Saturday, June 26, 2021

In memory

On June 16, 2021, my dad fell while descending Mount Raymond in the Wasatch Mountains and died. He was 68 years old.

Ten days later, the shock of this event is only beginning to abate. In an instant, my world collapsed. I finally understood grief, a chasm so deep and wide that I believed I'd never climb out, that I'd never feel anything but waves of pain and numbness ever again. I'm still deep in this pit, but I can now begin to see that this is a journey my family and I have embarked on rather than a place we'll remain forevermore. It is going to be a long, difficult climb. I am not ready to write about it and I'm not sure when or if I'll return to this space, but I wanted to compile some of the items from this week — for the benefit of my family and my future self more than anything else.

Initial news stories:

KSL News

Salt Lake Tribune

Gephardt Daily

Snow Brains

Obituary and tribute walls:

Deseret News

Anderson and Goff Mortuary

Slideshow that I put together for the funeral:

(Direct link

Memories I shared at my father's funeral in Draper, Utah, on June 25, 2021:

When I was 11 years old, I had some babysitting money that I wanted to spend on sheet music so I could learn a fun song to play on the piano. My Grandma Homer accompanied my mom and me to the music store. I wanted to buy “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, but Grandma didn’t like the look of that one. She thought the women on the cover were dressed immodestly. 

Also on the shelf was “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. I remember thinking, “Oh, look, that’s Dad’s favorite song!” In my weird 11-year-old way, I decided that I should learn that song just in case I ever needed something to play at my dad’s funeral. I don’t remember if I voiced this idea out loud, but I was allowed to buy the Wilson Phillips. 

 Now, I don’t know whether “Cat’s in the Cradle” was then or ever my dad’s favorite song. I just know that every time it came on the radio, he would belt out the chorus while my sisters and I giggled. I thought it was a lighthearted song about a boy who loved his father. I loved the part when the son declared, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad. You know I’m gonna be like you.” 

It wasn’t until quite a bit later in life that I realized the lyrics conveyed the regrets of a father who was too busy to spend time with his child. And I also realized that my dad was nothing like the father in that song. Dad was always there for my sisters and me. There were times when I didn’t so much appreciate that, like when I was a teenager breaking curfew. All the lights in the house would be out and I was certain I’d gotten away with it, only to open the door and find Dad sitting upright on a straight-backed chair in the dark. The street lamp was always shining this eerie light into the room and he had the most stone-faced expression. My sisters agree that “I’m very disappointed in you” was the most chilling phrase in his repertoire. 

Then there was the time he and my mother drove 900 miles to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, to meet me at the finish of a 3,000-mile mountain bike race called the Tour Divide. I’d recently lost a longtime relationship and spent 24 days battling the many ups and downs of the Continental Divide while feeling broken and alone. The final 100 miles of the route crossed this desolate expanse of desert. There were no other humans for miles and my bike was on the verge of falling apart. I’ll never forget the way my heart soared when I caught the first glimpse of them, standing together at the closed gate of the Mexican border and waving their arms. I rolled up to the finish of what was — until now — the most difficult thing I’d ever done. Dad wrapped his arms around my sweaty shirt and said, “I’ve never felt so proud.” That was perhaps the greatest moment of my life. 

My dad of course was the one who introduced me to outdoor adventure. I was 14 years old when he invited me to join him on excursions with an office hiking club that he’d only recently joined himself. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure I enjoyed hiking — it was a tiring, often tedious activity and my feet always hurt afterward. But the views were nice and we often stopped at 7-Eleven for Slurpees after the hike. A few weeks before my 16th birthday, he proposed we climb Mount Timpanogos. This was an intimidating one — requiring 18 miles of walking and nearly a vertical mile of climbing. The ascent was a mix of beauty and misery. I remember stunning fields of wildflowers and also a veritable bouquet of blisters on my heels and toes. As the uphill miles accumulated, I silently made excuses for why I’d never join Dad on another hiking trip. But then we climbed over the saddle, where I caught my first glimpse of the western horizon beyond Utah Lake. I was awestruck by the sweeping view and the sense that the world was so much larger than I could ever understand. I knew then that I’d spend my life chasing horizons. Looking back, I wonder if Dad understood the monster he’d just created. 

 Dad and I shared countless wonderful hiking adventures in the 35 years since then. In 2004 he started an annual tradition of crossing the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. My mom would dutifully drive the four-hour shuttle, and we’d make the long trek — sometimes with friends, and sometimes just the two of us. Dad and I were alike in many ways, and we didn't have to say a lot to convey our love and appreciation of the experience. We made our 13th and final crossing together in September 2019. I called it our “Lucky 13” because he’d just had treatments that gave him enough relief from a bulging disc to make the hike possible, and because the weather was perfect despite the early autumn date. One of my favorite aspects of our Grand Canyon tradition was the way time seems to stand still within it. We’d dip into the morning shadows below the rim and all would be as it had always been. Dad seemed timeless in that place. I’d joke about still doing this when he’s 90. But then he’d wince from back pain and I understood that the world does change. Time doesn’t stop. And I had to cherish every moment we had. 

 I always felt most safe when I was hiking with my dad. He had a calm but strong presence, like a steel rod I could hold to when I felt frightened or weak. I was going to have him take me up Longs Peak in Colorado this summer because I’ve been too scared to do it with anyone else. He was always there for us. All of us. My mom, my sisters, his grandkids, his siblings, his friends. He was our rock. That I have to be strong for myself now is hard, and it’s also hard to acknowledge that the memories we’ve made are now all that I have. But we have many amazing moments behind us; more than a lifetimes’ worth. I cherish them more than anything he could have possibly given me. He’s gone onto the next adventure, chasing the far distant horizons. And I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to be just like him. 

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon 

 Little boy blue and the man in the moon 

"When you coming home, Dad?” 

"I don't know when" 

 But we'll be together then, Dad 

 I know we’ll have a good time then

Blog posts from past adventures with my dad:

I did it for the views (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, May 2006) 

Catching up (Homer, Alaska, June 2006)

Grand expedition (Grand Canyon, September 2007)  

Soggy Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon, September 2007) 

The parents in Juneau (Juneau, Alaska, June 2008)

Parents part two (Juneau, Alaska, June 2008) 

Vacationy post (Orange County, California, August 2008) 

Happy at home (Orange County, California, August 2008) 

Grand outing (Grand Canyon, October 2008)

Salt Lake City (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, May 2009) 

Southern New Mexico (Tour Divide finish, July 2009) 

Sojourn in the desert (Canyonlands, Utah, April 2010) 

Closer to home (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, July 2010)

One year past (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, July 2010) 

Dad comes to town (Missoula, Montana, August 2010)  

Frustration and awe: The Zion Narrows (Zion National Park, Utah, August 2011)

Lone Peak (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, July 2011)

Great moments (General memories, July 2011) 

Torturing the parents (Los Altos, California, July 2011) 

Fall in the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon, October 2011) 

Three adventures and a wedding (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2011)

The Zion Narrows (Zion National Park, Utah, July 2012)

Still an incredible ditch (Grand Canyon, October 2012)

White Friday (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2012) 

So maybe I overdid it (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, May 2013) 

Bold return to the Wasatch (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, May 2013) 

My Dad (Father’s Day 2013)  

Shut down (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, October 2013) 

Wasatch mountain bender (Wasatch Mountains, October 2013)

Thankful (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2013) 

And then it was summer (Mount Whitney, California, July 2014)

Still grand, even from a limited perspective (Grand Canyon, October 2014)

Thank you notes (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2014)

Things that last (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, January 2015) 

Week in motion (Orange County, California, May 2015) 

Getting my lungs back (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, August 2015)

Another round in Chamonix (Chamonix, France, August 2015)

Hard-fought failures (Chamonix, France, August 2015)

The Tradition (Grand Canyon, October 2015)

ITI training, week seven (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2015)

Opt outside (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2015) 

Rusted wheel (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, January 2016)

Grand Canyon 2016 (Grand Canyon, October 2016) 

Thanksgiving, again (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2016) 

Actually home for Christmas (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, December 2016)

Parents in Colorado (Boulder, Colorado, July 2017)

38 (Lone Peak, Utah, August 2017)

Fog, leaves and thundersnow (Boulder, Colorado, October 2017)

Pretending it’s not December (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, December 2017)

There’s beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere (Canyonlands, Utah, April 2018)

11th Grand (Grand Canyon, October 2018)

Bookend adventures (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2018)

Lucky 13 (Grand Canyon, September 2019) 

Shoulder season bites back (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, October 2019)

All of the Utah Snow (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, November 2019)

Momentum lost (Wasatch Mountains, Utah, January 2020)

Love on a mountain (Boulder, Colorado, September 2020)

Magic Lands (Canyonlands, Utah, April 2021)  

May snow (Boulder, Colorado, May 2021) 

55 comments:

  1. OMG Jill I am so very sorry to hear about you dad.

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  2. I'm so sorry. What an amazing tribute; and 59 blog posts of adventures with your Dad! Amazing memories to have and hold forever.

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  3. Oh, my Lord. My most sincere condolences.

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  4. Deepest condolences to you Jill on your awful loss. Through your trademark beautiful writing his character shines bright. May you find some peace and joy in your reflections and your time with family in the coming time.

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  5. So sorry for the loss of your beloved Dad. Keeping you and your entire family in my thoughts.

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  6. So sorry for your loss. Such a tragedy. But what a life well lived. A beautiful tribute to your dad with both the writing and the slide show. And all of the blog posts that he was a part of. So many beautiful memories together. I hope you will find peace over time. My thoughts are with you.

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  7. Thank you Jill, for putting together that video tribute to your dad. Whether it was the music or the loss I'm not sure—probably both—but it made me weep. I know that loss and it saddens me that you are struggling through it right now. There are no words. And time is only a scab that never completely heals. Love and peace, Mark.

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  8. As a daughter who was also his father's daughter - & a father I lost a couple years ago at the same age: I am sorry for your loss & devastation..
    there are truly no other words....

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  9. I hope you come back when you are ready. Your outdoor life is part of your dad's legacy. My dad is slowly leaving me and the grief is constant when I see the suffering with no way to help. I wish I had something to say that would be of comfort but the whole world just seems hopeless right now.

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  10. So sorry about your dad's death, Jill. But this blog post and the slide show are a wonderful tribute. I really wish we could have met him. But I kind of think we have met him a bit through all the stories you have told about him.

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  11. I am very sorry to hear this sad news...

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  12. My condolences to you and your family. I saw your Twitter post last week and how devastating this must be. The slideshow was a lovely tribute---what a lot of wonderful adventures he had.

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  13. To lose a parent is always devastating. But remember that the essential process of grief will pass, and there will be joy and peace again in the future.

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  14. Jill,
    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. From what I can tell you are living a life that would make him proud.

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  15. Tears in my eyes for you and your family Jill...I've SO enjoyed all the posts over the years about your dad. He was an amazing person to be sure, and you are very VERY lucky to have those great memories...they are yours forever. I never met him but I also strive to be like he was just from your stories. There's no greater compliment in life than people wanting that of someone. I lost my dad last year to Covid, we were as unprepared as you. Even thru the last years of dementia setting in I now cherish the good times. I'd drive up to his assisted living facility and he'd be sitting there in a chair outside (in Las Vegas...in the summer even) watching the world go by, saw me drive to park but didn't recognize me. I'd get out and start to walk to the door, he'd be looking, and then the moment he recognized me...he'd jump up and run to me for a big long hug! (he was 87 when he passed). I'll never forget things like that. You have a vast bank of memories to help you thru the pain and loss. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts.

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  16. Jill so very sorry for the loss of your father and in such a tragic way. Stay strong. Be brave.

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  17. I've always believed that grief is proportional to the depth of the relationship. Be gentle with yourself as the feelings well up over and over again. So sorry for your loss. Your Dad left an amazing legacy in You.

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  18. I'm so sorry for you and your family Jill.😢
    As others have mentioned, through your posts over the years, it feels like we all knew your Dad just a little too. This makes his passing keenly felt way out here in the corners of the internet that us fellow adventurers inhabit. I hope you can take some solace from the fact that you enjoyed many adventures and good times with him. Treasure those memories.
    Condolances.
    Dave.

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  19. :-( ... the funeral must of been gut wrenching. I wish I could help with a hug. Remember that time you followed me out of a trail without a light in darkness. I had a light and you just seemed to know and trust where I was going. It's dark now so reach out to those that have lights untill you can see again. Love you Jill.

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  20. My Sincere Condolences - Utterly Speechless

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  21. Oh Jill, I know from reading your posts for years how much your dad meant to you. I'm so so so very for this devastating loss.

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  22. Very sorry to hear of your loss.

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  23. Words are so inadequate at a tragic time like this, but I hope it helps to know that many people share in your sorrow and would take away the pain of your grief if they could.

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  24. I read this post yesterday. Devastating and tragic. I had no words to leave you. What can one say? I do know this pain never leaves. Grieve, get through the next year, and hopefully find a way live your own life in a way that honors your dad.

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  25. Jill, I am genuinely sorry for your loss. May you find strength and comfort in the wonderful memories you made with your Dad.

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  26. I am so very sorry for your loss

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  27. I am so glad you saw, enjoyed, and loved him so clearly and deeply. (There is often a painful asymmetry in the parent-child bond, but not in yours.) I imagine that you were a source of joy and pride for as long as his legs and lungs could carry him. And some part of him will accompany you on every hike you ever do, as long as your legs and lungs can carry you, and also when they finally stop. ❤️

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  28. Gahhhh! This was horrific to experience as a reader, so I send hugs and love for such a brutal moment in life. As one who has read this blog for years, your perseverance in life changing moments is renowned, yet grieve as you need and must. May you be able to simultaneously weep for what is gone while celebrating a life well lived.

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  29. I am so very sorry!! I'm sitting here with the same heartsick, gut wrenching pain that I had (and still have) when I lost my son in a hiking accident 4 years ago in Ferguson Canyon. It's devastating and so very hard! Prayers for you and your family.

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  30. Our deepest condolences to you and your family, Jill.

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  31. This must feel so hard and painful. Your tribute is beautiful. I hope there is a ray of sunshine on you today.

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  32. I'm so sorry. The hole in your life will remain for a long time I'm sorry to say, but with time you can heal.

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  33. I'm so sorry to hear this. I was always interested in posts about your dad, since he was about my age.

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  34. Cried reading it. I feel for you. Will try my best being as good of a dad to my girls. Thank you for sharing your feelings in such strong and beautiful words.

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  35. Oh Jill. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  36. I’m so very sorry about your Dad, Jill. There are no throw-away days in life and from your writings about him, he seemed to know how to make the most of every moment. It will indeed be a long and difficult climb out of your grief, but endurance is your specialty so I’m confident you’ll make it to a time when the joy of your memories can overcome the pain of your loss. Sending warm and healing wishes to you and your family.

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  37. So very sorry to hear of your dad's passing. As a dad, nearly your father's age, I appreciate the bond the two of you shared. I looked forward every year to read and see the pictures of your many hikes together (especially R2R each year). Your tribute was so spot on. The slide show brought his life so close for all to see. Thank you for sharing. Some say they are afraid of dying while others are afraid of not living.

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  38. Your dad sounds like an incredible man and it only makes the loss even more heartbreaking. I will pray for your family as you walk through your grief together and in your own way. May your beautiful memories of him and his life be a balm during this difficult time.

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  39. Jill, I've read your blog since it's inception (and coincidentally now live in Homer, Alaska), and any of your readers know how important your dad is to you and the special bond you two shared. There is nothing any of us can say to make this any less awful for you and your family, but know that you and your dad have touched/impacted lives that you don't even know about. I'll be thinking of you and your dad every time I'm out in the mountains.

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  40. My deepest condolences for your tremendous loss. There are no words to describe this grief. I am thinking of you and your family and send my prayers.

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  41. I’m very sorry for your loss Jill. Thinking of you and your mum and sisters. I’ve not been following you for a while after doing so very diligently a few years back. I just stumbled across an Instagram post and clicked the link in your bio.

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  42. Dear Jill, I have been a long time reader of your blog and several of your books. Through those lenses, I have seen how important your Dad is in your life. I am very sorry. I lost my dad to cancer in March. The pain does subside and the great memories remain. You have many great memories. My prayers to you and your family.

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  43. Deepest condolences to you and your family.

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  44. My deepest condolences Jill, to you and your family.

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  45. I'm shocked and saddened as I read this; my deepest condolences. A long time reader, I've always loved the special place your Dad occupied in your live and adventures and I can only imagine how hard this has been for you and your family. You all are in my prayers.

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  46. I'm so very sorry. Through your writing I feel like I knew him and his amazing spirit. May his memory be a blessing.

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  47. So terribly sorry to read of your loss. There really aren't adequate words but I hope you seek therapy if it gets overwhelming. The grief can manifest into a deep depression and really hinder your everyday life. Take care.

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  48. I first read this shortly after it was posted, as I've followed the blog for years. I'm more sorry and sad for you than I ever thought I'd be for someone I've never met. What a loss, and what an amazing man. Be proud, and be well.

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  49. I'm a long time reader of your blog, but hadn't checked in for quite some time. For some reason, your blog popped into my mind tonight and I was so sorry to read your most recent post. I've so enjoyed reading stories about your adventures with your dad over the years and I can't express enough sympathy for your and your family's loss. Love to you.

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