Any of you who have known Circuit Rider know there lies within an impish sense of humor. He has been known to capitalize on the opportunity to get a good laugh at someone's expense. Such was the misfortune of his beloved mother one evening as the three of us plied our vocabularies in a close game of Scrabble.
Circuit Rider's Mom already had nicknames affectionately bestowed by loved ones, "Nani" and "Newmie". On this particular night, nearing the end of a closely contested game, she had the misfortune of losing her train of thought long enough to lay SIDE on the board one row from where she intended, tacking it on to BISON. For over two decades she had to endure the new moniker Bison-Side.
The Bison-Side had a sweet exterior; complementary and grateful words were common to folks around her. She always saw me as a much better person than reality would justify. On the inside, there was the same steel will that propels Circuit Rider from Georgia to Maine repeatedly, sleeping on the ground and loving it.
Pancreatic cancer took her through the wilderness at the end of her hike and pointed her to the summit, a path she accepted confidently and without fear. Upon learning her diagnosis, she remarked "You can't threaten me with heaven!". Why such confidence in the face of such a diagnosis and prognosis?
Many years ago, as a result of reading a Bible verse on a church sign, she called the church to inquire about the meaning, and soon after embraced Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. This was the root of her confidence and, for all who have this faith, such confidence is ours. "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:11-13).
"That you may know that you have eternal life". This is the confidence that makes us realize, that unlike Katahdin, the summit is not the end. It is the beginning of something wonderful. As one biblical writer put it "to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Far better than anything on this earth! Good bye Bison-Side, we will see you again and there will be no end to our joy.