On January 31,2016, our friend, Stephen Jones, was caught unexpectedly in an avalanche. He had all the necessary gear, knowledge and experience. He had his avalanche beacon. He was on familiar terrain. His family knew where he would be, and he knew the backcountry well. All of Steve’s preparations made no difference. The snow is mighty and the avalanche was powerful. And I am certain I am not the only one who desperately hates that the mountain Steve was skiing defeated him.
Saturday, as I sat at Steve’s funeral, and as the tears rolled freely, over and over I heard the words,
“Steve always had an opinion. Steve cared about everyone! Steve was generous, enthusiastic, outspoken, freakishly intelligent, driven and mostly. Steve was devoted to his wife Melissa and their children.” Steve’s mom brought the crowd to tears as she declared, “Melissa, once Steve realized what was happening, I am certain his first thoughts were, Melissa, I am sorry.”
Dave and I have been doing a lot of talking about our passionately opinionated and brave friend, Steve. I have been doing a lot of processing. Honestly, Steve’s presence was intensely bright, and I often find myself saying,
“I cannot believe he is gone.”
Dave always responds with, “I can’t either.”
I think it is common knowledge among those who knew Steve that he would not have been fully able to be Steve without Melissa, his amazing wife. She is gorgeous (inside and out), generous, kind, and grounded. She also affirmed Steve’s seemingly crazy, ambitious dreams right into realities. In his mid-forties, for instance, Steve took up ultra-running. Last summer, at age forty-nine, he ran two 200-mile races, five weeks apart. Melissa was there, encouraging him through his solo, unsupported endeavors.
That is what I love about both Steve and Melissa. They cheer for all of us. Steve wanted you to feel his joy (hence his strong advice),
“Beth, you have the best trails behind your house. Get out and see them.”
Melissa generously offered that I publicly share as many Steve photos as I want.
“If it helps lessen the pain,” she said, “then I say do it.”
So I will.
First, it is important to note that I overflow with a paralyzing amount of empathy. I want to help people. I always have. I am incredibly clumsy when it comes to the juncture between following my dreams and my huge impulse not to step on your toes. Yet, as lame as I can be to myself (like not following dreams), I am really good at helping others fulfill their own (dreams, that is). Ask Dave, I am a most excellent second-hand-dream-fulfiller, unifier, matchmaker and cheerleader. It gives me impossible joy to bring people together. When it comes to my family or my friends (even in those times when I am uncomfortable or afraid), I am devoted. I am loyal. I will step aside for their needs. When you need something, I love to find it. I will apologize (even when I don’t need to). When I know you are hurting, I am there. I will stand by your side.
Mostly, with those I love, I will NOT remain neutral. I will NOT stand on the sidelines. I will always take a risk. And I always have. Being a good friend has always been my super power, or at least, I think it has. Ok. Wait. This is not a post to tell you how awesome I am. I am not, awesome, that is. I am no saint. I do hurt feelings (often). Ask Dave and the boys. For starters, I swear (and swear more when I am trying to stop). I yell and I am often late to pick-up. Nevertheless, I remain solid.
This week, a week, when I am full of reflection, and in a world where life is brief, and bright stars burn out, I have concluded that I would rather be an outspoken Steve Jones, or a generous Melissa, than someone who stands aside. I admire how Steve and Melissa treat those they love. And through them, I have been reminded that I would rather be someone who unconventionally goes out of her way, rather than someone who refuses. I would rather be what Steve was for me and Melissa still is: a friend who persistently tries to push me out of my Seasonal-Affected-Disorder blues, a friend who pays attention, and a friend who generously allows me to share because it helps me heal. In the end, (yes, the real end), I want to be remembered as someone who gave a shit, someone who was not afraid to speak up, someone who cared deeply, and someone who was not afraid to get involved.