Passings

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For John Wellington, midnight at 14,200′ on Denali.

Three times this summer I’ve been asked to support friends dealing with the death of a loved one. Two were last week. All three were accidents. All were relatively young. I had only met one of the deceased, but the passing of their lives touches lives close to mine. As we are all connected, their passing slows my pace.¬†None of the people enjoyed a peaceful passing. Their deaths were ugly and impossible.

When I die, my body will return to dust, and I am at peace that the memory of my spirit may not matter to anyone. Life is stark and unforgiving in it’s brevity. None of this is comforting. I won’t wax poetic about dying in the mountains, or doing what you loved. 1) it’s not applicable, and 2) that isn’t how I (or anyone I know) aspire to go.

The primary fault in my value system is my belief that my worth comes from my ability to DO something. Anything. Yet death is a certainty- it is the thing that even the best of us are equally powerless against. In death, there is nothing to be done. The first sensation of comfort comes from embracing the powerlessness. I can’t pretend to understand death, nor can I pretend to mend the broken hearts around me. I am just starting to understand living. I aspire to understand loving. Somehow, these are the only responses that seem appropriate in support of my friends.

Death begs us the question of living.
It begs us to dream. To hope. To love. Greater and more fully each time. Though the great injustice of each life unnecessarily snatched away from us compels me to burn my light even more brightly in this life- more than anything else, it compels me to simply be more present with each of my friends.

“And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”¬†(K. Gibran)

“I didn’t come here for a long time, I came here for a good time.” (Jeff Shapiro)

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