on a rock at the path’s base, Jill took out a water bottle from the backpack, then before taking a drink, she said out loud, “Good morning, my mountain, I am back.”
The Mountain had sensed her presence long before Jill spoke. The first time he had known of her was a long time ago. A heartbroken man had brought this woman, then a baby girl, to his mountain top, and since then, she had visited many times. She even called him her Mountain. Though not able to ask or speak, the Mountain wondered. (“Where had she been for such a long time? What had happened to bring her for a visit? Would she tell her story as she walked the path, or would she wait to talk at the peak?”)
Knowing how far her journey would be, Jill did not sit long before starting up the trail. She would take her time and try to remember each tree, bush, flower, and rock along the way. Before too long, Jill came to a curve in the path then stopped to look behind a tree.
Looking up towards the peak of the mountain, Jill said, “Hey, Mountain, I just found my walking stick behind my tree. How about that?”
Knowing the mountain would not speak to her, Jill continued up the path in silence. Once she reached the peak, Jill sat down in the exact place where she and Jack had sat after he proposed to her. After taking a water bottle out of the backpack, she took a drink, then looked at the valley below her. The mountain waited for her to speak.
“Mountain, you and God know me better than any human knows me, except with the acceptance of Jack. I have not had time to tell Jack about mountains, hills, and valleys like my Daddy told me. Jack is facing a big mountain today, and I came here to get you and God’s help. I know he will be here soon.
As Jack drove down the dirt road to the house, he was distraught. (“Why had Jill left? He was only gone for a couple of hours to get some groceries. She has to be here and on the mountain.”)
Pulling up to the house, Jack smiled when he saw Jill’s car parked in front of the house, then he parked his car and ran into the house. Calling Jill’s name and looking through the house quickly, Jack ran out the backdoor and into the meadow that led to the path.
Still looking down into the valley, Jill saw Jack running across the meadow, then she said, “I told you he would come, Mountain. He loves me. Look how handsome he is.”
Listening but not speaking, the Mountain knew what was to come.
Out of breath, Jack reached the peak, then saw Jill sitting on the smooth rock ground. As he sat down beside her, Jack put his arm around her, then said, “Jill, what are you doing here? You are much too frail to be climbing your mountain.”
Jill kissed Jack’s cheek, then she said, “Jack, I have to tell you about the hills, valleys, and mountains. Look at the valley below us. Soon it will be full of snow, but in a short time, Spring will come, and the wildflowers will begin to bloom as the grass turns a beautiful green. You and I have climbed many small hills leading us to many beautiful future valleys. Once, we even climbed this mountain together to see a beautiful valley lying before us that brought us so much future happiness. Today we climbed the mountain path to the peak separately to look at the valley below, but we will not share the valley’s beauty in the future together. Promise me that you will make this your mountain and climb it when I am gone. You can come here to cry, scream, or sit silently. God and the mountain will listen to you without judgment to bring you peace, understanding, and hope.”
Jack held Jill tightly as she talked with tears streaming down his face. When she had finished speaking, he answered, “Jill, I promise you that I will. I will love you forever.”
A small cloud formed over the top of the mountain, then tiny drops of rain began to fall. Jill laid her head on Jack’s shoulder, closed her eyes then the mountain cried with Jack as they both held her.