Becca stopped in the path and slipped her pack off her back. Her lungs and heart worked overtime to get oxygen to her screaming muscles. She twisted the cap off her water bottle and took a long swig. "Aaahh," she gasped. "I needed that." She plopped down on a nearby boulder and took in the landscape around her. The terrain had changed. Trees were sparse and rocks were scattered about like dice. Smalls wisps of wild grass danced in the breeze.
"How you doin?" asked Brad. "You holdin' up okay?"
"I don't know," gasped Becca. "This is harder than I thought. I'm not sure I can make it."
Brad grabbed her pack and peered inside. "I'll take some of this stuff for you." He removed the camera, two extra water bottles, and her tube of sunscreen. "There. That should help," he said. "You ready?"
"Okay," said Becca. "But I'm still not sure I can do this."
"You can do it," said Brad. "I know you can." He headed off up the trail.
Becca followed along behind straining with each step. She questioned why she had agreed to this hike in the first place. She thought it would be fun, hiking along with Brad, sharing conversation along the way. As it turned out, this was one grueling trip that pushed her to her limits. She focused on the trail in front of her, gasping for breath. She glanced up at Brad several yards ahead of her.
"Brad, I can't do this anymore!" she called. "You go on ahead. I'll wait here and when you get back, we'll go down together."
Brad turned and trudged back down the trail. "Come on Becca. You can do this." He pulled her pack off her back, and shoved the rest of its contents into his. Then, he placed his hands flat against her shoulder blades. "I'll help you," he said. With each step that Becca took Brad gave her a supportive push, nudging her slowly up the beaten path.
They trudged around a bend and made the final ascent to the summit, collapsing on the ground. "Phew! We made it," said Brad.
Becca lay there with her eyes closed. "Are you sure?" she panted.
"Yes," he said. "Take a look."
Becca opened her eyes and sat up. "Oh wow!" she said as she drank in the scenery. Majestic craggy peaks rose above feathery clouds. Below the summit, rocks gave way to towering evergreens and beautiful aspens whose leaves had turned a brilliant gold. The reds of the low lying oak brush provided an awe inspiring backdrop to it all. A turquoise river wound its way through the narrow canyon, and the sun sparkled off its waters.
"Look," said Brad, pointing across the way.
Becca's eyes followed his lead. "It's beautiful!" she gasped. A waterfall cascaded off the rocks on the opposite side of the canyon. Tears clouded her eyes. "Thanks Brad," she said.
"For what?" he asked.
"For not letting me quit," she said. "And for giving me a push when I needed it. If you had let me stay at the boulder back there, I would've missed this."
Brad put his arm around her and kissed her forehead. "I can be pushy too Mrs. Taylor," he chuckled.
Becca smiled at the memory Brad referred to. Two years ago, she held his hand as the nurse wheeled him down the hall. "I can't do this," he said.
"Yes you can," she said. "I want you around ten years from now. You may be scared, but you can do this." They paused outside the door to pre-op.
"You'll have to stop here Mrs. Taylor. Dr. Connor will meet you in the waiting room as soon as he's out of surgery," said the nurse.
Becca bent over and gave Brad one last kiss. Placing her hands on his cheeks, she looked him in the eye. "You will beat this," she said.
"You sure are pushy Mrs. Taylor," he teased.
"Oh, you don't know the half of it Mr. Taylor," she smiled. "I'll meet you at the other side." And with that, she placed her hands on the side rail and gave a little push.
Brad made it through the surgery and the grueling months of chemotherapy that followed. This weekend marked the anniversary of that day. Becca leaned into Brad's embrace. "I guess we all need a little push now and then," she said.
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