Saturday, 28 April 2012

Unlikely Pilgrim

I have just finished reading the first book on my Kindle.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce.

I first found out about the book from a review on a blog I came across one day, a few weeks later it was the bookclub choice on Simon Mayo’s Drivetime on Radio 2.

It is the story of a man who sets out to post a letter to an old friend who is dying. After walking past a couple of post boxes without dropping the letter in he decides instead to walk to his destination, 600 miles away.

Harold is ill prepared for such a long journey but along the way he meets many people who encourage him to continue. They also share their stories with him but as Harold thinks back over the joys and the pain of his own life he deals with much of his own sadness alone.

“It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The superhuman effort it took to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.” 

Often I still think my own burdens should be easier now, maybe people don’t want to hear my woes any more, perhaps I should be like Harold and not share my story so readily. 

Then a few weeks ago, when I met someone for the first time, right in the middle of our discussion I told them my husband had died, I didn’t have to, I could have let the moment pass, pretended I was “normal”. I felt bad afterwards for dropping such a bombshell on the conversation but sometimes just like the people Harold meets we are compelled to open up and have a deep need to share. 

In the novel Harold’s wife Maureen is left at home, angry and bitter at first she wonders if she should have left him years ago.

“She had stayed because however lonely she was with Harold, the world without him would be even more desolate.”

When they are finally reunited I found it touching, a portrait of a long marriage, something that I can no longer share in and it made me cry but that’s my loneliness and my own sad story.

This week youngest son decided we should watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy AGAIN.

Once more we have plunged into Middle Earth and another unlikely pilgrimage, that of Frodo the Hobbit determined to get to Mount Doom and destroy the ring of power.

Frodo is just as ill prepared as Harold when he sets off, having no idea of the enormity of the task before him.

Both Frodo and Harold keep walking; destroying a ring and delivering a letter are of paramount importance. 

Maybe they are lucky they have an actual task to keep them focused. Grief is sometime said to be like a journey.  I am travelling a hard road but I don’t know where I am heading or what tasks lay ahead of me.

Frodo says to Gandalf (in the film – slightly different in the book for those who are pedantic about such things although Gandalf’s reply remains constant.)
“I wish the ring had never come to me.”

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The last time we got the LOTR DVDs out was not long after Andrew had died, I was so tired I slept on the sofa through half of the films while the battles raged, while the boys avidly watched the action, but those wise words of Gandalf struck me then as they do again now.

I wish this path was not the one set before me, I feel as ill prepared as Frodo and Harold. Weary and wondering if my dreams of being a writer will ever come to fruition, because that is what I would like to do with the time given to me.

But to paraphrase someone Harold meets on his journey.

“Maybe what the world needs is a little less sense and a little more FAITH.”

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