Before my Nana died she told my sister she would find a way to come back to watch over us. The month before she passed, thousands of ladybugs came to New England. Hundreds swarmed along the southwestern portion of our house. They stuck to the screens outside Nana’s bedroom. They made their way into our home, appearing between leaves of lettuce in the refrigerator and along the molding above the doors. One eventually found its way into her room and crawled along the ceiling. I thought maybe we just needed a little luck.
She died a few weeks later. After the funeral, and I returned to the Bay Area, a single ladybug began appearing above my bed. This happened three nights in a row. I like to think it was her checking in on me. I like to think it was her telling me everything was going to be ok.
On our 2,500 mile road trip last month, D and I visited Zion National Park. We hiked a trail known as Angels Landing – a 2.5 mile ascent scaling a 1,200 foot rock formation that involves steep climbs along a narrow pass. Parts of the trail require the use of chains as footing disappears along a sheer rock face. The national park service lists half a dozen fatalities on this hike since 2005. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know this beforehand. All I knew was that my mother recommended it after visiting the park two years ago with my dad, and that it was supposed to be pretty. A part of me also knew that I kind of had to get there.
Because three years earlier I wussed out of hiking the final part of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. The chains were crowded and there didn’t appear to be any order as people passed those stalled on their way down. They didn’t seem to see them at all. My partner kept looking upward and tried convincing me I could do it. But something inside just said: Let him go on without you. So I sat in the sun and waited for him to return – disappointed I didn’t finish what I started. And more so, that I didn’t get to stand beside him at the top.
This time was different. This time, I followed D’s lead – repeating his mantra: three points of contact at all times. I asked him to wait when I felt scared. When the way was uncertain. When I just needed to know he was still there. In the meantime, I had conversations with myself. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Now another one. Focus on your next step. Find something to hold on to. Trust your judgment. Don’t look down. Stop if you have to. And know you can always turn back.
Eventually, I began using the chains less and less for leverage. Sometimes they were placed too low and it felt awkward to slide them along my palms. Sometimes I was better off trusting myself to take the right path – even if it wasn’t necessarily marked. Plus my hands were slippery with nerves. At one point the path narrowed and the chains fell away completely. Then way up there, in the desert, surrounded by a few jagged rocks and sand, a ladybug appeared. D smiled. “Everything is going to be ok.”
And it was.