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Sacred Anniversary

Climb-5

Seventeen years ago today my son, Chris, died rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, his favorite place on Earth. In the days leading up to the fall, Chris told a climbing buddy that from the moment he discovered rock climbing at the age of fourteen, he always knew what he was going to do.  He was going to rock climb until the day he died. “It was the most comforting thing,” Chris had said, “to know that’s what I love and that’s what I’m going to do.”

That his death was imminent has never struck me as tragic, but as a beautiful miracle, wrought with the grace of God’s calling.

In the years that followed, I wrote the book, Freedom to Fall, as a tribute to Christopher.  I would like to share a quote from the book in which I imagine him telling me what I need to know, in the way he had lived and died.

In matters of God, proof has no place. It does not matter, I hear Chris say.

It doesn’t matter if I knew or not. No knowledge of future events can stand up to living in the present. I stood in the center of possibility—embracing this moment, reaching for the next, not knowing where it would take me. I was thankful for each day, and when I was dying I was thankful for all that I had been given.

There is no compromise when you live on this pinpoint in time. When you are fully alive, each day is a gift, as much composed of essence as the next. You only need one. 

It was never for me to say when I might die. I am grateful for the life I was given. I am grateful for the freedom I have now. This is home, where I am close to God. 

In this day of remembrance, I also would like to share a new foreword for the book.  I could never find the right words, but at last they came—to orient readers not only towards Chris’s story but also mine, in learning to live without him and to redeem my life.

_______

One day in September 2003, I received a message from my sister Diana saying she had something exciting to tell me. I couldn’t imagine. What could be exciting when my son, Chris, had died in an accident only three months before?

When we talked, Diana said she had been visiting old friends in St. Louis when there was a knock on the door. One of the people who walked in heard Diana talking about Chris.

“Are you talking about Chris who fell rock climbing?” the young woman asked. She herself was not a climber, but she knew about Chris. “People are writing back and forth on the internet about his death and what an awesome climber he was,” she said.

I was stunned.  News and talk of Chris was spreading around the country, not only in climbing circles but beyond.

In the spring of that year, the shattering news had come in the night. Then on the wings of autumn, through my sister crossing paths with a stranger, I saw what I had to do.

I had to write this book—not to preserve Chris’s memory as a rock climber but to bring to life and to share his character as a human being.

Over the next two years, in the course of writing, I ventured out to gather stories from Chris’s friends. Many spoke of ways in which Chris had touched and even changed their lives. I especially sought the perceptions of his climbing partners. Through those contributions and my own insights, this vital portrait emerged.

Woven into the book’s fabric is the story of my grief. Interiorly, it was a time of upheaval, fraught with fragility and uncertainty, yet I trusted the process. Grieving, so very real, has sweetness and beauty; within the pain there is joy that illuminates our true nature.

The loss of my son led to a pivotal connection to reality and to God. That was the beginning of a journey into a truer life: an appreciation of this inherent gift, a willingness to rise above the clasp of adversity, a simplifying—to be attuned to and surprised by everyday garden-variety miracles.

Thus this is the story of two climbers intimately tied by fate, their paths crisscrossing in separate times and on vastly different terrain.

Through the pages flows an undercurrent of the understanding that came in the wake of my son’s passing: Only good can come from love. I sensed then that one day not only could I return to a life worth living, but I would be able to pass on to others that sacred truth. We may lose the physical presence of a dearly loved one, but we do not lose the essence of our relationship with them.  Love rings eternal, and in loss, love is the saving grace.

To order a copy of Freedom to Fall, click on “purchase the book” above.  For the latest printing, please order from Amazon.

 

Remembering Chris

Today marks the 13th anniversary of my son’s passing.  He died while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park when he was twenty-five.

I remember the year leading up to Chris’s death. Beneath all consciousness, the mystery appeared to prevail. He had visited relatives across the country and had collected his belongings from others. The weekend before leaving for Yosemite, he visited with old friends at the martial arts school that had helped him grow up. Those who saw Chris that year recall his joy, peace, and love.

Looking back, it’s as though, even as Chris lived with all his heart, the Earth couldn’t hold him.  He was two when, on the eve of the birth of my daughter, he discovered stars. It seemed in that moment that a light went on inside him, which throughout life grew ever brighter.  As I wrote in the book Freedom To FallI thought that Chris, if given the chance, would not go back and do anything differently. From the earliest age, he was always breaking out into new territory, new heights, new vistas—new realms of freedom.  You could cherish Chris, but you couldn’t contain him….  

I take comfort in knowing that Chris is where he is supposed to be.  I know not what he is up to, how he serves God.  Only that the love we had is the love we have and the love we will always have. The saving grace in loss is the soul’s endurance.

Chris was a shining example to many whose paths he crossed.  May this day be a reminder that he is with us still, even as his journey (and ours) continue on.

 

Communicate with Carol or order a book via her website, morningsongbooks.com.

Morning Communion

Allow me to shed concern for the sake of communion—in the heartland of the soul’s silence. May this reverence slip seamlessly like pearls of dew onto the day.

With deepening devotion, missteps grow meaningless. The path overflows: a domed luminosity that contains and leads on.

Communion renders the blessing of hallowed silence. All is well and possible. God has never abandoned; only I have wandered away. Life is redolent of His grace and love.

_________

 

Life contains scenes, real and imagined, but its tenor sprouts from deeper ground.

All happenings pass away, lost in the vibrancy of some new reality. The importance of today’s luster is ephemeral, a dying ember in the coming of dawn.

Our days are soon gone. Now is the time to cross the divide and explore new lands, bearing witness to experience. In the flowering of spirit, life springs forth—from the treasure trove of truth, the realm of the sacred.

Awakening

FORGIVENESS

 

Forgiveness sparks the soul—

when, in surrender,

I find strength to freely give

the love that God has given.

 

Love is for giving,

unencumbered by condition—

rendering blessed peace,

relief from stirring hunger.

 

May we truly spend this life,

with time still left to wonder

how forgiveness, humbly—

inspires the soul from slumber.

 

PRESENCE

 

Turning from Presence, the path fades away—

until remembering, I follow,

intuiting how and where to step.

 

The wellspring rings eternal, finding entrance

as I peer through the entanglement—

to the radiance of fertile ground.                          

 

Presence lights the Way for eyes just awakened—

through the rowdy playing field,

up the still silence of Heaven.

 

 

 

 

In Remembrance

Today is Chris’s birthday. He would have been 38. Our love remains, a golden thread spanning the ages.

Chris journeys through the sheer glow of Heaven. A rock climber in life, he now climbs unbound.

Happy birthday, dear son. I feel your humble spirit and the holy heights that beckon. May you drink from streams of milk and honey and be garlanded with stardust. You have my heart, today and always.

Following God

When attachment gives way to following, intimacy with the moment ensues—a sacred place, where meaning and purpose come through faith.

Following sparks a wellspring in response to God’s calling: This is the unfolding to which I yield; tomorrow is unspoken for. And while the course includes infinite outer expressions, it is an inner, intuitive following, unattached and free-flowing, that is the revered treasure. We remain ever the servant, deeply listening, stepping towards the unknown.

Journeying in the glow of the moment’s abundance connects us to essence. In the spirit of following, we shed definition and become seekers of truth, laying the ground for eternal life.

Meaning and purpose find fulfillment in surrender to God’s Will. In releasing attachment, we open our hearts and redeem a crucial aspect of ourselves—an abiding presence lighting the footpath, infusing life with grace.

Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life.” John 6-27. Life’s glory is not to be achieved but received through faith.

Presence of a Son, January 17

Today, my son, Chris, would have turned thirty-seven.

In the morning, I bought flowers and put them in a vase that Chris had given. Later, I stepped out for a walk, a glorious January day—windswept and brilliant.

On the walk I talked with Chris, feeling sublimely his presence. I told him that I was on the cusp of change, ready for a new life that would last until the end.

The breeze whispered, it’s time to let go of plans, ambition, and predictability to embrace life’s boundlessness. Time to step boldly into the unknown and be present for when guidance comes—to lay aside grievances and predilections, responding to what is given.  

I thought about Chris in life: his courage, the gentleness and bigness of his love, the setting aside of “should” and shouldn’t” to pursue his dream.

I considered what I’ve always wanted. When may anticipation or expectation disappear, leaving behind life’s essence?

Surrounded by a January beauty I couldn’t contain, I heard: It’s yours for the taking, with only this moment as ground.

Happy birthday, Chris. Though you live beyond reach, your presence abounds.

_________

Chris died in a rock climbing accident in Yosemite National Park in 2003. The following is an excerpt from my book, Freedom to Fall.

“I am going to live the free life,” Chris told friends on his last trip. He was an outdoorsman. He recognized his passion and pursued it. He knew he had what it takes. He lived simply, without fanfare. He revered nature. He was keenly observant.

Chris also meant that he was going to live life without a scheme. His life was going to be open-ended. He would go wherever life took him and partake fully in the offerings.

When Chris came to me on the second day after his death, he showed me that there are no divisions—not between life and death, being and doing, old and young. He showed me his truth. He showed me he was One.

I am going to live the free life. He meant he was going to live life without walls, in the fullness of light. He was at home in himself and at peace with the world.