The weight was too much…
I was nearly two hundred miles into a hike I said was in honor of you.
I carried you on my back: your Gi, your medals, the top to your urn, photos and many other things that reminded me of you. The pack was 50 pounds, but to me that weight was so much more. The weight was the burden. The burden you left us with when you called it quits, the metaphorical pack you were wearing when you bit down on steel and the pile of bricks cast out to our family. That weight was mine and no lesson had been learned because I refused to share it. Everyday someone would ask to help carry it as I was visibly becoming more broken. “Nope” a simple reply I would always make followed with maybe “this is my burden to carry”.
My steps had began to shorten and the pain in my body was nearly too much to bare. My feet were shredded and each step shot pain that felt like knives through the rest of my body. Calls with my closest friends begging me to share the pack, to find a way to keep going, to stop being so selfish; I was aware at this point the hike would end early with nearly four hundred and fifty miles remaining. There was no way I’d finish. I thought of all the people that still needed this. I thought of all the lives we had already touched. But, I was not able to confide in the one person I wanted to talk to the most. You were not there, Mike. You were gone. You carried your burden until the end and we all pay for that now.
The weight was… Too much?
I was surrounded by so many people that loved me and were doing all they could to take the weight from my back and I refused. I had chosen to continue carrying the weight no matter what that meant. I knew that in two or three more days there would be no more hike. I knew I would be in a car driving up the coast to go sit in shame and I don’t even want to explain the thoughts I had about what that might do to me. This hike was bringing so many together and that pack was destined to tear it apart.
Two thing happened within the span of one day that began to not only alter the course of my personal history but also finally brought me the peace I believed I had set out to find. All this time hiking for you may have, in fact, been for me, for my soul, and my healing.
I had began to feel like the world was against me and my friends had betrayed me. Trapped in my own illusion and fear of failure unable to see the larger picture. It was then that the first light arrived, when Cory told me something so simple.
“I don’t care if you finish this,” she said.
“I will support what you think is right, I will trust how you say you feel. I know you will tell me when you can no longer go and I will be here when you can’t.”
For the first time in days I was not alone.
The weight was…
That night after 12 hours of hiking at nearly no miles per hour we approached the last mile of the day. Our entire crew met me on the road to ensure I finished. Shouting, laughing, joking, crying, and literally physically pushing me to take steps.
I was not alone.
I told Willy that night words I thought I’d never say: “Tomorrow I am going to share the pack. We have to finish this and I now know this is the only way.”
The weight was… lifted.
In short I shared the weight. Within days I was already beginning to physically heal and by the time we reached LA I was filled with energy and love and knew our mission and my life’s purpose had just begun rather than end in an oil-field in the middle of nowhere, California. I know you were there that day Mike. I know you were with Cory, Shannon, Willy, Darren, Adam and everyone else that led me to ask for help. I also now understand why you didn’t ask for help and I will never blame you again for the pain we feel today or any other day knowing you are gone. I walked across the deck of the USS Midway a hero and I know you were watching.
Many times you were my hero and I always attribute my successes to you. You brought me sobriety, you brought me ambition and somehow I know you bring me love everyday. I married Cory and our baby girl is on the way. She will always know about her incredible Uncle Mikey and how even in death you kept her Daddy alive. You were a hero in life and you are still my hero.
I love you and will make you immortal.
The weight is… SHARED
Love, your Brother John.