With Amy Boucher Pye …

I'll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair
Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck (Tyndale, ISBN 978-1496421708)

Books about walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain seem to be popular today – recently in these pages we met Tony Collins, who chronicled his journey in Taking My God for a Walk.
There’s something intriguing about pushing oneself to the limit physically while seeking God and meeting fellow pilgrims on the way. Although I didn’t set out to read another book about the Camino, when I picked up I’ll Push You, I was captured by the audacity of the adventure. Two men travel the ancient paths together, but the twist is that one is confined to a wheelchair.

Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray have been best friends since they were kids. Over the years they have shared dreams and practical jokes, and when both got married and had families, their friendship continued to be an important part of their lives. Especially when Justin’s progressive neuromuscular disease started to render him immovable, with him first losing the feeling in his legs and then later in his arms and hands. But his can-do spirit leads him to embrace the good things in life instead of wallowing in what he can no longer do.

When Justin watched a television programme on pilgrims walking the Camino, he shared his dream to experience this with Patrick. His friend replied without hesitation, “I’ll push you.” And so began their crazy journey over mountains, through deserts and across fields in a specially designed wheelchair. Early on they encountered a Basque farmer who, when he learned of their journey, exclaimed, “The impossible is possible!” That utterance became their slogan.

I admire their courage and spirit, but as I read, I wondered about their wives and families left at home. Especially when we learned that Patrick was a bit of a workaholic, and how even when at home would be chained to his smartphone instead of being fully present.

As I read, I couldn’t shake off some questions: Was this an escape from the grind of daily life? Although they would be lauded as heroes if they completed the journey, what about the heroics of those staying at home and keeping the families going? Had they elevated their friendship above their marriage vows?

With those provisos, I did enjoy hearing the ways the friends grew and matured through the adversities they faced, and especially how both grew to receive help from others. As Patrick remarked, “Tears stream down my face as the journey finally forces me to fully embrace the help of others – just as Justin’s diseases has forced him to do in so much of his life.” Wisdom worth applying to our lives – especially if we tend to be self-sufficient.

One to share with the men in your life.

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