Early Saturday morning, my husband's best friend (whom we will call MD) decided to descend over a steep ridge on his snowmobile. The snow was fresh and heavy, the day was beautiful. Immediately, he broke off an avalanche behind him. Before he probably literally even knew what was happening, the force of the snow gathering strength behind him snapped his neck and then ragdolled him through the rocks (breaking his ribs and both legs), and on through to the bowl (ie, a valley) where it buried him in four feet of snow.
The friend who went with him had to go a different route down to get to him, but it was too late. MD was dead. The mountain had claimed him.
I live in a small town. Everyone knows everyone. MD used to go visit my dad and stay up late, drinking and talking. My husband went to school with MD's girlfriend of ten years. That night, the friend who had been there, my husband, and I drove MD's truck home for him. His body had to stay the night on the mountain, as conditions were too treacherous to get him out. The night was cold, the sky black and starry. Funny how even when you know it's just a body, you feel sickened that it has to stay all alone with no one that loves it.
While MD's girlfriend broke down, I took their three-year-old son downstairs to play to distract him. He didn't know what had happened yet. Every toy, every book, he showed me was connected to his dad. MD stayed home with the boy while the girlfriend worked. His whole world was gone, and he didn't even know it yet.
My husband does not cry. I have seen him cry once, briefly at a funeral, in the ten years we have been together. He has been a tearful mess. I have been a tearful mess.
My husband went down with two other friends early yesterday (Sunday) morning to watch the sunrise with their friend before the helicopter came to get him off the mountain. They said their good-byes and dug out his sled.
These are the times when one's non-faith is tested, yes? When you know there's no one to listen to your prayers and that your dead has no warm retirement-state-like shangri-la to float off to as an afterlife. They are just dead. Our lives are just precious little blinks that so few see. It's amazing. It's terrible.
MD was thirty-two. I don't worry about death. We all blink out like candles eventually. When we weren't sure how the sequence of events had played out, I did worry he had suffered. I worried he had been hurt, and then he had been buried under snow and had died afraid and cold and unable to breathe. As it is, his last thought was probably one of adrenaline and bliss as he just barely rocketed off a mountainside before being silenced forever.
Good-bye, MD. You were important enough to make a mountain shake.