By Alice Liles
Alice’s note: This story first appeared in my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on May 20, 2010. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in 2007. This is what I experienced when I made it to the summit of the mountain at 19,341 feet.
Just the other day I was asked what I found when I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro. My too-quick response was snow, clouds, glaciers, and the peak’s marker that previous trekkers had festooned with mementos to signify they had been there, and to leave a piece of themselves up there, I suppose.
What I should have said, and what is true, is that I found God up there. As we neared the peak I was in the lead, as everyone had decided that as the oldest of the group, I would be given the honor of summitting first. The peak was about fifteen minutes away and the closer we got, the snow became whiter, the sky became bluer, and I had this overwhelming need to cry. Great deep sobs rose up in my throat completely out of my control. By the time I made it to the peak I was crying. By the time the others arrived I couldn’t stop. They were consoling me, patting me on the back, trying to comfort me, but really didn’t have a clue what to do with me. I laughed and assured them I was okay and then walked to the edge of the mountain alone to take it all in. The chatter and congratulations going on behind me seemed a million miles away, and I was only aware of the quiet, the beauty, and the distinct feeling that God was there with me.
I said a little prayer, said hello to Mother and Daddy, to everyone I loved no longer on Earth, thanked the creator for this spectacular creation, and then as a calm settled over me, I took one more panoramic look at the world from this perspective and joined the others for celebration and pictures.
So the next time someone asks what I found on Kilimanjaro, I will be ready with a more specific answer: what I found was the presence of God.
To read two more stories and see many more pictures from my trek (“I Stood on the Roof of Africa”) and the safari afterward (“Safari”), go to www.aliceliles.com