I sit with my dog just outside the comfort of home. Safety, security and familiarity beckon from the other side of the door behind us. I look over the few possessions I packed and feel ill-prepared for the road ahead. I got Eko to help me search for the meaning of life, but how am I supposed to know what direction to go when I don’t even know the destination?
Luckily my puppy has courage enough for us both. Propelled by Eko’s enthusiasm and wagging tail, we take to the road and begin my quest for purpose. We cross the country looking for answers. I discover I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions. And my answer to the same question often changes. What never changes is Eko’s unwavering commitment to follow and love me no matter where the adventure takes us.
One night, while driving into an approaching storm on a quiet highway in Montana, one of our tires is shredded by shrapnel in the road. I manage to bring the three-wheeled car to a safe stop on the shoulder of a bridge over a river. There is no cell phone service in the rural valley. We are alone in the dark.
I scramble to grab the spare tire and repair kit. The storm is imminent, but before I begin the hasty and hair-raising highway repair, I open the back door and motion for Eko to sit and stay by the edge. I know if a car comes around the corner and doesn’t see my hazard lights and open hatch, there’s a very real possibility we’re hit and killed.
My brilliant solution?
Each time I spot oncoming headlights while changing the tire I run to the side of the car and hold Eko. If I think a car might hit us, I lift Eko and prepare to jump into the river below. Insane idea? You bet. But leaving Eko behind is simply not an option.
Eko metaphorically jumps into the darkness with me each day. I am ready to literally jump into the darkness with him this night.
Luckily I change the tire without incident and limp the unsteady car through the storm. Still riding high on adrenaline, I give a manic laugh when Eko breaks the tension by planting a big kiss on my cheek.
“This is it,” I realize. You don’t search for the meaning of life, the meaning of life is the search. Racing storms, breaking down, finding a way to keep moving, jumping off a damn bridge with your dog in your arms if that’s what it takes to keep going. To keep searching, to keep discovering and rediscovering ourselves in the new possibilities of each moment.
Five years later, I sit with my dog just outside the comfort of home. It is not the same home. It is not the same dog. I am not even the same “I.” I hold Penny in the darkness of early morning, my courage once again faltering. The drive back east for the holidays will be my first road trip since Eko died and I can’t bring myself to leave without him.
“I know, I know.” I speak the words aloud with the same loving chagrin I used when Eko would nudge me out of my chair for a walk. Except this time I feel him nudging me back towards the road. Back towards the search, back towards purpose. His message is amplified by the electric current running through Penny. She fidgets in my arms, eager to set off on this new road ahead.
“Okay,” I say with a sigh and a smile. We load up the car and drive into the dawn. I resisted this journey because I feared all roads led away from Eko. But the meaning is the search, the search is the road, and the road is Eko. So for me, the meaning of life will always be inexorably tied to the puppy who taught me the road is the destination.
Wherever this new road takes us, we go not away from Eko, but with him.
Which is good news, because I need all the help I can get. I have a funny feeling 2017 is going to be one hell of a ride.