On Life and Death

I’ve often said that I never feel more alive than when I am standing on top of a mountain.  There is something in the core of the human soul that surfaces when one feels like he has triumphed over a major obstacle, especially one that manifests itself in such a physical way like a mountain.

It almost seems that before we can appreciate life we must be confronted with death.  Whether it is facing it ourselves or watching it claim a loved one, it seems we need that virtual slap in the face to make us realize how limited our time on this planet really is. 

I was reminded of this in two very different ways this past weekend.

The first occurred on the way to hike Mount Yamnuska.  As I passed Redwood Meadows, I looked over at the fire hall to my old stomping grounds of 50 Station.  I noticed a large number of cars parked in front.  With it being just a touch past 6:30am I knew this was not a good sign.  Further north on Highway 22 I discovered the reason why those dedicated volunteers had been rudely awakened on an early Sunday morning.  I could see the flashing lights on the TransCanada Highway long before I got there.

The ramp onto eastbound Highway 1 was blocked off, guarded by a solitary firefighter and a truck from Springbank station.  As I crested the overpass I could see the line of police vehicles on the roadside.  That’s not a good sign.  I assumed a fatality, and I assumed that considering it was a single vehicle on a straight stretch of dry road that it was a very preventable fatality.  Later that day my suspicions would be confirmed when I learned a 19 year-old woman had died and alcohol was likely a factor in the crash.


Someone Wasn’t Destined to See the Morning Sun on the Mountains

The second reminder came several hours later as I stood on the summit of Mount Yamnuska.  I stood at the edge of the towering cliffs staring down at a drop of approximately 350m.  At that moment one is struck with the fragility of life – a single slip, a moment of vertigo and it’s all over.  Knowing those facts, humans are still drawn to the cliff face to look over the edge.  It’s like we need to stare death in the face so we can truly appreciate what we have done.

Staring Down into the Abyss

Two experiences – one life-affirming and the other frustrating in its futility.  In both cases a single choice makes all the difference.  Every single day is a gamble and we don’t know who holds all the cards.

“Paying anything to roll the dice just one more time.  Some will win, some will lose, some are born to sing the blues.” – Journey

The lesson?  Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.  Live like today is your last day on Earth, for it very well could be.  Don’t put things off.  When your time is up, will you be doing something you love?  Will you be surrounded by those who mattered the most?  Will it be in a noble pursuit or will it be a waste?

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