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My back is hunched, I am bent over, supporting the weight of the man beside me. My right arm is wrapped tightly around his waist, as I pull him close and steady his footing. My eyes are focused on the ground in front of me watching every step, one step at a time.

I had set out with Annie and my oldest son for Annie’s daily hike when I saw a man in the distance, gingerly pulling himself off to the side of the path, his two were dogs nervously pacing around him in circles. I had noticed as he scooted back that he kept his left leg straight.

We approached cautiously as Annie becomes anxious when other dogs are nearby. One of the dogs next to the gentleman began barking loudly causing Annie to join in the alarm. I approached first, standing between my son holding Annie on the leash and the other dog. My previous experiences on the trail have taught me to proceed with caution when dogs are involved.

I was now standing directly across from the older gentleman as he sat upon the ground. The dog closest to him tethered on his leash was still barking in warning. The other dog was unleashed, but was silently watching. As I looked at the man he raised his voice, “I didn’t break my leg, but it’s hurt badly. I can’t walk.”

I took a moment to wrap my mind around what he had just said. “You fell?” I asked. He responded, “Yes, back on the last incline I took the lower path, but there was a patch of ice hidden beneath the snow. It was a sheet of ice, there was nothing I could do.”

Without hesitation, I said, “Let me help you. Can you stand?” I reached my hands toward him, grasping his hands in mine I pulled him to standing, as he winced and cried out in agony. This was not the pain of a bruise or a sprained knee. This was an acute, stabbing pain with the potential to cause him to black out from the intensity and rush of pain surging through his body. He explained, “I believe I passed out when I fell. I found this stick beside me and I used it to leverage myself off the ground and get this far.”

I understood now, this would be difficult. We would have to go extremely slow. I had him place his arm around my shoulders for support. I was taller than him which forced me to bend at the waist, almost parallel to the ground, for him to lean on me. This made it easy for me to fix my eyes on the rocks, snow, ice and uneven terrain before us.

To calm the dogs, I asked my son to go ahead of us and return to the car with Annie. His dog quieted down and stayed close once Annie was out of sight. The dogs could tell their owner was in pain and that they needed to stay close and remain alert. The gentleman and I were alone now and free to focus on the task at hand; getting back to the car.

I took a few steps and the gentleman gasped in torment once more. We stopped, as he breathed through the pain shooting up his body before taking the next step. I would have to let him lead and act as a support only. I watched, felt for his lead and allowed the process to unfold one step at a time.

He asked my name. I shared it along with the history behind my name. My grandmother was a war bride from World War II. She was from Vienna, Austria. Her father Viktor was in a camp in Russia, hence my name Anastacia, which means resurrection.

I did my best to distract the gentleman with stories as we slowly moved down the path. I wanted to distract him from the pain and the distance between us and the parking lot.

Every few steps he would push too hard, reaching too far ahead in his step or misplace his footing and the excruciating burst of pain would take hold of him once more. As an empath, I felt it all. I explained that I understood and that I could feel the pain he was experiencing and how it coursed through his body. I could feel the wave of energy move through his torso and the arm he had draped across me for support. I felt it shoot upward and out through the top of his head with a slight shudder. His response was so sweet, “I’m sorry Anastacia.” he was apologizing for me having to share in his experience.

He had no intention of causing me to suffer in an effort to help him. I expressed that I had learned how to cope with being an empath. I am aware of the energy, but have learned to view it objectively and not take it upon myself as my own emotion and body sensation. Instead I can see it and put a boundary of distance between he and I even though we had indeed become tethered together, bonded by the intensity of the experience at hand. In fact, we were even physically bonded, tied together as I was the support for his left leg and the steadying element as the pain coursed through him.

I commended him for allowing the pain to pass without holding onto it or becoming swallowed up in the overwhelming awareness of his condition. He would experience it, breath through it and begin again, every few steps the process repeated without relenting. One step at time we continued to move forward, despite the wariness and fatigue we were fighting.

I shared with him how my father had taught me that pain was all in the head and nothing more than a mental game. You could shut it off at will, bypass the pain and see it as only energy, a burst of warmth emanating outward. I could see this was true as I witnessed the pain forcing his body to shutter involuntarily, the pulsing had created an actual vibration that emanated outward.

We continued to share stories to keep the awareness of pain or time from enveloping us. He told me the story of his dog Tess, the one who had barked. He explained that she had been a rescue dog from the Humane Society, that she had been abandoned on the streets for several years before being brought in. She was timid and fearful of humans, but aggressive toward other dogs, except for those considered to be a part of the family. Bodi was his other dog, a purebred Border Collie, who remained alert and calm through it all, leading the way ahead.

Tess followed close behind, but her leash kept getting caught on rocks and ice or in the brush. I would make sure the gentleman was balanced, then let go and find Tess and release her from whatever had caught her. She would never make a sound. She would simply lay down where she was and wait silently for me to come back and release her from whatever had tied her in place. It was up to us to keep an awareness of her presence at all times to make sure we didn’t leave her behind.

I could feel how much energy the gentleman was expending and was becoming concerned that he would have the stamina to make it back to the car. He revealed that he was seventy-five years old with a smile and a sideways glance. I knew this was taking everything he had, but he wasn’t giving up and neither was I. We just had to focus on the next step.

In the distance, I could see the flicker of sunlight hitting a car in the parking lot. I was elated we were within visual distance of the end of our journey. This was going to be the hardest part trying to remain calm, focused and patient while knowing the end was within sight. This is when mistakes happen and I couldn’t afford for him to fall again. I kept reminding him to be careful and to take his time. Every few steps we would stop he was beginning to stumble, the sweat was pouring off both of us as his mind began to become aware of how long the struggle had endured. It had taken us nearly an hour to get this far and we weren’t done yet.

Just as we reached his car, parked on the far end of the parking lot he slipped on another patch of ice. I had shifted my weight to open the car door for his dogs to jump in as he stepped on a patch of ice and his feet slipped out from beneath him causing him to slam to the ground once more.

He writhed in pain on the ground, almost beneath his car. I asked, “What can I do? Can I lift you back to your feet?” He responded, “No. Please let me lie here for a bit. I’ll be ready in a moment. Do you have a business card you could give me from your car?” He wanted to distract me for a moment so he could collect himself and regain the remainder of his strength.

As I returned he had gotten himself up to standing. I handed him my card which he glanced at and commented, “A real estate broker?” with surprise. I smiled as I seldom identified myself as a Realtor. I typically said author in response to any question that pertained to my occupation. Or I would express that I was a certified personal trainer to explain why I had so much information about health, wellness and the body in general. I rarely think in terms of titles and typically do not identify myself in such ways. I see myself by the qualities of my character not by positions, titles or occupations.

I collected his backpack and gloves from the ground and placed them in the front seat of his car. I opened the back door and called the dogs to jump into the backseat. I turned again and guided the gentleman to his seat and allowed him to pull his left leg into the car and move it into place and out of the way, so he could position himself to make the drive to the hospital by himself, as he had requested.

He thanked me, telling me I was an angel, conceding that he couldn’t have made it back to the car without me. It had taken us a slow agonizing hour to cover the short distance from where he had fallen back to his car. I believe he wanted my card to have something to hold onto, a name, a face to make the whole experience real; to remind him that someone had indeed stayed with him, encouraged and supported him. That he hadn’t been abandoned and left alone on the side of the path.

My back was sore from the contraction and weight of supporting his body, my arm wrapped around his waist had been tense the entire time for fear of him falling out of my grasp. Only now did I become aware of my own body. I had been so consumed with his suffering and concern for our every step that I hadn’t noticed anything outside of the moment at hand, not my body or the time consumed.

As I drove off I knew it would take time for me to adjust,

to allow him to separate from me, as I had become so bonded and tied to his fate and the outcome of his injury. I kept him in my thoughts the rest of the day, praying that his injury would heal quickly and that the doctors would be guided as they tended to him.

It reminded me

of the beauty of compassion and the many gifts received in giving and stepping up to be present when there is a need. It was my honor to be of service to that gentleman on this day. It was a true blessing for my soul and I rejoiced in the gift of being able to be a true blessing in someone else’s life. It provided an overwhelming sense of abundance and beauty into my life and I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to be of service in such a deep and heartfelt way. One step at a time, I was shown the beauty and gift life is and a true connection with another human being. Thank you.

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