This blog is about the spiritual journey

Sacred Anniversary


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 sensing 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. You only need one. Each day is as much composed of essence as the next. 

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.


14 responses

  1. molly diane petrie

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this memory.


    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    May 31, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    • Diane, thank you for your feedback. It means a lot to me. Carol

      May 31, 2020 at 10:03 pm

  2. Mike Bradley

    Well written and a beautiful sentiment. I am blown away by how much Chris looks like your dad

    May 31, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    • Thanks Mike! I never saw my dad in Chris, but sometimes another person sees things differently. That is interesting!

      May 31, 2020 at 8:30 pm

  3. Diana Richards

    Dear Carol, I am happy you wrote to us, all your fans and family, today.  I am sitting in remembrance of Chris, his life, his death–17 years ago it was you called in the early a.m. with those stunning words.  It was a Sunday like today.  We arrived around the time it is right now.  What a wonderful week we had of love and grief, laughter and tears; a Memorial Service like none other, what gorgeous words and smiles and tears and hugs and love most of all.  It is amazing and a blessing you have been able to take this not as a tragedy but as a miracle.  It speaks of your great love for Chris and his life that you took it this way, more than as a personal loss to you the mother of a son only 25 years old.  You were able to go with him spiritually.  And you are able to live the love between the two of you, the love so strong that death cannot take it away!  This is cause for celebration.  As it is for you to know that he loved his life and he loves his freedom!–his home with God!!  Carol, you have lived your life in relation to Chris fully and beautifully, as you are learning to live your own life still on earth before your final liberation. Love Always for you and for Chris, Diana  

    June 1, 2020 at 12:24 am

    • Diane, what a lovely, touching comment. Thank you dear sister.

      June 1, 2020 at 1:07 am

      • diana richards

        Thank you my dear sister.

        June 1, 2020 at 1:37 pm

  4. This was lovely. I never knew him, but through your book (which you graciously sent me) I was able to experience his life. I haven’t been to Yosemite in a long while, but every time I am near Cathedral Rocks, I think of him.

    June 5, 2020 at 6:46 pm

  5. Thank you Janet! Your words mean a lot. It’s amazing to me that your impression of Chris has stayed with you all these years.

    June 5, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    • I think too, you sending me the book made such a great impression on me, that remembering him and saying a prayer is my small way of honoring both of you.

      June 5, 2020 at 8:03 pm

      • Thank you Janet. Your prayer is very special.

        June 5, 2020 at 8:13 pm

  6. beautiful. felt it and how you grew in the fall. Thank you.

    July 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    • Thank you for responding to the post. Your words are deeply appreciated.

      July 24, 2020 at 3:33 pm

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