A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Climbing above the hardest parts of loss
03 Sep
By 2020Visionquest
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Randy, Tracy and Autumn laughing on a summit peak. Tracy wears a bright pink top and Autumn is caught with her pink tongue out in the middle of licking her own nose.

A happy memory with Autumn, Randy, and Tracy.

“If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.”
— Irvin D. Yalom

I still hold the clear and cutting memory of the moment everything changed on a Friday evening one year ago. We now understand it was the instant my guide dog Autumn, sweet loving and beloved girl, experienced a dramatic rupture of the previously unknown cancerous tumor on her spleen. The light went out of her eyes and the intense lethargy foreshadowed the impending full measure of tragedy.

We would get incredible veterinary support gifting us with several quality hours before our final farewell on the following day. We did not lose those incredibly meaningful quality hours in part because in the midst of the horrific reality, we all began the work essential to make the most of the situation and as best we are able every moment afterwards. It is work to climb to those heights as author Irvin Yalom suggests and it doesn’t lessen any tragedies we may face. It does ensure we get the most positive possible out of any moments and we are poised to appreciate appropriately all the aspects deserving our appreciation. I celebrate Autumn’s life and legacy even as it pained me to write and share those words while filled with the empty longing which her death brought forth within me.

Randy and Autumn climb a sun-dappled mountain path in the woods.

Randy and Autumn take a beautiful hike in the White Mountains in October 2019.

By choosing to believe in possibility, I certainly realize there are some terrible tragedies we are all likely to experience in our lives. What then of believing we can avoid them? I certainly strive to avoid as many as possible with the right approaches and yet I believe the most important aspect of the belief is that when confronted with an unavoidable challenge we find the possible ways to face it with the grace and grit necessary to make the most of it. This is true to and through all difficulties as with Autumn and each step leading up to that is work which helps along the path. I think of our final hike together which we never anticipated would be our final hike. Still, I chose to appreciate it at the time and in the immediate reflection I shared: Why I strive for the simple gifts in an Autumn hike.

Every moment is a possibility for a precious gift we can treasure. Each experience may strengthen us for the difficult ones and perhaps be part of the footholds we use to climb high enough to have the perspectives to appreciate aspects before, during and particularly after a loss or challenge. These are unlikely to make the challenge or loss less but they will undoubtedly make us a little more and in so doing better able to manage well as we move forward.

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