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Life at 3 MPH

jstevenson | Journeys through Grief

I like to walk. I was a hiker as a kid, and in college, I would go out walking especially if I had something difficult with a relationship to figure out or a struggle I was going through. During the pandemic, walking has become very popular due in part to the lack of any other distractions. It has become a habit now for many people, my spouse and I included.

One of the good things about walking is that it is slower than we are used to moving. Google tells me that 3 to 4 mph is the average speed that we walk, depending on our age and vitality. Such a pace provides us time to look around, see the landscape, notice things. We learn to feel the upward slope of the street that always looked flat. We see the house with the yard trimmed neatly and manicured just so. Or we notice the changing of the light as the sun rises or sets. These are moments that moving at the speed society is used to, 60-80 mph in a car or instantaneously on the internet, we would most likely miss. These are moments that add depth and beauty to our daily living.

When our person dies it can make everything around us feel so different. The landscape of our life changes. Some of the markers by which we have navigated our way have been laid to waste. The roles that person filled are vacant, their presence in our daily rituals and moments are missing. It is hard to know where to go and how to get there because everything is so different. We may feel weak and depleted looking to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. We want our woundedness to be healed and to find the broken connection to our person.

Debra Dean Murphy writes, “Historically, pilgrims were not physically fit but often frail, walking great distances to reach healing wells and holy relics that would confer a blessing and restore well-being.”[1]

Grievers are pilgrims. We are on a journey to find a deep connection with our person again. It is the emptiness of all those places where our person was that drives us forward. We have been battered by the experience of our person’s death and we want to find the place with our person that will restore our well-being and confer a blessing, the blessing of their continued presence with us.

This pilgrimage of grief is a time to slow down. We are naturally forced to with a drop in our energy level or the clarity of our thinking that invites us to be quiet, attentive to the wounded open spaces within us. In those spaces are where we discover the healing moments of our person’s presence, and the new opportunities to strengthen those connections with the one we miss.

[1] Debra Dean Murphy. “Ways to walk” The Christian Century, September 10, 2021. Accessed September 14, 2021.