If you’ve been anywhere near newspapers the past week or so you can’t have failed to have noticed the untimely deaths of many young people. I wrote only a few posts back about the sister of Missy’s best friend, killed as she deliberately ran into traffic on a busy interstate.
You have perhaps read of the gap year students killed in Thailand, the father of one saying ‘I am absolutely devastated. I did not know human bodies could produce so many tears. It is such an intense pain that will never go away.’
You may have noticed a small headline tucked away this morning reading ‘British climbers fall to deaths in French Alps‘. This story is devastating for us as we received a phone call from the parents of one of the climbers yesterday morning, two of our oldest, closest and dearest friends.
I know what the news has done to us and it’s nothing compared to the agony they and their two other sons are enduring, as they wait for the return of their beloved youngest son and brother, flying home today.
To answer the phone and hear the broken, heart-rending keening of a mother telling you her child is dead breaks something inside the soul of every mother. It is not how things are supposed to be and we pray it will never happen to our family, our friends, but we know it will happen to someone.
I don’t need to outline the thoughts of what can never be for this family now one of them is no longer there. We all have those thoughts in our heads during awful times when children are injured or ill, the paralysing fears of what life would be without them.
Then children become adults, make their own choices have their own lives. In this case the choices were always good. Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, hockey player for Yorkshire, talented musician, skydiver, a trip to South America at 17 to help others, paid for out of money earned himself. A gap year working to earn money to go back to South America with his (slightly older) twin brother to climb in the Andes.
A return to the UK and university with every moment spent getting money together to head each summer to Chamonix and Mont Blanc. He has climbed there the last three summers and trained as a climbing instructor. Fit, healthy, loving life. This summer extra-special; final exams done, his life ahead of him as a Phyiotherapist.
This was someone who lived more in his short life than many who are decades older. He took life by the horns, lived his dreams and challenged himself, always. He was happy, energetic and engaged. I know because I first saw him at a few days old and watched him grow alongside my own children.
Our families have vacationed together and the twins on the last two have taken Harry and hiked up mountains, down gorges and shared the passion of their lives with him in both the US and Europe. They have been, and still are, Harry’s heroes.
Today tributes are filling his Facebook page from friends all over the world. I hope one day his parents will read them and see him through the eyes of his peers; a fantastic friend, a team player, empathetic, caring and fun.
I hope one day, many, many tears from now, our friends will take comfort from knowing their son died doing the thing he loved most, but not now, not anytime soon.
Now is the dark time, the bleakest days they will ever experience, a living nightmare, when each brief, exhausted moment of sleep will be followed by the waking and realisation all over again, that their child is gone.
As George Mallory said: “The greatest danger in life is not to take the adventure”. A noble thought for the individual but I’m not sure if, today, I can agree. All I can think of is my friends’ grief, pain and loss and know there is nothing I can do to ease it except walk with them through the darkness in honour of their son.