“I’ll push you.” When Patrick Gray (’97) said these words to best friend Justin Skeesuck, he didn’t fully know what he was offering, but he meant it. After a year of preparation, six weeks of pushing, pulling and soul searching, and a documentary film and book, those simple words have become life changing for both men.
The book “I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair” is the shared memoir of Patrick and Justin recounting their incredible journey trekking the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s trail through the Pyrenees Mountains across Northern Spain.
Justin has a degenerative autoimmune disease that attacks his nervous system and has resulted in the loss of muscle control from his shoulders down. While his disease could have become an affliction, Justin has turned it into fuel to live life to the fullest despite his limitations with the help of Patrick, his lifelong friend, adventure buddy and now business partner.
With Justin in his off-road “adult baby jogger” wheelchair, Patrick pushed, pulled and carried him 500 miles across some of the most rugged terrain imaginable. But that’s not the whole story! “I’ll Push You” is about uncommon friendship and brotherly love of the deepest kind. Patrick and Justin recount in flashbacks the ups and downs of their lifelong bond—one that has only grown deeper through the progression of Justin’s disease.
They weave humorous anecdotes from their childhoods and present adventure with deep personal revelation learned on the trail about the value of relationships and authentic community. From their different perspectives, they describe how real faith comes from surrendering control, admitting our dependance on God and other people.
From impossibly rocky climbs to thick mud, from a broken wheelchair to inaccessible hotel rooms—Justin and Patrick quickly learned that they would need all the help they could get to accomplish their audacious goal. The other pilgrims they met along the way were equally inspired by and inspiring to Justin and Patrick in the ways they freely shared their stories and lent their strength, proving that dependence is not weakness but an opportunity for people to participate in the journey.
Readers of “I’ll Push You” will be crying and laughing and inspired to examine their own relationships. The story challenges us to give away 100 percent of ourselves to others and watch with joy when we get back in equal measure.
Visit illpushyou.com for information on purchasing the book and to learn more about the documentary film.
Photos and book imagery courtesy of illpushyou.com.