Listening to the creaking in wounded hearts

A long time ago, some bright minds came up with an idea. These deep thinkers proposed damming up the Roanoke and Blackwater Rivers into the Smith Mountain Gorge.

In an area in the middle of nowhere between the Virginia cities of Roanoke and Lynchburg, this containment led to the development of Smith Mountain Lake. Construction on the dam started in 1960. By 1963, the construction was completed, and in 1966 the lake reached its full water level.

Originally constructed to generate hydro-electric power, it took several years before Virginia’s largest contained lake would develop into a popular recreational and residential area.(Researched from internet sources)

Thanks to my college roommate, the Reverend H. D. Sherrill, Jr., who we with great affection call Butch, this would be our third visit to Smith Mountain Lake. Reverend Sherrill has many skills, but he is very adept in building relationships and connecting with people. Our visits to Smith Mountain Lake have come courtesy of a family in the church where he serves.

This very gracious family has said to Butch—“we want you to use our lakefront home at Smith Mountain for a week.” And of course, Butch with heartfelt kindness always accepts, but he without fail asks the family this question—“can I invite my college pals?” Thankfully for his college pals, the family has never said no, and in truth, we pals are the greatest of moochers.

Since we graduated from Greensboro College in May of 1975, Butch, Dan, Steve, Doug, Steve, and myself, Bill, have kept in touch with each other. During these 46 years, we have made a point of gathering sometimes twice a year, but at least once a year. Over time, those gatherings have included our spouses and our children.

Those friendships that started when we were apprehensive freshmen in the fall of 1971 have endured for lots of reasons. Yet, I suspect at the core of this legacy is our hearts.

For this gathering during the week of October 5-8, Butch and Marian, Dan and Judy, Steve and Kathleen, Bill and Betsy, Doug, and Steve would be present. The logistics for the week were fine tuned via our bi-weekly Zoom calls. And, I don’t know about my pals, but Betsy and I couldn’t wait to arrive.

Our residence for the week is perfect. Nothing was spared in its design and furnishings. Everyone has space, and the ever changing views of the lake make the gathering even more special.

Even though the weather forecast looked a bit dreary, we never spent a full day inside. We walked, some of us ventured into the still warm from summer lake water, the the back lawn was perfect for playing corn hole, and thanks to Dan and Judy we had a two day access to a pontoon boat for exploring the lake.

We are never at a loss for conversation, laughter, or food. Our evening meals celebrate the hands that prepared the dinner and compliments always abound.

As we were wrapping up our final dinner for the week, Dan tossed out an interesting question for each of us. He wanted us to ponder how we were holding up psychologically. For sure, the pandemic was part of this probe, but the table was open to unpack whatever was stirring in our souls.

We started at the dinner table, took a pause to clear dishes, and moved out to the upper deck where comfortable seating and a propane fueled fire pit awaited us.
In those reflections, I heard the creaking of our rapidly aging bodies. No one has been immune from the start of this process with backs, shoulders, knees, bladders, prostrates all on the checklist.

But, I also heard in our voices the creaking in our wounded hearts. Those wounds wear on our mental state.

In the creaking of weary hearts, I learned about the commitment to remain diligent and loyal in completing outstanding careers before full retirement.

We learned how one spouse has attempted to adapt to the loss of sight in an eye.

Even with the latest surgical and technical applications, another spouse has struggled with the loss of hearing.

Rightly, there was an edge of bitterness in their stories, but I also heard the ingenuity of their adjustments, but more importantly I felt the love and support of their spouses.

The most emotional came from our friends who are still grieving the senseless loss of their youngest son. This loss came via a stranger who pulled the trigger for no good reason.

They keep hoping this wound will scab over. That the passing of time will bring about an internal healing in the deepest parts of their hearts and souls. But, the wound is so vile, so festering that scabbing remains elusive.

But, the creaking of our hearts didn’t end with that mean tragedy.

We also heard the painful reality of a body that is physically in distress with multiple challenges while its heart battles loneliness.
As we listened to our friend, I know our hearts hurt. Our hearts cried out with love wanting to assist in guiding a path for improvement.

With our faces framed in the light of the flames from the fire pit, we temporarily put to rest the creaking in our wounded hearts as sleep called.

On Friday morning, I went for a run.

Like earlier in the week I expected to see some deer again, but I guess this morning they were still in slumber.

As I wove my way toward the golf course and the clubhouse for the golfers, there was a flurry of activity. Some golfers were at the practice tees, and greenskeepers scurried about the fairways completing their final manicures.

Somewhere along the way, I thought about Thursday’s after dinner conversation. For some reason, I pondered our aging and our hearts, and out of the blue the word creaking popped into my mind.

As we age, our bodies start to creak more, but our hearts are in that creaking too. That’s quite a skirmish— especially when hearts are wounded.

But as I think about my own creaking, wounded heart, and the creaking wounded hearts of my friends, there is a quiet constant in our years of loyalty—love.

And maybe 1 Corinthians 13 verse 7 makes that point best for us: “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
photo by Bill Pike

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