I’d never been so lonely. Jeff, my fiancé of three years, had decided to move back to the states…….even though he knew I couldn’t leave my elderly parents. In their 80’s, Mom and Dad desperately needed me and it would crush them if I moved clear across the world.
I had made this trip a hundred times. Dad and I loved hiking the mountains, especially Buachaille Etive Mor, the “Great Shepherd of Etive.” It wasn’t the largest of the peaks in the Glen district…but it was magnificent – and definitely a favorite. We always stayed at An Darag, a quaint little Bed and Breakfast hosted by the MacRae family. It was our home away from home.
When I arrived, Jane and Ben met me with warm hugs and tender greetings. After a delicious dinner, I excused myself and melted into a long, luxurious bath. The featherbed invited me to snuggle amid crisp sheets and a cozy down comforter. As hard as I tried to focus on the beauty of the moment……the pain of my reality came to the surface and I cried myself to sleep.
Early the next morning, I awoke to the sound of other guests preparing for a day of hill walking. I had packed my hiking gear, but everyone knew winter walking could be treacherous during avalanche season. I called down to the office for the latest report: snowing with a wind from the south. The snowpack would be unstable - causing the avalanche hazard to be a high Category 4. I wonder if the others checked the report.
I had hiked in Category 4 conditions, but never by myself. Maybe I would tag along behind these other guys. They headed down for breakfast and as I followed, they invited me to dine with them. Before long, they encouraged me to join their party.
The south wind pierced my flesh to the bone. We trekked about an hour or so before we caught up to another group. The snow began to drift and I could feel ice forming beneath my boots. The other group was calculating the risk, determining whether or not to continue their ascent. We stopped to catch our breath and exchange pleasantries before moving on. Something doesn’t feel right. The other group split up and while some continued, three middle-aged ladies started back. My gut told me to join them. My new friends bid me farewell and continued on their way.
45 minutes later, we were down to the bottom and before long, I was back in my room drawing another hot bath and looking forward to cluttering my mind with a scandalous love story. I read for an hour or so before my eyelids overpowered my will to stay awake and I became prisoner to a slumbering coma.
Startled…I jumped at the shrill scream of sirens. The big-Ben clock displayed its report – 3:00 PM. I looked out the window…there was no emergency vehicle, but a helicopter hovered nearby……two of them, circling the south face of the mountain. This was not good news. I ran down the stairs……
Jane met me at the front door: “Avalanche! It’s bad……” I glanced towards the doors at the top of the staircase – then back at Jane. She shook her head, “they haven’t returned……I don’t know.”
I hurried back to my room, fell to my knees and prayed like never before. I realized what could have happened had I not listened to God’s voice earlier that day. Precious Jesus, thank You for giving me Your intuition to turn back. Please keep my new friends safe……
A while later there was a knock at the door. I hoped to see three men standing there, boasting of a safe descent. I flung the door open……I gasped…………I froze. It was Jeff. He had been crying. He threw his arms around me and sobbed……he asked me to forgive him for being so selfish. He had decided not to leave after all, but when he went to my apartment and couldn’t find me, a call to my parents revealed my whereabouts. News of an avalanche brought him straight to Glencoe, afraid he might be too late.
With Jeff’s proposal came the promise that we would remain in Scotland until I decided otherwise. Though the tragic deaths of Andrew, Duncan and James will always be ingrained in my memory, I will forever be grateful for a new beginning and the gift of life that God granted to me on that bittersweet January day.
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