Liam hugged the cliff until he felt the sharp rocks stabbing against his body. His hands had begun to ache desperately holding on to the small imperfection in the cliff face. He eagerly looked for a stronger foothold. His right foot still dangled in the air, unable to find a secure landing. Nothing was below him. At least nothing close. Eight hundred feet below sat the tree line and eternity. Though beautiful from his vantage point, Liam thought of it only as the valley of death at the moment.
With nothing close by, Liam pushed his head slowly down. Part way down his body he spied a small crack large enough to fit the toe of his climbing shoes. Ignoring his instinct, he pulled his free leg in and jammed his toe inside the crack. His right hand loosened its death grip, but his body was secure of the moment. Letting his right arm relax, he started mapping the last fifty feet above.
With expert aim, Liam raised his body with his right leg and swung his free arm around to grab a large jagged rock sticking out just three feet above him. His left hand released, and quickly stuck itself into a crevice nearby and his left foot fell onto a crease in the cliffside. Up he continued to climb. Each moment a triumph over death and his limits. With one mighty thrust, his moved his body over the edge to the top of the mountain.
Liam laid there for a few minutes, giving his spent body a much-deserved reprieve. Slowly standing he looked out over the lush green valley below. Pine trees and patches of farmland filled the scene. The sun was at the top of the adjacent mountains and moving downward. He knew he did not have long. Liam thought how he had been a part of this picture for a better part of the afternoon. He had hugged God’s creation, stared death in the face, and now here he was, enjoying the gift of an awesome sunset, triumphant in his victory and faith.
Behind him, he heard faint footsteps. It sounded like two animals, and something much bigger. Turning his head to look, Liam spied a man coming along the trail that emerged from a pine tree grove 10 yards to his left. “Stay with me boys.” warned the man. Liam smiled at the family. The two kids drew close to their father. The father nodded at Liam and smiled. He was obviously busy watching his children.
Although cowed, the boys continued to chatter. Liam had learned long ago to ignore his nieces and nephews. Ignoring this stranger’s children was an instinct. The sun dropped below the mountain line and its last golden rays wrapped around their sides and peaks beyond. Liam noticed the boys’ silence. All four stood there in awe.
“Glorious” whispered the stranger.
“Glorious indeed” replied Liam.
They waited as the gold turned to a faint pink, and finally, the darkness began to take its place.
“Come on boys, get your flashlights. We have a half mile hike back to the car.”
Liam chuckled and pulled out his cell phone from the pouch around his waist. “Sam, you in the parking lot?”
“You know it. Are you close?”
“Just leaving the cliff now. I couldn’t miss the sunset.”
“At least one of us got to enjoy it. I got here too late. See you soon.”
Liam pulled out his small pen light and headed down the trail and into the forest beyond.