Bill’s request was for us to share a memory of Peggy. I know we have all laughed for years about her probing how I really felt about anything and everything. She wanted to go deep and I wanted to skip stones on the surface. However, it’s something else I want to say just now.
I was 24 in 1970 when a friend took this picture. We had just climbed to the highest ridge of Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire and I wanted to make sure he got me standing by the double black diamond sign there. I remember how I felt. It was not confidence but cockiness. I wanted to show someone what we had done but I didn’t know who to show. Who would care?
Yes, you are right. I sent it to three people. Carol, Bill and Peggy. A few days later it was Peggy who asked, “Do you ever wish you had someone to share this with?” I laughed as a way to try and divert her attention but she would not let me get away from the question. She asked it again but never pressed me for an answer. But I couldn’t shake it.
Right after the picture was taken we got lost on Wildcat and it was dark when we found our way off the mountain. Not long after that picture was taken I got lost in life and it took some time in the dark to find my own way again. But all the while – and even now – I could hear Peggy’s question. “Do you ever wish you had someone to share this with?”
Howell Raines was the managing editor of the New York Times and in his book on fishing he says there are two kinds of fishing: hook ’em and yank ’em where you set the hook and heave the fish into the boat. The fish is sorry he left the house that day. The second is fly fishing. He writes about catching a three pound trout on a two pound line.
“That is how I came to understand the relationship between heavy fish and light lines. The act of setting the hook must contain within it an almost simultaneous act of surrender. Upon seeing or feeling the strike, the fly fisherman is required to pull back with precisely enough force to slide the point of the hook into the tissue of the fish’s mouth. Then he must release all the pressure and let the fish go where it wants to go. It is an act of physical discipline and of hope – the hope being that by and by when the fish is tired of going where it wants to go, it and the fisherman will still be connected by a thread that leads them to the same place.”
Peggy could do both. She could hook ’em and yank ’em and make you wish you had never taken the bait. But, more often, her questions were an act of hope. Peggy was genuinely interested and not merely curious. She didn’t so much want to know the answer as she wanted me to find it myself. Peggy was always one to catch and release.
It turns out that her question about Wildcat Mountain was right. Yes, I did want someone to share this with and she is with me. So, Carol and I are here today not only to say thank you to Peggy and Bill but to you as a family for making our life a gift of grace and hope from you. Because of Peggy and Bill all of our lives are connected by a thread that leads us all to the same place.
Wendell Berry says, “Now I have had most of the life I am going to have and I can see what it has been. I can remember those early years when it seemed to me I was cut completely adrift and times when looking back at earlier times it seemed I had been wandering in the dark woods of error. But now it looks to me as though I was following a path that was laid out for me unbroken and maybe even as straight as possible from one end to the other and I have this feeling which never leaves me anymore that I have been led.”