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Getting back on track now we’re home after riding the rails across this country (almost) and back isn’t easy. Getting back on track after several months of fighting unrelenting pain is also difficult. Combine the two and I literally don’t know where to start.

Start at the Beginning

I suppose the safest place to start is at the beginning of our rail riding experience. Initially, our trip was single-purposed: attend our younger grandson’s high school graduation. Plus we wanted some extra days to soak up our son’s family since we only see them about once every three years or so.

Our first stop along the way was the ever-bustling city of Chicago where we rented a car to drive the rest of the way to Springfield, TN, where our son, his wife, and their son live. Grandson, Steven Michael (aka Mikey), was graduating from East Robertson High School on May 20th and we rolled in on the 19th.

Graduation was a fairly routine ceremony–procession, speeches, awards, diplomas, recession, camera flashes, tears, laughter, tossing of hats, etc. Rather than chain this well-honored student to family, we released him to enjoy a party with friends. After all, we had a few more days with him.

The three guys–Grandpa, Steve, and Mikey–spent a day drooling over Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, as well as a tour of the assembly plant.

While they did their thing, DIL Amy and I took in some retail therapy at Opry Mills Outlet Stores, the former site of Opryland. We did more talking and drinking cool drinks (it was hot!) than we did buying retail items, but the entire day was good for our souls.

Leaving these three as well as Amy’s parents was not easy, but leave we must and so we drove back to Chicago to drop off our rental and pick up the train headed back to the Northwest.

Another Celebration in the Middle

Fran with granddaughter, Emma (last photo)
Fran with granddaughter, Emma (last photo)

Just before we left home we received word that Bob’s sister, Frances (87), had passed away following a stroke. A memorial service was scheduled for May 27th in the afternoon. Our route home passed within three hours north of Avon, where the service would be held. We changed our rail tickets, ordered up another rental, and got off Amtrak in Whitefish, MT, on May 26th at 8:45pm.

Our drive was in total darkness down a long and winding road with few possibilities for stops. However, with Steady Bob at the wheel we made it without incident to our hotel in Helena. Early the morning of the 27th we drove to the home of our nephew and his family for breakfast. Fran’s older son, Walt, and his wife, Marilyn, have six children. Soon the two youngest will be the only two at home. The rest are either out of or in college.

What a delightful morning that was as we sat around the kitchen table eating homemade waffles, fresh fruit, and freshly made whipped cream and celebrating the life that was Fran’s. After breakfast, we headed out to the family ranch, handed down generation to generation, and now operated by Fran’s younger son, Hank. Many memories are held there as well.

Fran’s life is best summed up in a Facebook post by Timothy J. (TJ) Kerttula, the oldest of the grandchildren:

This was the passage Grammy was meditating on before she went into the hospital and this is what her bookmark says ” My meditation of Him shall be sweet.” I am going to miss her with her hugs, challenges to my spiritual walk, challenges to memorize more verses and the example she was to all her grandchildren. She poured her heart and life into us. I am thankful for the time I had with her this past week. Talking to her, even though she couldn’t talk to me. She found a way to comfort us with the squeezes from her hand and the nods of her head. Now she is in heaven with Jesus with no more pain, no more sin, singing praises to Him and gazing on His face. She has finished the race.

What an amazing hope we have through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Memories flooded our minds and hearts all day and especially during the celebration of life that afternoon. Many more people attended than expected and extra chairs had to be set up quickly. A time we were so glad to be able to share.

Unplanned side trips can be a blessing and this truly was one. Not only had we witnessed our grandson’s graduation from high school to college, we had celebrated Fran’s graduation from this life to the great life awaiting her in her heavenly home.

Back Home

Getting home and back to your own stuff is always the best part of any trip. We had driven back to Whitefish to catch the last leg of our rail trip. However, the train only stops once daily in Whitefish and that’s at 8:45pm, leaving at 9:16pm. We had a day to drive back and then kill in Whitefish. Driving around Whitefish we saw some interesting places. Some closed. Others open and crowded.

Bob explored the outdoor exhibits at the train station. We picnicked by spreading our lunch in our rental car (the wind was a bit blustery outside). With Kindles in hand, we both read, then napped, read some more, people watched, and then went somewhere for dinner (I can’t remember where!). Around 7:45pm we headed into the station to freshen up before boarding the train for home.

Following a good night’s sleep and our last meal onboard Amtrak, we pulled into Portland around 10am on Sunday, May 29th. Home never looked so good.

Getting on Track

After a doctor’s appointment that first week home, I began physical therapy and rehab for my many months of incessant pain. Interestingly enough, after all the waiting, the pain management doctor suggested an injection in a different site. During our trip (started four days after the shot), I was the most comfortable I had been since January or February. We decided based on that result I should begin PT, and I can say for the first time I actually look forward to my appointments.

This therapist has taught me so much about my spine, the curve in it and how it impacts everything about my body, and what I can do to keep up good spine health going forward. I still can’t believe that after my first appointment and some exercises and manipulations, my shoulders are level for the first time in years. My skirts even hang straight now.

I’m nowhere near the end of this journey. I don’t know yet how many appointments I have, but I do know the exercises I’ve been given are a lifetime commitment.

On an unrelated health issue, I’ve learned I will be having an exploratory procedure in July. Pending the outcome, I am keeping things low-key for now with respect to blogging, social media, book reviews, and the newsletter.

What I Learned

While traveling, I spent my time watching the countryside pass by, read a lot, took some good naps, laughed a lot, cried some, and let the busyness of computers, email and social media fall to the side.

And you know what? The world didn’t crumble at my feet. Clocks didn’t stop. God continued to bring morning with the light and evening at dusk, and He watched over us just as He does when we are frazzled and too busy to even stop and thank Him.

The lesson in all this is that I get too busy wanting to do it all, wanting to be perfect, wanting to please everyone else, wanting to measure up to expectations I read in this or that article. None of it is necessary.

The only things I need to be concerned with are satisfying God’s expectations and everything else will fall in place. Simple as that. Forever and ever!

Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah 29:11

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