ODYSSEY 2021 ‘Bama to Baxter- Hike On! Flashback to 1998-Nick Grindstaff

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Saturday—May 23, 1998
Trail Day—127/33
Trail Mile—1837/435
Location—Double Springs Shelter, Holston Mountain Trail

My memory is vivid—standing here 15 years ago trying to fathom the least bit of this, to make any sense of it. I remember trying to understand how any man could become so embittered by all of life as to isolate himself from family, friends, and indeed from all of society, to live the remaining days of his entire existence in self-imposed exile. I stand here now once more, reading these cold words chiseled into the cold gray stone, “Lived alone, suffered alone, died alone.” Who has ever read these words, indeed who among us with the least of compassion could read these words and not feel the slightest bit of a lump in their throat, the least bit of a tear in their eye.

In a moment, Nick, I will turn to leave your grave yet again, but this time I want you to know that departing from this place will be kindred. I’m a little late, but I’m here. And before I go, there’s something else I want you to know—I want you to know Nick, that now I understand, I truly do understand. I want you to know that I know who you were and what you were as a man. It has taken a long while, but I have come to realize that there is nothing wrong, there is nothing to be ashamed of, for a man to be so full of love and full of trust that in his mind it would be impossible for even the least of it to ever be destroyed or taken away. I also know now that a man is none-the-less a man to live with that fullness of heart and to wear that vulnerability on his sleeve for all to see.

We both stood one day, shattered, destroyed, at the end of our bright horizons, past the darkest reaches of hell-on-earth imaginable. I know the path that led you here Nick, for I too was on that path. But I have chosen another path now, and though I am here at this same place as you I will make it on by, for the path on which I now journey is the path towards peace…true peace in my life. For along this path is being cast aside all the bitterness that you and I have brought here, all the hopelessness, all the forlorn despair. Nick, I dearly wish we could continue now, along this path…together. This has been such a sad day. Ahh, but this too, has been a most joyful day.

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