A letter written to my brother Eric and his new bride Emily, read at the rehearsal dinner.
It was June of 2004. The temperature was already in the 80’s at 6am. By mid-day, the temps were to top out near 115 degrees. Eric and I were standing at the top of one of God’s most magnificent creations, the west rim of the Grand Canyon. On our road trip from Los Angeles to St. Louis, hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon was one of our goals. The day before we were in Las Vegas where I believe Eric spent $50 for a soda, and I spent $100 on mine – if you catch my drift.
So Day 3 of our trip was to be spent hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up, all in one day. We spent the previous night sleeping in my SUV, near the rim. We were too cheap to pay for a camping spot as those sodas in Vegas cost way too much. Plus, we wanted to be ready as soon as the sun came up, as we knew it would be a long day. As we neared the Canyon’s edge, Eric and I both saw a sign that said: Colorado River – 9.5 miles to bottom – 19 miles round trip. Caution: DO NOT attempt a down and back in one day.
We both looked at each other, smiled and said almost simultaneously, “All right, you ready?” and started the downward descent. We both were young and in great shape, and thought 19 miles was feasible. At least at the time we thought we were only going to do 19 miles. So down, down, down we went, switchback trail after switchback – hundreds and hundreds on a three foot wide dusty trail. But we literally were flying down the canyon as we knew we needed all the time we could get to return to the top before dark. With this pace, we figured we’d be at the bottom in just a few hours…..until we hit a snag.
As we came to the halfway point of our descent, hardly out of breath from the easiness of the downhill hike, there were two trails with no sign indicating which way to go. No one was around to ask. We spent at least ten minutes looking for a sign or some sort of clue as to which way to go, but came up empty. So we had to guess. Unfortunately, we chose the left trail, which was the trail to a plateau overlooking the Colorado River, still a good ways from the bottom. About one-half mile into our hike on the left trail, we came upon a sign that said “one mile to Colorado River overlook.” So Eric and I both looked at each other again and almost simultaneously again said, “Might as well check it out!” So we did.
Of course, it was breath-taking, but it also added an extra three miles – 1.5 miles each way – onto our already expected 19. So after the scenic detour, we finally made it back to the intersection, filled our water bottles once again, as that was the last spot for water until we made it to that spot again on the way up. We then took the correct trail and descended once again.
At this time the temps were pushing 100 degrees with it getting hotter and hotter the farther down we went. We finally made it to the Colorado River in just over four hours. We took a much-needed break, ate our lunch, and jumped in the river as the temps were well over 100 degrees at this point. After spending an hour or so at the bottom, watching rafters go by, we started the ascent – climb of hell. Nine and a half miles up in 110 degrees temperatures. Trees don’t like to grow in this types of climate, so shade was a mere minimum. But we had to get back up to the top before dark, and so we started.
With the constant burn in our legs, the heat and no shade, we were zonked. A few miles into our ascent we did find a shady spot about the size of two basketballs put together. We both immediately lay down across the trail, putting our heads in the shade. A few minutes into our break, another hiker walks by us, and while stepping over us says, “shade hoggers”, laughs and goes on. After a short rest we continued our uphill climb, hiking only a mile to a mile and half an hour. But no matter how tired and hot we were, we kept going and towards the end of our hike, we could only go about 100 yards before taking a break, our legs hurt that bad. Just imagine using a stair stepper machine for seven straight hours. That’s what it felt like to Eric and me. After 12 hours of hiking and a total of 22 miles, we finished the “DO not attempt in one day trip”. We not only did the hike to the bottom but the scenic hike to the plateau, too. And for this, we give God all the glory.
Eric, I enjoyed doing this hike with you and would do it again in a heartbeat if you asked me to.
Now you’re probably all wondering why in the world I would tell this story. Well, it just proves to show what kind of a man Eric is on a grueling hike like this AND in life. The hike was not a hike for just any person, but for one that has qualities of perseverance, tenacity, leadership, endurance, positive attitude, and love just to name a few…. all which Eric possessed on this hike. He pushed through during the hot and tough times. He never gave up. He encouraged and showed his love by doing a hike like this with me. And even with Eric being the young age of 22 at the time, I could see in him what kind of man he would grow to be. Ten years later, Eric not only still possesses these qualities in life, but goes above and beyond these qualities – a feat that not many have today.
Emily, you found a good man. You have nothing to fear for the rest of your life. He will always be there for you no matter what. And just like the hike, and how he never gave up, he will never give up on you. Through the tough times, and yes, I’m sure there will be tough times, the happy times, the sad times, and the joyous time, he will not let you down. He is a giver, a lover, an encourager, a jokester, a motivator, a helper, and a perserverer, to name a few. In other words, you got yourself a real winner.
The moment I saw you two dancing together on the dance floor at Brad and Shannon’s wedding, I knew you two were a match made to be. Wait a minute, didn’t something happen on the dance floor at that wedding with you two? Sorry, had to put that in here. You know I’ll never forget that!
I’m so happy this day has finally come. Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend and am sorry that I’ll be missing your big day. It kills me to miss it. But just know that when I come back, I’ll make it all up to you.
Emily, welcome to the family. But one word of advice. Stay up to date on sports. You know how Perinos love sports! I’m happy to finally call you sister-in-law. And Eric, good job on a choice of a woman. You deserve nothing but the best. And one other thing, thanks for being such a great brother. The memories and good times we shared together will be cherished forever. Thank you!
Finally, I want to leave you with a blessing. May God richly bless you two with a lifetime of love, happiness, and togetherness. And may God be the centerpiece in your marriage with everything you do. You two are amazing together and I pray each day is that much better than the one before. I love and miss you both. I want to be one of the first to congratulate you two. You deserve it. Congratulations!
Now a toast, so raise your glasses: to a lifetime of love and happiness with God being your centerpiece.
P. S. Oh, and one more thing. After the 22 miles hike, Eric and I decided to do another 8-mile hike the following day in Utah!