It's hard to describe the feeling you get when you first realize that someone you know is no longer alive. There's a vacancy somewhere near the midsection of your torso. There's also a lapse in time, a moment when whatever world you normally occupy is grotesquely distorted into a division of reality that's difficult to identify. And when the death is related to skiing, that reality is almost unrecognizable.
The first call came about five years ago. I was out of town (at a family get-together), and a friend on the other line started with a blunt, somber, "Did you hear?" "Hear what?" I replied. My friend then told me that a closer friend, Logan Jameson, had died in a skiing accident on a seemingly benign mountain that I'd grown up traversing.
I remember that call; the next thing I remember after that was walking into an open living area filled with bright lights, the smell of barbecue and people everywhere: talking, and talking, and talking. They just kept talking while I stood there, essentially rotting inside, numb, wondering how I was going to piece together my now shattered perception of reality.
The following week was fuzzy. The news of Logan's death affected me mentally more than emotionally -- until I was in a sports bar bathroom, and America's "A Horse With No Name" quietly crept out of the speakers and into my vulnerable head. I stood before a line of spotless porcelain urinals and wept: "A Horse With No Name" was his favorite song.
This event not only changed me, but my entire social circle. Up until this point, death was somewhat foreign to us. We'd had family members die, but they'd been older. In a way, we'd been batting 1000 without the slightest inkling of a strikeout to come. Logan's death wasn't supposed to happen. He was so young, vibrant, alive, ready to commence that twenty-something stage of life that comes heavily equipped with excess doses of freedom, love, true happiness and self-discovery. And it was all taken away in a split second because he landed the wrong way after catching some air on his skis.
Here's the thing: After Logan's death, I thought I'd never experience that horrible feeling again. But this past month, that all changed. In early February I received the second of these brutal phone calls, which brought the horrifying news that Peter Carver, whom I had known almost my entire life, had died in an avalanche.
Then two weeks ago, I received the third call: telling me about the death of Joe Philpott. "Did you hear?, the somber voice started. "Hear what?", I nervously replied, knowing all too well what was to come.