Last weekend, Tom and I flew to Maryland for the funeral of one of his oldest friends, John Merrill. As is often the case, the details are sad. John was killed in a landslide while hiking in Colorado with his dog Oof. His dog refused to leave John’s body when other hikers arrived on the scene of the accident, and ended up staying all night on the mountain with his beloved companion until the SAR folks were able to recover John’s body. Oof has since been adopted by one of the SAR workers. His wife was pregnant.
These are the details. The facts reported over and over in the papers. Somehow they seem so empty. They say nothing about the intelligent, kind, complicated man that John was. That there was so much more to his life than the way that he died. I only knew John for a short time, but I will remember him as a funny, quirky guy who danced in his kilt at our wedding. I will remember how much he loved show tunes. I will remember how much he loved America, Guatemala, animals and wild places. I will remember what a good friend he was to my husband.
In the past three years I have lost two friends to the mountains. People who do not hike or climb always ask, “Why were they there? Why were they climbing? Why were they hiking?” And the simple truth, for me, and I believe for those who I have lost, is that we climb, and we hike, because we must. It is a necessity of our lives. To be out in the wild is where I find my peace. It is where I find myself.
As John’s mother said at his memorial, quoting her son, “I climb the mountains to get closer to God”.
We will miss you John, but we will always remember you in the high, wild and beautiful places in the world.
For more information: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16196657
Tom’s Blog post: http://tomalphin.com/category/uncategorized
Photos: Don Mears Photography, Jane Merrill, Amy Alphin