For a couple of weeks now I’ve been pondering what I wanted to write for the 13th of March, which marks six months since we lost Reed. There are just so many thoughts to try to condense into a blog post that is loosely themed around this new life of mine where I have experienced the shocking death of my friend Reed and the subsequent healing from it. I am not sure why I’m putting so much emphasis on this six month anniversary. It’s not like on this day I feel differently than I feel on other days. Maybe it just seems like a significant milestone.
I don’t know why blogging seems to be my go-to outlet for figuring out my feelings, but it has been good for me, and a big part of my processing... process. I've been thinking about what to say in this post when I drive, when I ski, basically whenever I have down time and I don’t have anything to write with. And then it all escapes my head the moment I am at my computer. Hopefully something will emerge from my ramblings though, and when I look back in my journal and on this blog, I can know what was going on in my head at this time.
So here are some slightly-themed blurbs about what I’ve been thinking about:
Then and Now:
I think about how I’ve been feeling recently as compared to 5 months ago, when I was a pretty much consistently a wreck. These days most everything feels better. My heart doesn’t plain hurt anymore, but I still feel sad sometimes. I don’t toss and turn with negative thoughts about the river anymore, but I still don’t sleep well. I don’t torment myself with ‘what-if’s anymore, but I do “pick” certain topics to dwell on sometimes. The memories from the river are not traumatic anymore, they are just part of my memory and experience now.
I still find myself being triggered by certain things I hear. Rivers and drowning are words that appear in so so many songs, but I’ve found that I can listen to songs nowadays that I couldn’t bear to hear a couple of months ago. I don’t really like when emergencies and 911 come up in everyday conversation, but I no longer feel the urge to flee when it inevitably does come up. I’m regaining my relationship with rivers—I spent a week living along the Dead River (ironic I know) and enjoyed walks along the shore, and found myself back in a place of appreciation for the flow of the water rather than fear and memories.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the words people use to tell others that someone is no longer alive. Passed away, lost, dead. I tend to not say things like “since Reed’s accident.” I hear many of my friends from Bear Brook speaking of it that way, but maybe that wording sounds weird to me because I was actually there, and accident seems like too light of a word for all of the emotions of that night. Either way, I never use that phrase. Thinking about saying that we lost our friend Reed is also interesting for me, because those words have a double meaning. I physically lost Reed in the river. One moment he was yelling to me about finding a rope swing, a minute later he was gone. I lost Reed, and we lost Reed. That word doesn’t sound appropriate for my use either, because when I first used those words to call for help, I still thought he could be alive.
When I talk about what happened, I say the word 'died' or 'death' because that’s what the counselor used, and I think she used those words for a reason. Passed on, lost, accident… those don’t seem as final or real. I think I use the word to emphasize the realness of it, because remembering that this is real is something I’ve been struggling with.
Recently I’ve been talking with my old boss and my fellow Bear Brookers about how glad we are that Reed had such an incredible summer. He was on an epic grouping of hitches with loads of time in the backcountry, exploring and living and growing and gettin’ gains, pulling down trees and laying shelter foundations and tamping lots of mineral soil. These days, my brainspace is more filled with plain old missing Reed and thinking back on all the fun we had this summer. I smile and am happy when I hear that my friend Max sometimes lets a Reed-like laugh come out. I love to think about getting back from after Hitch 4 (the beginning of Hitch 4 is pictured above) and summer break was just beginning. We were on the lawn throwing a frisbee around and everyone was SO happy. I remember looking around at all my friends and thinking how incredible it was that were were all so ridiculously happy to be chilling in this buggy field, sweaty and stinky and in love with our trail crew dirtbag life.
I think about his weird yell he did as he ran towards people or to somewhere. I think about his excitement about pooping in the different outhouses along the road we were staying on. I think about how much fun we had carrying an acorn squash through the Flume instead of working. And when we strolled up the Flume carrying tools for a couple hours instead of working (oops, I swear we worked mostly). I think about our group’s last night together, eating ice cream at the shop on the road and laughing about how huge Reed’s ice cream was. We were all so relaxed and content, a warm Monday night at the end of an amazing summer. I love revisiting these memories again and again. I really cherish my memories of Reed, no matter how tiny or random.
Living for Reed:
Everyone who I’ve spoken to who has also lost someone too young has spoken of living more fully for that person, or living a double life for them. That has been a goal of mine ever since it was mentioned to me. To live for Reed and do things that he would get a kick out of, to not get bogged down in the little things, to think about what really matters, to appreciate life and enjoy myself as much as I can. Turns out that’s harder to do than I thought, but I think I’m beginning to test it out. The other night I was ecstatic when I got a chance to sleep in an igloo on a frigid night, because I knew Reed would have been jumping to do the same thing (but in his -40 bag).
I can imagine that I’ll think of Reed in the future whenever I’m about to do something that scares me. Reed was fearless and invincible. He jumped off cliffs, he demolished shelters while sitting on them, he effortlessly lifted huge rocks that no one else could make budge, he could eat Gatorade powder mixed with powdered milk mixed with oatmeal and love it. I’m slowly entering this next phase, and so I think I’ll start thinking more intentionally about how to live for Reed when I can.
I don’t have much to conclude in this post other than to say thank you for reading this far, whoever you are! When I first started blogging about Reed’s death I didn’t know the purpose of it other than that I felt pulled to do so. It must just be that it’s a way for me to hone in on my thoughts and really reflect on what I’m been thinking about, and get my feelings documented so that they’re something I can look back on, as opposed to these quick thoughts that zip into my head on a long drive.