By Leilah Grace
How do you put into words the feelings of completion and accomplishment after 3 yers of pursuing a dream that was not yours at the start? How do you explain the emotional shift that occurred years ago when this vision of another became yours as well? The knowledge that the vision transitioned from solo to duo to full community overwhelms me in moments. This project could not have been without the community, the family we created. Watching Rue cross the Deschutes River into Drake Park was a powerful moment; an emotional moment, a demarkation in my life and that of the APT.
On the days and week immediately following I found myself awash, overwhelmed. The tears that could not, and would not, come at the finish flowed frequently. I smiled as they came unbidden as I reflected on the crossing and the past few years. There have been countless tears shed by me over this work. Tears of fear, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, and tears of sadness as well. It has not been a simple task to support Rue through this while supporting our community and growing our organization. When Rue connected his footsteps in Omak, WA Suzanne and I told him that he did it; it was Rue that said we did it. We did do it. The Homecoming in Bend was a celebration of all of our accomplishments: Rue’s, mine, Suzanne’s, and the community’s. Each of Rue’s footsteps, miles hiked, were done not only because of his perseverance, but because of the support of this community.
Rue has a gift, a light, that inspires and connects this community. I have had the honor and privilege of bridging him to the community and the rest of the world. It has been a challenging task at times, one that I have struggled at times to comprehend. In moments I found myself doubtful of my abilities to coordinate this, I am nothing more than the person I am: single mom to 4 incredible kids, pediatric physical therapist, application analyst, hiker, and backpacker. This work was a calling; is a calling. I was called to ask Rue if he needed help, if I could be of assistance. Without that call, without my acceptance, and without his acceptance I would not be here today, awash still in the countless emotions.
I am joyously happy, overwhelmed with gratitude for so many, and simply in awe of the gifts of this journey that have culminated to make this moment possible. Rue’s homecoming was the fulfillment of the promise I made to myself to be present, give everything I could, and pour as much love into this to see Rue safely back in Bend, footsteps connected and scouting hike complete,