***Disclaimer: this is a longer blog and it is one I have been hesitant to post. Not everyone is going to agree with me and some may think I am being harsh but I am one who learns and who teaches through my own mistakes and through others and I have to be honest. No more sugar coating. There is no such thing as freak accidents. ***
Last night I watched P.S I Love You, only this time I didn’t have any interruptions. I sat on the couch with a chocolate bar from the U.K (Thanks, Kendra), a box of kleenex, and a big glass of red wine. I watched the whole movie from start to finish only, this time; I found humor in some of the scenes. The first time I watched P.S I Love You I didn’t laugh at all. I couldn’t. The whole idea of this movie was awful and heartbreaking, and I found nothing about it funny. This time I laughed so hard when the mother and sisters walked in on the grieving widow, while she was singing karaoke in her dead husband’s underwear, and hadn’t showered in who knows how long. It was hilarious to me because how many times did my family have to practically threaten my life to get me into the shower and to brush my teeth? Tammy? Kendra? How many times? 😉 I haven’t worn Nick’s underwear yet, but I have worn more of his clothes in the last five months than my own and the main reason for that is so that when I am doing laundry, I am not just washing my clothes. Do you want to know what is painful? No longer having your fiance’s clothes in the laundry is painful.
Last night I watched PS. I Love You, only this time Nick didn’t walk through the front door and ask me why the hell I was crying. This time, Nick was dead. This time, I remembered watching it the first time just one week before he died. This time, Nick didn’t walk through the door and tell me to turn that shit off. He said that the first time because he knew how much I hated watching sad movies. He said, “I thought you didn’t watch that shit, turn that shit off.” This time, I couldn’t tell him it was the saddest movie I had ever seen and that he was never allowed to die because I would die. This time, the reality is, Nick did die, and it turns out I didn’t. He died one week after the first time I watched this movie and this time, it wasn’t as sad. This time, it was my reality, and I found it comforting.
I normally don’t write two days in a row but today was a big day for me. I finally went through our Go Pro. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me very long to realize that Nick must have cleared off the SD card the night before he died. See, he sent me a text message the morning he died with pictures of the dogs he had taken at Christmas time. He also said he was watching the video he took of me and my Mom baking on Christmas Eve at midnight. I was looking forward to getting on that Go Pro and seeing this video because I know for a fact he was talking through it. That video and those pictures weren’t there. All I can come up with is that he moved the pics from his SD card onto his phone the night before and deleted them off the card. I still can’t get on Nick’s phone, and I don’t know if I ever will. I want nothing more than to see the blue rabbit video again, but that too is nowhere to be found. One day I will share the story of the blue rabbit but for now, I will keep it as an inside joke for those of us who were lucky enough to see the video.
I thought for a minute; maybe Nick had another SD card. I was desperate at this point. So desperate, I finally went through Nick’s suitcase. Like I said, today was a big day. I pulled out everything one by one and smelt it. I checked every pocket and every crevice of the suitcase. I found Nick’s green shirt. My favorite shirt. Nick was wearing this shirt the last day I saw him, and I remember telling him how good he looked. He looked so good which was so surprising because he only got about two hours of sleep the night before. The shirt smelt of him so strongly that I think this was the first time in five months I realized I was never going to hug him again and say, “mmm you smell good.” I have that shirt lying next to me on the bed right now as I type this, and I wish there were a way to make sure that the smell never goes away. This shirt reminded me of the last time we hugged and kissed in the street that Friday afternoon. I told him I loved him, and he told me too, and we just kissed. We weren’t going to see each other for a week, so this was an extra long goodbye. I said, “don’t die” and he laughed and said, “that’s a stupid thing to say.” The truth is, though, this was the same thing we said to each other every single time he went. My Dad had to remind me of that when I was absolutely mortified when he did die. I remember my Dad asking me, “how many times have you said that to him”? I said, “every time.” My Dad reminded me that this wasn’t my fault because I said don’t die, but boy is it hard to re- live that conversation knowing that this time, he did.
I pulled everything out of that suitcase, and when I was done, I realized, Nick’s suitcase will never be packed for a sledding trip again. I unpacked this suitcase for the last time, and that was a hard truth to swallow.
As if this day wasn’t hard enough I decided to go through some of Nick’s sled videos. I came across one where he got stuck in a group of trees and couldn’t get his sled out. All I can hear in the video is him and his friends swearing and breathing hard trying to get this sled out of the hard packed snow. All I could think about was Nick gasping for air while flying down the mountain in an Avalanche. All I could think about was the nightmare he had gone through moments before he took his last breath.
I have kept a lot of my feelings to myself over the last five months relating to Nick’s death but today I was angry. I was so angry. This anger has been building up and today it hit me like a ton of bricks. Watching some of these sledding videos, I felt sick and betrayed. Please remember that I love Nick so much and I always will, but if he were alive today and he was sitting next to me while watching some of these videos, I would be smacking him so hard he would have had to drink 24 twisted teas to take the sting away.
I can only speak to what I know and what I know is that Nick was not prepared for the shit storm that he found himself in on February 20th, 2016. Nick was not prepared because as smart and careful as he was, he still believed it would never happen to him; training is great, but practice is better. Equipment that is going to be sufficient for a debacle that Nick and his friends wound up in that day would have been helpful too, but they didn’t have it. Nick had an Avi bag and they had beacons and transceivers but you know what is just as important? Practice and muscle memory. Also, If you don’t have a firm grasp on CPR and rescue training, DO NOT head out into the back country in Avalanche terrain. It’s clear in many of the videos, photos, and text messages I went through today and other days that when that size 3 Avalanche came down that mountain, Nick was not ready and today I felt betrayed.
I know that some people reading this may think I am pointing fingers or placing blame but I am not. I am reminding people that living a big life means taking risks, and I am so grateful that where Nick died was in a beautiful bed of snow, but what I can’t get passed is the events leading up to his untimely death. Nick was not prepared for what happened that day, and I will make it my life’s mission to humanize the dangers of the back country and how important it is to be as prepared as you can be. Human’s aren’t always going to win against Mother Nature, but if you don’t go into the fight with as much preparation and experience as you can, your chances are pretty fucking slim as far as I am concerned.
Please keep in mind that I have told myself for five months that I am not mad and I truly believe this has had a big part in my struggle to heal. I need to be honest and there is no such thing as freak accidents in the back country. Avalanches are most often triggered by humans and humans are those who are fighting for their life, or their group member’s live’s when it happens. I know there are a lot of people who read my blog who spend time in the same areas that Nick and his friends did. I would not be posting this blog if I didn’t think people would benefit from it. Nick’s friends risked their lives that day going down that mountain to find Nick, and I can’t tell you how forever grateful I am for that, but we can all learn from this. I am a woman who has spent the last 8.5 years going through training scenarios for worst case scenario, and I can tell you with out a doubt if my worst case scenario happened to me in my job, I am confident I am ready. Why? Because we practice and practice and practice and we visualize and visualize and visualize.
What I want is for you to ask yourself this, are you ready? Whatever it is you do in your spare time, or your job, if worst case scenario erupts, are you ready? Think about the if-then scenario. If this happens, then I will do this. If you aren’t going through this over and over and over before heading out, you are not ready.
Today was a big day and today I am angry, and today I feel betrayed.
P.S I Love you