TO GREATER HEIGHTS
They say, ‘Heaven is under our feet and over our heads’, and rightly so. On a wonderful Sunday morning, I stepped out with my friends on my bicycle to soak in the beauty of nature and experience the serene sights of rain-soaked mountain tops, close to where I live. With mums’ permission and all her queries answered to satisfaction, I was allowed to step out that day with cautioned discourse. Given the pandemic that had struck a few months prior, causing us to be home-bound most of the time, my friends and I felt the need to take a breather and step out to ease the anxieties and frustrations of being contained and curtailed at home. It was a beautiful sight uphill and we were on a selfie roll, trying to get in as many clicks as possible. I definitely felt on top of the world as pictures adorned on my phone gallery perfectly proved it. Little did I know, that those pictures would serve only as memory. On August 09th, 2020 on our return home, a freak accident downhill made its way in our path and the inevitable hit on my head led to internal hemorrhaging.
The Quest of Life
A pause, a state of limbo, a place unknown, that’s where I found myself post accident and surgery. I may have survived this ghastly mishap, but the journey ahead was not an easy one. I knocked at the door of death, only to be sent back by God for reasons I couldn’t understand then. Through the rehabilitation and all the pain endured during recovery, the one question that haunted me was ‘Why Me?’ A part of my memory was erased, including the day of the accident, which made me seek answers even more. I had lost the tone of my body, bedridden my immobile body trying to connect with my racing mind for questions about my existence, wondering what happened on that fateful Sunday morning.
With a demented memory all through the healing process, I wondered why there were no visitors during that time. Why was I kept aloof? It finally dawned on me that we were living in the age of a pandemic but unlike the Pandemic, this was close to home and caught me off guard in ways even the Pandemic didn’t. I couldn’t accept the reality, it was hard! The fact that I had lost a part of my memory made it even harder. I began to loathe, and regret only emboldened my self- hatred. I was in complete despair, stuck in a place of self -pity and desolation.
Saints and Summits
The only place I found consolation was through reading. It would help strengthen my memory. One day, my grandfather who has a collection of books about saints and the religious, unfolded before me a fascinating story of a young boy, Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati. The fact that he was only a few years older than me perhaps sparked an even greater interest to know more about what drove this young lad to live so selflessly. As I delved into his life, his love for mountaineering struck a chord within me. His note ‘Verso L’Alto’ which means ‘to the heights’ resonated in my desolated heart.
Why did this saint associate so deeply with the summit? What is it about summits that sparks faith and courage and resilience in these mountain climbers?
I realized that feeling self-pity and loathing over what had happened would never allow me to see the summits before me, these summits that I was born to climb, these summits that required my courage and my faith.
In that hospital bed, the summit looked unreachable because of my regrets and unaccepted fate in the accident. Yet, in Blessed Pier Georgio I found a man, extraordinaire in his ordinariness, willing to take on life’s challenges and doing it in the most simplest of ways because he believed that the God of the mountains had bigger plans for him.
That afternoon, a faint fresh breath of the ‘summit’ over took me for the first time after my accident. It is said that struggle ends where gratitude begins. This is what the ‘man of the beatitudes’ inspired me to do. He allowed to find my way upward, once again.
Following the Voice
I am so indebted to Blessed Pier Georgio. His life inspired me to move out of my comfort zone. In this time of the deadly pandemic, he helped me see humankind as a whole in its suffering. I realized that suffering was an inevitable part of life. One cannot really blame God for all that is happening around us or within us. I got the reckoning that being at peace with myself began in surrender.
There is a Divine Power above, that constantly guides, gives us a sense of worth and never leaves our side.
“The higher we go the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” These words of Frassati continue to resonate in my being as I ponder on the relevance of it in my life today. The life of Blessed Frassati was a beatitude that exemplified his simplicity and his honest feelings towards the needy and downtrodden of our society. There is an instance where as a young boy, a lady came begging to his doorstep along with her son. Pier Georgio noticed the little boy was shoeless and his immediate instinct was to take off his own shoes and give them to this child. His inclination to help people had manifested in his childhood itself which is a fitting reminder that charity begins at home and is not reserved to a specific age.
I revisited the great commandment again. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. It is interesting to know how near death experiences teach us about purpose and why we exist. Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati’s deep conviction of love and service for the poor at great cost changed my near-death bed into an overflowing fount of life. Like Pier Georgio, my eyes were shifted from myself to Divine Summits. Like Pier Georgio, I found new strength to soar as I waited on God’s healing.
New Mercies, New Heights
Today as I look back, I realize how in my lowest moments, prayers and acts of kindness from friends and family got me through some of my most difficult days. Their charity gave me strength to move ahead and go on to accomplish bigger things in my life. Being grateful for everyday mercies is something I hope to emulate from the life of Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati. He was a young person just like me and he did what he did, the best way he could. His words “Faith enables us to bear the thorns with which our life is woven” lives in me because I know that I was safe in the hands of One who saw me at my worst and yet loved me.
If you are someone tormented by the events of life or maybe just searching for hope during these troubled times, I would like to encourage you to lift your gaze upwards. And as you seek the ascent ‘to the heights’, may you too discover Him who enables us to see beyond our circumstances and charitably give fully of ourselves to the service of others. There we discover that we have climbed higher, in ways we never could when our sights were set on self.
Verso L’Alto, To the Heights, To greater things!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Letitia D’Costa is from Mangalore, India, currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology Journalism and English Literature. She is an avid reader and loves penning down her thoughts through blogs, poems and articles, aiming to carve a niche for herself through her literary work. An accident that almost claimed her life in 2020 was a transforming moment from which she emerged stronger as a person of grit and determination, having found the One in whose presence there is ‘life in abundance’. You can connect with her at @liaadcosta