I suppose it could be worse…

by | March 11, 2013

I’m writing this from California, where I’ve spent the weekend working with a client.

I had to wake up at three a.m. to catch the shuttle in time for my early morning flight. I was exhausted, and the cramped and chilly van prevented any sleep.

Squeezing into the airplane seat was even worse. I got a headache on the flight.

I’ve been sick and I’ve had awful mouth sores. I suffered through the first day, then drove my rental car to a store to buy Nyquil and Orajel so I could get some sleep.

The hotel service was crappy. My bed was hard. The TV was tiny.

So many things to find annoying. That is, until I compare my trip to Elizabeth Sermon’s journey across the western plains by handcart.

In November of 1856, Elizabeth wrote in her journal:

“My husband’s health began to fail. Myself and children hungry, almost naked, footsore and himself nearly done for.

“My oldest boy had the mountain fever, we had to haul him in the cart, there was not room in the wagon.

There was no time crossing the rivers to stop and take off clothing, but had to wade through and draw our carts at the same time with our clothes dripping wet, had to dry in the sun and dust as merrily on our way we go until we reach the valley, oh, like a herd of stock or something worse.

“My husband’s sufferings have always pained me and I can never forget them. Poor Rob’s [age 5] feet began to freeze.

“John [age 9] and Rob had to ride, Henry [age 7] walked, your father would take my arm and walk a little distance, fall on his knees with weakness.

“After our food had given out, we went into our tents to die¦

“Your father..called you to him and told you to be good children and to do all you could for me, and then he said to me, ‘God bless you, Eli.’ He put his arm around me and said, ‘I am done,’ and breathed his last.

“We sewed him up in a quilt with his clothes on. Father was buried in the morning with 2 more in the grave. I stood like a statue, bewildered, not a tear: the cold chills, even now as I write, creep over my body, for I feel I can still see the wolves waiting for their bodies as they would come down to camp before we left…

“I think it was two weeks we were without tents. We went to bed without supper in order to get a little better breakfast. I found it some help to toast the rawhide on the coals and chew it; it helped to keep the hunger away, for I was feeling it rather keenly now.

“I had to take a portion of poor Robert’s feet off which pierced my very soul. I had to sever the leaders with a pair of scissors. Little did I think when I bought them in old England that they would be used for such a purpose. Every day some portion was decaying until the poor boy’s feet were all gone…

“I was terribly put to for clothes to wrap my poor boy’s legs in, his feet all gone. I got all I could from the camp, then I used my underclothing until I had but 2 skirts left upon my body, and as such I finished my journey…

“My eldest boy John’s feet decaying, my boys both of them losing their limbs, their father dead, my own feet very painful, I thought, ‘Why can’t I die?'”

What a pleasant trip I’ve had. Oh, what an incredibly miraculous life I live.

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