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Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
2 min read

I was on a plane today and had the company of a stranger who asked me what I did for a living, then asked me if I’d always done this, then slowly extracted from me the better part of the highlights of my life story for the last six years, and he shared parts of his.

Before we parted ways, he asked me if I could give him any one piece of advice, what would it be.

“Always put yourself first…” I said.  “I don’t mean it in a selfish way,” I clarified, “but if you don’t take care of yourself, there is nothing left to give to others.”

I asked him the same question, and he replied:  “Be happy, and have fun.”  And after a pause, “you never know when you might get eaten by a shark.”

He was referring to a California surfer who died in a shark attack recently, which has been in the news.  But, he was also referring to those figurative sharks, who may take us unexpectedly at any time.

I heard this morning about the passing of Joe Puryear in Tibet.  I thought what I always do upon hearing of an adventure-filled life reclaimed by the earth… “No… no… no… no… no…”

I read of the loss of Chhewang Nima Sherpa on Baruntse.  He was sole provider for his family, and a beloved climbing partner of one of my Rainier guides.

I only rarely personally know the families involved… usually, they are one or two degrees removed within the larger extended family of climbing.  At times like right now, my thoughts turn to these people I’ve never met, and to the people we have in common who are also mourning another loss.

And then, my thoughts turn to two essays written by Majka Burhardt.  The first, Screaming Uncle at a Whisper, and the second, Whispering into a Roar.  I google “Majka Burhardt AND Craig Luebben” and find them, again, on the Climbing Magazine website.  I cry while reading them both, then pull myself together, then cry again.  I notice the photo taken by Joe Puryear that was included in Majka’s “Whispering” post.  I cry again.  I flip to my Twitter stream to see a recommendation of a book written by Craig Luebben, whose death was part of what triggered Majka’s “Screaming” post.

I think about the very brief times that I’ve gotten to spend in Majka and Melissa’s presence, and think about — yet again — the loss that these women have just suffered.  And then I cry some more.  And then I give up trying to stop.

Majka is right.  There is no literary bow to put on these stories… no conclusion I draw.  Just loving thoughts of families I will never meet, friends I look forward to seeing, and acquaintances I look forward to welcoming back from their next expedition.  And tears.  Right now, there are tears.

Other reading:

The climbing life

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.