The story of Dave
I was having a particularly difficult night with the kids. It’s challenging to get two kids under 4 to sleep successfully by yourself. Especially night after night for a whole week.
But that was what I decided to do, in order to help my husband JD reach toward a huge personal goal. The goal of rock climbing the East face of Mount Whitney with his climbing buddies – his two best friends – after MONTHS of training and planning and prepping together. And he was out there in the wilderness doing just that… Back country camping, hiking, climbing… Living his dream!
We hardly had any contact. But I was cheering all three guys on in my thoughts. And I found out through the grapevine that they had reached the summit – Hooray!
So when I saw that JD was calling late that night, I forgot all about that long-winded, stressful, chaotic bedtime and excitedly answered the phone!
His voice wasn’t that of a person who had just summitted Mount Whitney with his two best friends. I thought he might just be tired. But it was way worse than that. Inconceivably worse.
“We lost Dave today…” is what I heard. I didn’t understand. I just didn’t understand. “He died in my arms at the top of the mountain“, JD uttered, a palpable exhaustion seeping from his voice. My excitement turned to confusion, and then to shock and horror.
Only one minute after I had happily said hello, I was saying goodbye. Without ANY information about what had happened or what was currently happening with JD and Paul.
I felt sick. I was in complete shock. And I spent the next 24 hours (on the exact day of our 10th wedding anniversary, no less!) not knowing if I would ever see my husband again – and playing around with my two young kids as if everything was just hunky dory. I was worried – I mean, if the strongest, most capable guy in the group was suffering badly enough not to make it down the mountain, then surely the remaining two were struggling??
We finally heard from our missing duo that next evening. We had sent a group up to the base of the mountain to make sure we got them back. And so they would have familiar faces to comfort them and help them back home. What a relief it was to have them back.
But the sorrow has been great. And totally unexpected. You see, Big Dave’s body held a nasty secret – a pre-existing heart condition. NO ONE would have guessed. He participated in every outdoor activity imaginable. For years! I witnessed it!
But Mount Whitney provided the perfect conditions over multiple days to tax that big heart in just the right way. And we can only take solace in the fact that he was celebrating a big success and taking in the beauty of raw nature in his last moments… He was happy and peaceful.
JD, Paul and Dave DID successfully summit the East face of Mount Whitney. From what I heard, they climbed it beautifully and had their mini celebration at the very top on September 15th, 2015. And Dave had a massive heart attack the very next day.
It still doesn’t make sense. And today, on what would have been his 46th birthday, we feel his absence even more. The celebration of Dave is quite lonely and way too quiet without Dave’s presence.
But we celebrate him anyway. And honestly, having to mourn the sudden loss of such a dear friend way too soon has forced me to change my perspective toward MORE celebration.
Life doesn’t last forever. Loved ones aren’t with us forever. Kids grow up fast and good friends die. We’ve got to celebrate this time, RIGHT NOW!
Dave took EVERY opportunity to squeeze full enjoyment out of life. He passed on all of his passions to those he loved. He made big, decadent plans with friends and heartily high-fived his way through each exciting moment. He played hard and loved fiercely. Dave made the most of every day he had… And THAT is what I vow to do. Live LARGE like Dave…
That doesn’t mean I need to do something “special” every day. But I’m going to find beauty in the mundane moments with my family. I’m going to seek out the experiences that bring me joy! Especially the ones that we always shared with Dave! (Snowboarding, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Eating good food, Listening to good music, Drinking good beer/wine, Cheering on the Kings, Celebrating with friends, Traveling, etc, etc…) I’m going to spend as much time with good friends as possible. I’m going to work hard so that I can play even harder. And I’m just going to remember that life is finite. And that the journey is WAY more important than any destination.
Thank you, Dave, for being larger than life. You were a great teacher and an incredible friend. You’ll live on in the stories that we tell of the many, many memories we’ve built together. We’ll take care of your family for you – AND we’ll be sure to pass on all your passions to our kids as they grow. Happy birthday, big guy…