This last week and a half has been a roller coaster. The ups include starting my new job, training, and getting to smile at people all shift long. The downs have been losses that are touching the lives of loved ones, which touches me as well.
It started with a message from my best friend, Stick, last week Wednesday. Her brother-in-law’s climbing partner, Joe Puryear, was standing on a cornice as they were ascending Labuche Kang in Tibet when it gave way and he fell to his death. I met Stick’s brother-in-law when she got married and spent some time getting to know him. He has a deep respect for the Earth and a love of the mountains. David and Joe are both respected and experienced Alpinist. My heart went out to David as soon as I read the message, since they spent the better part of the last two years climbing in Nepal and Tibet. The more I read about Joe, the more I was saddened. I could give you all the details, but I couldn’t convey the depth of respect and honor that those who knew him have. Just Google his name and you’ll come up with pages and pages of articles about Joe, his love for climbing, his love for photography, his love for his wife, and the passion that was woven into that love. He was a man that lived and died doing what he loved.
Last Friday, my cousin’s paddling coach was died after being struck on his moped by a car in the neighborhood I where I used to live. Coach Al touched the lives of the youth he worked with and coached. When you are young and you make a connection with someone older than you that helps guide you and nurture you, they aren’t just a role model. They become family. Friends and family back home are not just mourning the loss of a coach and friend, they are grieving the loss of a beloved family member. I started attending my childhood friend’s church, Grace Bible Church, in college. One of the friends I made there and his family was very involved in the church and meetings for the college age adults were held at his house. No one walked through that door and said, “Hi, Mrs. de los Santos.” EVERYONE walked through that door and said, “Hi, Mom!” She took a personal interest in every young adult that walked through her door and took the time to get to know every single one of us. So, hearing about Coach Al’s passing, reminded me of Mom. She passed away after I graduated from college, right before Mother’s Day. Her service was held on Mother’s Day. A sad day, but fitting. She was a mother to everyone and the church was packed, including the overflow room. Every Mother’s Day I make sure to honor her in my heart. She was a major influence in my life in the years that I knew her and I attribute part of my tendency to “mother” others in need to her. So, when I got news of Coach Al, my heart broke for my cousin reading her Facebook status: “First day of paddling tomorrow. Not the same without coach al but I know he’ll be there in spirit paddling in his one man beside us cheering us on. I Know that I have to give the new coach a chance but he can never replace coach al or aunty pua. But no matter what I’ll still try my best. This season is dedicated to you coach. I’ll never forget you or the things that you taught me.”
Tuesday, I was shocked when I saw that Andy Irons passed away at the age of 32. For those of you wondering who the heck he is, Andy is a professional surfer from Hawai`i. It left me thinking, “Will this ever end?” In between all this a friend’s uncle and her cat died on the same day and a friend in Argentina mourned the passing of a former President. I was simply stunned. Now I’m seeing speculation about his death. I just love how the media speculates [insert sarcastic tone]. There is always so much speculation when celebrities die young, especially when drugs (prescription or otherwise) are found at the scene. I just want to scream at the media, “WHO CARES?” The speculation only hurts the family and friends. I really don’t care. We have to remember how these people lived and the mark they left on the hearts of those they touched. The media helps the public put celebrities on a pedestal so when they fall, people forget that they are just human beings like the rest of us. Andy left an indelible mark on the circuit, as well as everyone he met. That’s what matters. That’s what we need to focus on and remember. I will miss seeing Andy on the circuit and in the news, but he won’t be forgotten by those that knew him best and those that appreciated his skill.
Yes, it has been a wild ride but it is reminding me about why I’m making the changes that I am in my life. I don’t care if people think less of me for ditching a career for a job in retail. It’s giving me what I want. Time to do things that I want to do and to live my life the way I want. I may not be out there climbing mountains, coaching, or surfing. I may not finish writing my book or even get it published if I do finish it. I don’t measure success by the things I’ve done, but by how happy I was doing them. I would rather leave my mark on the hearts of others and not on this world. Kid Rock’s song, Born Free, has really resonated with me and I realized while writing this that it connects with everything I’ve been doing so I want to leave you with that.