Ride on



“Stay healthy,” she said.
Stay healthy.
The Rev. Sherron Hughes-Tremper, one of the supervisors in my chaplaincy training program, said this as our semester came to a close. It stuck with me. In other words, in this hard work you do, learn how to take care of yourself in the midst of it.
Sadly, Sherron died a few years later of cancer. But I do know she took care of herself, was gentle with herself, even as cancer ravaged her body.
I cycle. I do other things to take care of myself, but cycling ranks in the top five. Fortunately I can ride outdoors about nine months of the year here, so the gym has to suffice for the other three.
Here’s what riding helps me do: give thanks; clarify troubling situations; discern what to keep and what to let go of; gives me time to mediate and pray about the day and the people I encountered in it; release endorphins. And the scenery always offers something new: a deer in the distant woods, the change of seasons; horses on a farm; and always the two places on the trail where the trees on either side bend toward each other in an arc, as in a kiss.
Plus, the meditative turn of the pedals and chain offers a rhythm that soothes, like a good poem or a song.
Every day, I encounter patients who cannot enjoy this gift. Many have lost even more-basic functions like speaking or walking or talking. And hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of the time in my own life when I was closer to death than life, when the light had gone out and I groped my way through the dark. When health returned, by God’s grace, I got back on my bike, and made other adjustments. My rhythm changed. Things that were once important fell away. Relationships came into focus. As my hospice patients and families know all too well, facing one’s own mortality offers great clarity.
“Stay healthy,” she said.
Stay healthy.