Thursday, June 15, 2017
I'll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck
A Journey of 500 miles
Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair
This is an amazing story. Justin was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease and has lost the use of his hands and arms. He is unable to take care of himself anymore. Patrick is his best friend basically since birth. Their families have taken trips together and spend time at each other's houses every year. Patrick will take time off of work to go to Justin's house to take care of him to give Justin's wife a break. This is dedication and true friendship.
Now Justin has the dream of walking the famous Camino de Santiago, a spiritual pilgrimage through the mountains and rough terrain of northern Spain. Patrick volunteers to push him these 500 miles. It is an arduous trip requiring much planning, many resources, a new wheelchair and even so, many tired and sore muscles. It cannot be done on their own. People volunteer to come along and help, pilgrims walking the journey with them stop and help. Complete strangers become friends united on this journey, maybe only for a couple hours, maybe a couple days.
While very physically taxing for Patrick to do the hard work of pushing Justin in his wheelchair, Justin is pushing Patrick in a completely different way. (It also is hard on Justin with all the jostling and bumping he experiences in the wheelchair.) Patrick has allowed the need to succeed, to be successful, to take care of himself and his family to get in the way of relationships. He has let his family down. Justin has tried to embrace every moment. He knows his disease will eventually kill him. He misses being able to play with his kids and hug his wife, but he is determined to make the most of every moment. Through this six-week-journey, Patrick has had to face that he has let his family down, that work has taken priority and he is determined to change that. He has also had to face his pride. It was hard for him to accept help in getting Justin over these mountains. Justin has had to learn to accept help because of his many limitations.
It's a beautiful friendship that is rare in today's standards.
There are a few things shared in the book that I wanted to share here, things that struck me. One was the living in the moment, enjoying each and every moment. This is something I have been working on in my own life. But I can get distracted and be only half present. I want to take the time to stop and listen and look and really really see what's going on. They talk about this a bit in a part on Sabbath. "And we're learning how to keep close to use the relationships and moments that define who we are. If we didn't practice this sort of Sabbath in our friendship, if we hadn't taken this break to walk the Camino together, we'd have missed out on all of this.
"Whether resting in my friendship with Justin or in my relationships with my wife and children, I find a greater appreciation for whoever is at my side when I take a moment to keep them close, to be present with them.......Every moment we rest in the presence of others and appreciate the time, beauty, and joy they have to offer, we practice Sabbath. It's a mentality...an existence...a way of life."
And then this is another quote from Patrick as he wrestled with himself at the Iron Cross. He had really struggled with Justin's diagnosis earlier on and had become bitter at God for it. This is kind of flashback to those times and also to right now where he realizes he needs to relinquish safety in order to really experience life in all fullness. "That's when I realized that, more often than not, the miracle isn't the absence of struggle, disease, or pain; it is the presence of grace and certainty, the ability to face strife, the unknown, or a slow death, without fear." This is in the flashback section where he had just heard Justin say that he wouldn't trade his current condition to be able to walk again and it had completely shocked Patrick. "Every human interaction, every relationship is an opportunity to provide for one another, to provide time, energy, resources, hope, love, compassion, or grace. There is no limit to what we can provide for others, or what others can provide for us."
This was a great book, filled with good thoughts like this, filled with humor, and just good human kindness. I highly recommend it. It's an easy and fast read. There is also a documentary out about their journey. A film crew went along at the request of Patrick's boss who said it would be selfish for them not to share this unusual friendship with the world.
I received this book from Tyndale and was not required to write a positive review.
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