Ode to Tim
December 22, 2008
In my first week of work, on a day when temps rose and the system was shut down, long before the mountain was open, I saw a 19-year-old kid come charging down the one run on the mountain that had snow on it. Launching stylishly off the huge mounds of snow that we had been making all night, with a huge smile on his face and his blond locks flowing, his enthusiasm for the impending ski season was unmistakable.
That kid was my co-worker, who had clocked out early to go hike up roughly 400 feet of vertical to ski lumps of manmade crud. And who, after doing so, would tell you that it was “such a sick run.”
Weeks later, when we heard that he had been found lying in a ditch, incapacitated, unconscious and hypothermic for seven hours, our hearts sank with a thud reminiscent of his skis stomping a landing. Suddenly, my hour-long wait that cold blustery night for what usually takes five to 10 minutes made a lot more sense. His snowmobile was trashed. The signs were clear. His tracks told the story. That same snowmobile that was to pick me up at the bottom was now the vehicle that took him to his final resting place.
It’s strange how events like this turn into a series of “if only’s.” If only I had known who was coming to get me, then I would have known he was on the mountain … if only he had not taken the old way down we would have seen him … etc. The fact is, it is what it is, and there’s nothing we can do or could have done to change what happened.
I guess all we can do is take a little bit of that enthusiasm and use it to remind ourselves that life ought to be lived the way Tim apparently did in the few short weeks that I knew him … with cereal in your belly and a smile on your face. Feelings of disappointment are almost overcome by relief. Relief for his sake, that he’s not suffering anymore. Rest peacefully, Tim Riley. I’ll be sure to make some turns for you.
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