Day 14. 1/25/2016. Starting Odometer: 145069. Final Odometer: 145222. Mileage: 153. Total Mileage 2978
If you ever go to one of those “people-searcher” apps to find out where various people live, and look up God, it will come back “Yosemite National Park.” It’s the most beautiful place on earth. It really is. I have been from coast-to-coast in this great nation, and yeah, we have some amazing locales, but none of them compare. Beyond that, though, Yosemite has a special place in my heart, a deep connection that I will never be able to break — even if a day came where I would want to break it.
As I drove into the park, I realized that this is what I imagine heaven will look like, and if I ever get back to speaking to God, and asking for his favor again, I imagine that this is what I will see the moment after I die. That was the topic of the first roadcast I made on this leg of the voyage.
You pass through the tunnel, into Yosemite Valley, and you are greeted with the greatest granite formations on the earth.
I drove to Curry Village, I drove around the valley, I relished in the cool crispness of the air, and I realized why I was still crying.
This was the first time I had ever been to Yosemite National Park by myself.
The first time I went, it was for our sixth-grade field trip, with people who would end up being best friends, like Johnny Vaughn. Then, I would go up with my parents. When I married my first wife, LaWana, we went every year, and camped, for a week at a time, with our dogs Bear and Scooter.
LaWana was murdered, almost ten years ago. Bear died shortly afterward. My world came to an end, and nothing was ever the same again.
After she died, I came up a few times with Scooter, and we would just sit in the shadow of Half-Dome, trying to find solace, or peace, or whatever it is that passes for serenity when your soul has a nuclear blast-sized crater in the center of it.
Time passed, and I found new love. A new family. And that hole was still there. Melissa, my new wife, and our children came up to Yosemite, a few times, but it was only a matter of time before we moved to Oregon, and Scooter passed too, and I was left with just memories of my previous life, memories of Yosemite, memories, and a big fucking hole that I could never even hope to fill.
People who knew me before the murder said I changed. I became more selfish. I became more immoral, uncaring, and cruel. The world had dealt me the bitterest blow imaginable. What did I care if I hurt anyone else? What the hell would it matter? No one had ever been caught, prosecuted, or punished for LaWana’s death. Why should I care about what people thought about what I did, if the bastards who took her life had done so with impunity?
And so when I went insane and quit my job, spent all my savings on an RV, abandoned my new wife and family, was that any wonder? Wasn’t I just hoping to have an accident somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and die, abandoned, alone, and unloved, as I surely must have truly been?
Was it any surprise when I realized that what I had been doing now was so much more colossally evil than what had happened to myself? I had shattered my wife’s confidence in me, in my love for her, in her own self-worth as a wife and a mother, and for what? Because I had been too hurt to even know how to seek help for my grief. I had abandoned three children for no other reason than mortal fear that I would lose them just like I had lost LaWana. I had destroyed every promise I had ever made to myself, Melissa, my kids, and for what? Some crazy, insane belief that somehow I could recapture the life I had had? The life that had been so violently taken away from me?
I was an idiot. A grossly stupid, selfish man, afraid beyond reason, terrified beyond rationality.
And it had cost me everything.
So here I was, having realized on Catalina that I needed to be home. Having discovered in myself the capacity for healing, the capability for love, and a fierce, burning desire to rebuild all the bridges I had so heinously destroyed. Here I was, underneath the great wall of El Capitan, who had stood here for a million years, carved by centuries of glacial exertion. Here I was, still holding on to my hurt, the life I could never have again, my desperate need to make things right that could never be made right again.
I had to let go.
I said good bye to Yosemite. And when I did, I said good bye to LaWana, too. When I did, a flood-gate opened within me that hasn’t closed since. I cried for an hour, weeping until after the sun had set, and my last day in the Sierra Nevada was done. I left Yosemite behind, and with it, I left the guilt, the grief, and the grasp I had kept on the giant hole in my heart.
This entire trip had been about finding who I was, what the hell I was doing on this planet, and trying to reconcile why I was still here, and LaWana wasn’t, and it was so clear. I was here to be the husband of my new wife. I was here to be the father of my family. I was here to show that all the love, and hope and happiness that I had found with LaWana, in places like Yosemite, was not lost senselessly through stupid actions like quitting a job or abandoning the people who relied on me.
I said good bye to LaWana, told her that I would see her again one day, and then set my sights on home.
They are still set there today.