Last week, H & I went to Niagara Falls for a mommy/daddy trip. With his new job it was an opportunity to both celebrate the occasion and also reconnect after months of stress and busy-ness.
Our plans were somewhat predictable – book one of those hotel deals on wagjag, stop by the outlet mall on the way in, go for dinner, use that free $25 casino voucher, check out the falls, have a blissful child-free sleep-in, then meander our way back home the next day.
All went according to plan, except the next morning my body awoke at 6:30am (it’s usual “with child” time). After lying in bed, by 7:15am I came to terms with the fact that the blissful child-free sleep-in was not happening.
I had a goal to incorporate more nature into this trip and, after checking the sunrise time, thought this would be a perfect opportunity to catch the sunrise over the falls, while H finished his sleep-in.
My way down to the falls was a mini adventure in itself – taking a ridiculously roundabout way to get there, chatting with a lovely elderly tourist from Korea, and discovering 2 Tim Horton’s that I hadn’t knew existed in the area.
Once I arrived at the main falls viewing area I was glad to see the sun hadn’t quite appeared yet, and I soaked in the quietness and bliss of being one of 15-20 people viewing the beauty of the falls, sharing this special moment kinda together, but not really together. As I searched out my perfect location a few of us smiled in acknowledgement as we passed each other.
Eventually I found the perfect spot, right in front of the American falls, where the sun crept up over the trees, glowing across the sky.
I thought about how many times we’ve visited the falls and how this was that one perfect time where my body naturally woke itself, there was no breakfast buffet to hurry to, and the weather was relatively mild. Then took a moment to pray and give thanks for the beauty I was witnessing.
I opened my eyes and after a few seconds, a gentleman I had passed and smiled at earlier came and leaned on the railing next to me and started chatting. He was in his early-mid 40’s, had kind eyes, a charming smile, facial scruff, slightly taller than me, and was wearing a red and white hat (which reminded me of Where’s Waldo) and a grey hoodie. We talked briefly about the erosion of the falls and he turned to me smiling and said “You sound like you’re a teacher.” As he talked I became acutely aware that he smelled faintly of alcohol, casually took notice of the # of people around me, regretted leaving my wedding rings in the hotel room (one less thing to mug me for!) and thought “oh snap…this could get really awkward, really fast.”
We introduced ourselves (his name was T), shook hands, and shared our line of work – he was a lumberjack – super Canadian. I asked what brought him to Niagara Falls and he shared that he was from London, Ontario and that he was having a rough time in his life so took a little roadtrip. I said I was sorry to hear about his rough time, then (still aware of a potentially awkward situation) I casually shared that I was here, with my husband, on a mommy/daddy getaway while the kids were at their grandparents.
What happened next was fairly unexpected.
He mentioned that he could hear God calling him to walk with Him, but that the devil kept tempting him to do things he shouldn’t do.
And with that opening we spent the next 45 minutes conversing back and forth. He shared about his setbacks in life, his lack of support, his career difficulties, his 2 sons & how he felt he led a double-life and was ashamed of the things he did & hid from his children; his pastor, his passions, his father, his kids, his faith…how his mother had told him he was a waste of life. At times he openly wept, and at times we hugged. He showed me pictures of his beautiful sons and explained their idiosyncrasies. I shared details of my own life and struggles, shared pieces of my faith journey, offered suggestions that I hoped were helpful, but most importantly, listened.
Later, when our conversation turned to the casual topic of “I wonder if we could swim down there?”, and I was super aware of the large tea I had consumed earlier, I said that I should get going and asked if I could pray with him.
So side-by-side, we leaned on the railing, bowed our heads and prayed together, as the sun rose in front of us, over one of the wonders of the world.
As we started to part ways I asked if I could give him my e-mail, and said that he could reach out any time he needed someone to listen (at the same time, I hoped this wouldn’t be a move I’d regret and mentally weighed my urge to love with my risk-averse analyses). With one final hug I told him it was a blessing to connect with him this morning and walked away, with a mixture of emotions. Sad for T’s situation, in awe of the special moment that had transpired, thankful that all the right things were in place for that conversation to happen (I had nowhere else I had to be but there), guilty for the “dilemmas” I faced the previous day at the outlets (e.g. do I really need this pair of shoes or not?)…as well as anxious to find a washroom and slightly concerned that H would wonder what was taking so long (he was still sleeping when I returned).
As I headed back up I realized I hadn’t gotten T’s information, and would’t be able to reach out to him, so headed back down to see if I could find him, but unfortunately he was gone.
It’s been just over a week – and everyday I think and wonder about him and how he’s doing. Everyday I check the e-mail account I gave him, hoping that he’s written so that we can keep the conversation going. I did that nutty kinda thing where you search for them on Google and Facebook with super limited information, typing in things like “T lumberjack London, ON” to no avail. I hope he’s doing okay and, with time, will turn things around.
It was so special to share that morning with T, and I am continually amazed by the life I get to live. “On paper”, there’s nothing remarkable about my career/awards/resume-type accomplishments at this point in my life, but I am continually blessed with unexpected beauty & experiences everyday that leave me feeling lucky to live a quietly extraordinary life.