We are a week past the anniversary date of our son’s death. My husband took the week off from work. I cannot say we knew what to do with ourselves.
The day came and went.
We heard from the young man who was with our son that day. I have been checking on him through Facebook, watching his posts. Some I have to glance at and look away. I don’t know if his risk taking behavior has increased or not. I think he is a very talented young man who has a lot of interests and derives a certain thrill from activities that might be termed high-risk.
There is nothing wrong with that. I think our knowledge of risk taking behaviors has increased because of access through the media. No one knew about the people who ascended Longs Peak in the 1800’s except those who assisted.
The public access we have to everything that happens as it happens is not always a good thing. We begin to think that we have a right and duty to share everything. I see people who live their lives as if everything they do is being recorded as with reality TV. I can say our son was the opposite of this, preferring privacy.
I don’t know how my son’s friend feels. I hate that he had to witness the events the took place that day. I remember in high school when an acquaintance of mine ended his life by choice. I had a terrible crush on him. I saw him that night at a mutual gathering place. He was with a group of friends and looked over at me – our eyes meeting for just a moment before he looked away. The next day I was told he had ended his life by his own hands. It stays with me to this day. Of course, I thought I should have said something that night. Surely I had in my power something that would have dissuaded him from his actions, something to cure the illness that caused him to come to this end.
The effects of gravity are part of the calculated risk you take when you are a climber. It makes no exceptions. Man sought to defy it even before he knew what it was. Accidents happen. They are sudden and insidious. Hindsight can torment us about a lot of things. We want to take the blame if it happens to someone else and we are near by or any way involved. It is human nature.
For myself, perhaps I should have gotten to know the young man in high school better. My shyness prevented that and my lack of confidence. Would it have changed anything? We will never know.
Should something have been done differently on July 2nd to prevent the accident from happening? I would wager that my son and his climbing companion would have done something differently had they known. It is in the past now.
What power will we give it to take over our life? That is the question.
My son was a huge part of my life, but he is not my life any more than I was his. In death sometimes I think I idealize him because as I have said before in former writings he is not here to annoy me as he was capable of doing. I do know this much about my pragmatic son, he would say to use the days we have to do those things that we need to do and want to do.
As for the unfortunate climbing buddy I think he too has idealized my son, his friend in some ways. Yes we are all miserable because he is gone. We all want to blame ourselves. I am sure those who performed CPR on my son blame themselves too, as does the unfortunate park ranger who called my husband in tears. It was out of everyone’s control.
The climbing group who uses that area regularly certainly wanted to find someone to blame, choosing to blame my son – proclaiming carelessness. How could they face those rocks again if they did not blame something that they could pinpoint? The Sheriff’s investigation said it was one thing, the climbing group another. Either way the result was the same. It was an accident. Control is an illusion at best.
And either way our son’s friend now struggles with guilt – the ugly gift that keeps on giving – along with his sorrow. Sorrow is applicable. Guilt needs to be released bit by bit. Yes, I feel guilty that I am alive – having lived twice as long as my son – and that he is not here. I am guilty of wanting to bring him into this world, guilty of allowing him freedom to choose, guilty of allowing him to wrap me around his finger. And with that I am also thankful. Thankful to have had the years I had with him. Thankful that he loved us and wanted to be with us, that he was not ashamed of us and shared his friends with us.
My son’s life and influence would truly be wasted if his friends and climbing companions use his death as an excuse not to do the things they need to do. My husband and daughter and I encourage each other to continue on each day. We have been amazed at each other’s productivity this year.
What you see here are the few minutes I give to this effort called writing. I get up when I close the computer and I move on. After hearing from my son’s friend, I worried that my writings were hurting him. That was not my intention. I write because that is something I have in one way or another always done, as is my painting. My son would not want me to stop. I think about my son, my daughter and my husband often. I try to balance it out and not dwell too much on my son because he made up a big part of my life, but not all of it.
There are tears every day, but not every day is spent in tears. I have used this medium to allow myself space to express my frustration, my sorrow and my extreme love for my son and family. He along with my daughter, husband and friends has been an amazing influence on my life. I credit them with much of who I am. I hope I can use whatever days I have left to be an influence for good. This is part of my son’s gift to me and to those he knew and loved.
Some times in the strangest places thoughts will come that are painful. At those times – in my car or wherever I am I say aloud and vehemently “NO!” I can give them time and space at another time when it is safer to explore. If I try to constantly push them away without giving them some space to explore they gang up on me and threaten to take over. Those bad feelings and painful thoughts are part of my memory now. I try to use them to recognize others who are feeling the same way to empathize and if possible, help.
To my son’s climbing partner that day, I apologize for not thinking of you more this past year. Yes, I would be lying to say that there is not some pain connected with my thoughts of you,but so it has been with every one of my son’s friends who have come to see us, called or written. You all are a part of what we loved about him and a reminder that he is really gone. And that is the pain we all have to deal with. He was a man of encouragement – goading and provoking his family and friends to think, move forward and if need be, change. If we choose to honor him, then we honor him by moving forward, making positive decisions, accepting responsibility and accepting challenges with intelligence and consideration. It is a tall order – but it is fitting.