Today’s guest post comes from Paul Stutzman, the author of Hiking Through. Originally when I was contacted by his publicist the goal was for him to write an article about hiking the Appalachian Trail and provide some family tips. Instead, he found Tuesday’s story on my blog and decided to write about something that is so much more important. His sentiments reflects my own desire to inspire families to get out and enjoy the world with each other. Family is such a gift and sometimes our time with them is cut tragically short. I hope you find Paul’s words just inspiring and heartfelt as I did.
Initially, I came to this blog as part of a virtual book tour, hoping to promote my new book. But after browsing through this site and reading Tuesday’s story, I simply want to write a message from my heart.
Cherish and enjoy your children, your spouse, your loved ones! Mary, my wife of 32 years, died of breast cancer in 2006. My life as I had known it was gone. And part of the pain I felt was in knowing that I had taken my wife and our life together for granted. My one goal in life was to be wealthy. In pursuit of that goal, I spent too much time at work and missed much of my children’s growing-up years. It was only after my wife was gone that I realized what had been mine—and I had failed to appreciate it fully.
A year after Mary’s death, I quit my job and hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, demanding answers from God and trying to find healing. Early in my hike, I met the man I called Sailor, who grew up on Cape Cod in the same neighborhood as the famous Kennedy family. When I first met him, I was quite impressed with his background, thinking that he was surely part of that “upper crust” society of wealth and privilege.
In fact, I never knew if Sailor was a millionaire or had only a few dimes. The Trail is a great equalizer, and bank accounts don’t mean much if you’re trudging alone through the wilderness. But I believe Sailor was one of the wealthiest men I met. His wealth lay in his family. Several times during the weeks I knew him, Sailor’s sons joined him for parts of the hike. His wife also walked part of the trail with him. That man has riches far greater than any bank account. Bank accounts swell and shrivel, as we all know, but memories made with our loved ones only grow more precious with time.
Whenever I had a chance on my hike, I tried to pass on this message: Enjoy and appreciate your spouse, your children, your loved ones TODAY, while you still have the opportunity.
After Paul Stutzman’s wife died, Paul quit his job to hike the Appalachian trail to give himself time to think and to heal. Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail is his story. A former restaurant manager, he is now retired and planning his next big adventure: a cross-country bicycle trip. Stutzman currently lives in Berlin, Ohio. To see pictures of his hike or to find out more about Paul and his book, visit his website at www.hikingthrough.com.