This song originated on a Yosemite Association backpacking trip to Lake Ostrander which we took in October, 1996. We had just come up a fairly steep part of the trail, and everyone was feeling pretty tired when we took a break. The leader of the hike, Michael Ross, told us what a friend of his would say at such times: “Pain is just weakness leaving your body.” I thought this might be a good title phrase for a song, but then didn’t start thinking about it again until we were finishing the hike, two days later. By then his original phrase had somehow mutated in my mind to what you see here, as the first line of the chorus. Even when I was reminded of what he had actually said, I decided to use the altered version for this song. Either way, I hope it has something to say to you, even if you’ve never been hiking.
When I was just a boy, I’d go hiking with my dad;
Sometimes we’d climb so high, the whole world was below.
But some trails were so steep, and sometimes I’d hurt so bad,
I’d say, “I don’t know how much farther I can go.”
But my daddy always helped me make it safely to the end;
And I finally learned from him that pain could almost be my friend.
He’d say …
“Pain is just your body’s way of letting go of weakness.
You’ve got to feel some pain before you’ll find the strength that lies within.
You might not know the real thing yet — it’s the kind of hurt you won’t forget;
And you’ve got to work right through the pain before the healing can begin.”
As the years went by, it seemed the world could always find new ways
Of showing me just what it’s like to feel real pain.
When I lost a girl, or lost a job, or had more debts than I could pay,
I’d think, I’d rather have those tough old trails again.
At times I’d lie there in the dark, not knowing how I’d face the dawn;
But somehow my daddy’s words came back, to help me carry on.
When he’d say …
And now, we’re here, with Daddy’s ashes, beside a clear blue mountain lake;
Taking him back to one of those places we once knew;
And though it seems like missing him might be the hardest pain to take,
He might be gone, but I’ve still got his words to help me make it through.
When he’d say …
“Pain is just your body’s way of letting weakness go.”
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