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Tuesday, December 24, 2013


SMMT - stands for 'Summit'.

I can't remember if I was creative enough to metophorically remove the "U" and "I" from sUmmIt or if the store was just out of those letters that day, but it represented "you" and "I" overcoming the tremendous challenge of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Kelly P. at sunrise with a big climb ahead 
I selected a sliver of colored plastic and tarnished letters and made a bracelet for myself and my dear friend, Kelly Kane. We vowed to wear the bracelets over the months that we trained and especially during our climb to remind us of the ultimate goal.  It was a reminder to stay focused, stay grateful and forge through the obstacles.

In short, "Keep your head down, stay focused and one step at a time. YOU CAN DO THIS."

If you listened to your guides and had weather on your side, physically, Kilimanjaro was manageable. Emotionally, it could get to you.

On one particularly cold day towards the top, I began to get altitude sickness. I remember a number of members of our group struggling in recent days. I kept thinking, "That isn't going to be me!" But this one morning, I knew as soon at sunrise that I was in trouble.

My head was pounding, vision blurred and my stomach flipped. I couldn't eat breakfast or even drink water (the beginning of your demise, as you need the energy and hydration to climb at this altitude).

We started on one of the steeper sides of the Western Breach - the stone train. We were forewarned this day would be challenging and I was so disappointed at the thought that I may have to turn back. Only 40% actually summit.

Embarrassed of my inadequacy, I didn't mention my ailments to anyone, but knew it wouldn't be long before it was obvious.

Everyone is there to summit. 
No one wants to hold back the group. 
Even worse, no one wants to fail!

It wasn't long into our trek before I was strategically positioned between two 'sweepers'. Sweepers are the two guides placed at the back of the pack for just this reason. They set a slower pace, assuring everyone is acclimating and no one is left behind. Sometimes, they would arrive hours after we made camp, encouraging the last straggler to finish safely.

I was sandwiched between two Africans, singing in Swahili. They didn't talk to me. They knew I couldn't talk about. I couldn't understand what they said and it really didn't matter because I was wrestling with the own demons, "Could I do this?" "I'm going to be sick." "I can't believe this is happening!"  They trotted on, at a snail's pace, not speaking to me but watching my every move to ensure I was safe.

Randomly, they burst into hymn…"How Great Thou Art"

My favorite!!!!!
My grandmother, Ruby, used to sing it throughout my childhood.
For years, it was the only hymn I knew.
It reminds me of her and what an impression she has left in my life.

It was either my state of mind or the sound, but it was even more angelic sung by two grown men in Swahili.

I do not exaggerate when I say I felt better instantaneously.

My nausea subsided.
My pace quickened.
My lips broke a grin
and my eyes filled with tears.

For those that don't believe in these moments, these 'God winks'. I am sorry.
These tiny glimpses of hope and those moments that shed light… these are the points where we connect the dots to our lives.
'God winks' - and I have been blessed to have a few - show you something larger than life.
They fill you up again.

Kelly and I successfully summitted Kilimanjaro ten years ago and to this day, it is one of the highlights of my life.

SUMMIT!! - Kelly Kane's 30th Birthday, 2004
19,341 ft.
Fast forward seven years to the birth of our son, Shaw, and the SMMT bracelet showed up in a care package, while we were in the hospital. The package from Kelly didn't have an explanation.

It didn't need one.

"Keep your head down, stay focused and one step at a time. YOU CAN DO THIS."

This time, the prayer and motivation was for Shaw.

I am astounded to say, that our Kilimanjaro journey is not over. This year, a very special friend of mine, Susan Wade, is celebrating her 60th birthday. In January, she will fearlessly climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a friend.

I randomly mentioned that I felt like Africa was "God's Country" and that I am very passionate about the climb and happy to offer support.

A few days later I received a note asking if I were comfortable if she used "Bee Mighty" as an inspiration for her climb. One note read the following:

"Bee Mighty is my motivation.  I'll think of all the micro preemies who climb their own Kilimanjaro each day!  I'll pray for them as I climb.  Thank you for sharing the story of your SMMT bracelet.  I did something similar and added a cross for the T.  I figure none of us can climb our mountains without a lot of heavenly help."

I CANNOT BELIEVE - a decade later (this is the year Kelly & I turn 40) and BEE MIGHTY will be on the SMMT of Kilimanjaro. (No pressure, Susan. ;)

Life is such a maze of intricate relationships, experiences and relationships. Those friendships that can touch your life so briefly but leave an impact of a lifetime. Bee Mighty on the summit….

Merry Christmas, Susan. Thank you for being such a 'guide' in our lives and those of my children. You are so loyal and true and touch the lives of so many souls every day in your work - and now onto the next continent, where you are sure to 'move mountains'. Thank you for your friendship, belief and support. Good luck to you. My heart spills over knowing you will be walking a familiar path with a familiar heart.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Candace, This is so beautiful! One more week and I'll begin my journey. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of Might Moms at the gala. They were so willing to share their stories. I am in awe of all of you. Thank you for being such an inspiration. You all will be on the mountain with me. SMMT Susan