This is true for mountaineers too. Climb after climb, new and old faces come and go, and one day, the goodbye you bid a fellow hiker at the bus terminal or the airport will be the last; and all there is between you are memories.
Such is life, and there are many reasons for such changes. As time passes, priorities change, and people move too, across physical and social geographies. Among most of us, it is the mountains that brought us together. Without them, our relationships fall apart or fade away. No one is to blame for this. Like classmates in elementary or high school, we move on to the next chapters of our lives. Some ties endure, but many recede. There is a natural flow in life, one that erodes more than it binds.
Yet, perhaps it is not too late to offer you a little tribute, a farewell note, even as I hope that we may someday meet again.
To start with, If I haven’t been able to thank you before, then let me thank you now. Surely, in our journeys, you made me think or you made me smile. Or perhaps you challenged me to be a better person. And simply by being yourself, you have introduced me to a different way of living, a different style of enjoying the outdoors; a different way of looking at the world. For these, I thank you.
For organizing a climb I joined, and for joining a climb that I organized, I thank you.
For waiting for me in the bus terminal; for taking my pictures; for guiding me in the trails, and for sharing with me the joys of reaching the summit and the occasional disappointment of not reaching it, I thank you.
For sharing with me your last bottle of Gatorade and the last piece of your favorite trail food, I thank you.
For listening to me while I recited in wonder the names of the peaks we saw from atop a mountain, and for speaking to me whenever I needed words of encouragement or comfort, I thank you.
For accompanying me in the freezing cold and walking with me through the forbidding high altitude on a day when we should have celebrating a holiday; for joining me in a climb that others were too afraid to do or try; for cooking our food on a night when I was too tired to leave my tent; for driving your car just to reach our destination, I thank you.
For telling me I can do it, for telling me that nothing is impossible, for communicating to me the power of dreams, I thank you.
To all of you, I offer my thanksgiving for making me a better person.
The mountains are mirrors that enable us to see ourselves, but in the process we also open up ourselves to others in a unique way. As an imperfect person, if I failed you or wronged you in any way, I wouoffer my apologies. Was it a joke I wrongly said, or a failure to help you when you needed me? Did I hurt you when I uttered angry words? Did I snore too loudly on a night when sleep was all you ever hoped for? Did I fail to invite you in a climb you had longed for? For these, and more, I am sorry. I am only human, a person with moods and quirks, with likes and dislikes, with strengths and weaknesses. Had you looked upon me as anything more than that, I would almost certainly have disappointed you.
I have not forgotten our adventures, and I bring them back to life in the stories I share to others. The funny and erudite words you said, the crazy adventures we did; the unique things that you are; they stay with me, as securely as harness is held to a carabiner.
I wonder where you are now: perhaps you are at work, laboring to build a career. Maybe you are reviewing for an exam, or taking care of your loved ones. Or perhaps you are climbing another mountain. Whatever you are doing now, and wherever you are, I wish you the very best. May the spirit of freedom and adventure live on in you as it does in me!
I say this without exception because I believe that all things work out for good, and your presence in my life, mo matter how fleeting, was part of God’s plan for me and for you. If ever we parted ways with some unresolved matters, i want you to know that i harbor neither hurt feelings nor ill will because I climb mountains in the same way I live life: choosing to see the positive side of anything or anybody.
And so let me end with the Wordsworth’s words of hope and glad anticipation:“We only part to meet again.”
MAYBE WE will climb again someday, maybe we won’t. Whatever the future brings, I offer this piece as my message to you today and forever:
To all the hikers I’ve climbed with, wherever you are, I offer my gratitude, my remembrance, and my hope that you will reach the summits of your lives, as surely as we reached the ones that we climbed together.