I just read some articles about Chad and I'm nailed by a wall of emotion. I don't think I've processed or been able to process because of everything that is going on while overseas in India. Just before dinner I was looking through some messages, found articles in the New York Times and the Seattle Times and started to read them. It let my mind go there for the first time and I had to dismiss myself from the group. All of the conversation that is going on amongst the lodge guests where we are staying just didn't carry any weight to me, and all I could think about is that he's gone.
I will never forget this night. Sitting on the edge of a beautiful king size bed dressed completely in white. There are wet spots near the center from my leaky eyes. Now, my legs are spread to accommodate the picnic table that was brought inside to hold a fragrant Indian meal. There is a chair opposite me, but I prefer the bed. The sweetest guy delivered my dinner and nearly also received the story of my sadness, but I stopped myself before overwhelming the perfect stranger who is so caring that it seemed natural to share. So instead, I write.
A very good friend of mine has died doing what he loved most. It was not his time and it was not his way to go. Chad always assured me he was safe in the mountains. In my sisterly way I would tell him to be safe, to come home to us and tell me the stories. He wanted to grow old. We wanted to grow old together in our adventures and sharing. We already joke about how our bodies don't work like they used to. I'm not super familiar with death in that I have not yet lost many close friends or family members in my adult life and I wasn't ready for the news of Chad passing. It literally shocked me as I came to know while visiting the literal other side of the planet. Two o'clock in the morning after a full day of travel and still waiting for our final flight I connected to the internet and the messages from friends started pouring in. Fortunately Nikki was there and put a hand on my forearm as I started sucking in air that didn't seem to come and whispering, no. no. Not him. Searching for more information to confirm the horrible.
Nikki took charge and ensured we made our next flight and currently we are not far from the geographical center of India. Our time is 12.5 hours ahead of Colorado; half way around the world and half way around the clock. There are two large plates in front of me full of a sampling of traditional Indian street food as well as a smattering of kabobs prepared earlier in the cooking class provided to lodge guests. I awkwardly pick around the plate. Dinner alone, sitting on the footend left corner of the bed staring blankly at the wall and trying to focus on the flavors of the dishes rather than blankly put food in my mouth. Thoughts flit through my mind making me laugh and cry, sounds shared only with these four foreign walls. My appetite is suffering, but I know I need to eat.
He is such a good person and I really don't think it was his time. He is the one I labeled survivor. He had so much hardship and loss in his life and yet he pushes forward with such focus, determination, humility and love for everyone around him. He never boasts or brags, he just does. He wants the simple things, his needs are basic. My impression: He wants to climb. He wants love. He wants to provide. He wants to fuel. He wants community.
If Chad wants to do something, he figures out a way. Asking for help is a last resort. The guy works his ass off in his construction business so that he can make the money necessary to pay his mortgage and go climb. Intense. Everyone that met Chad would soon after describe him with a simple phrase "that dude as intense". Even if Chad was the lightest version of himself you could sense the intensity that powered him, that created his presence. Every day is a schedule to fit in exactly what he wants to do. Meditate, work, climb/workout, spend time with loved ones and eat, often blending those that he can. He recently found a girl he is crazy about and she him. They are each other's person. I love seeing him so at ease and happy.
Even though he is a couple of years older than me I treat him like my little brother. I always worry about him, give him advice, especially about relationships, even when he didn't maybe want it and prioritized him when ever we were in the same town. He leads by example never forcing anything but always open to share what he was tweaking with his diet, training or meditation practice. He always shows genuine interest in my adventures and we have a great time sharing travel stories and experiences. He is one that taught me how to climb with grace instead of strength. And he shows amazing grace to everyone around him. I don't think the guy ever has a bad thing to say about anyone. Even the nay-sayers that diss on his accomplishments - he just writes it off that they must have something else going on. I'm not just saying these things because he's gone and everyone remembers the best things about people when they are gone. Chad really is and always will be that person to me.