The 5 a.m. alarm went off and I was half asleep and jammed wide awake at the same time. My skin literally felt an electricity of excitement, and as Shooter’s warm nose nudged my arm, my eyes fluttered open.
Why was I so excited? Because we were climbing BIRTHDAY PITCHES. I love climbing birthday pitches! But it wasn’t my birthday.
May 7th would have been Mikey’s twenty-ninth birthday and I couldn’t think of a more apropos way to honor a friend than pouring one out and climbing a few pitches for him. I always thought that celebrating someone’s death was a strange thing, so why not celebrate their birthday instead? I just wanted to do something special this year in his memory. Mikey wasn’t a climber, but I think he would have excelled at it. He was your typical lanky, tall kid whose body type lent itself to that sort of thing.
We do these kinds of things, not just to celebrate but to remind ourselves how lucky we really are to be alive. Life sometimes can be so black and white and grainy, and with no gray areas in between. It’s hard. It was hard losing Mikey, and I miss his laughter every day. I used to hold onto the pain that comes with a suicide, withdrawing from life and people to avoid dealing with it. But that wasn’t living. It wasn’t commemorating Mikey’s memory or benefiting my life, for that matter.
So what to do? We live on. We live a contemplative life and try to be as present for others as much as possible. I’ve learned that we shouldn’t be shy of expressing our appreciation and love for people because life is too short and anything at all can happen to anyone at any time.
And May 7th wasn’t just any other night—we were in Indian Creek, of all places. Living in the desert for a few weeks made me so happy. I couldn’t have asked for better people to celebrate Mikey’s birthday with. Memories are pretty infinite and love is forever, but we have to do things to celebrate life in order to keep them that way. Sing, dance, paint, hold hands, blow out candles and make wishes, jump from the sky, rock climb up to it.
Twenty-nine pitches is a full mileage day. It’s a big wall day. It’s a push yourself to your limits and see what happens kind of day. Think full exhaustion, bloody hands and tips, soul battered kind of climbing.
“Climb on!” I heard the words ringing behind me as we started up the first pitch.
My theory about love for the past several years has been: as long as you have love in your life, it doesn’t matter where it comes from or how it’s dispensed—all that matters is that it’s there.