In a few weeks, Mike will be going on his first major backpacking trip since I have moved here. This is a big deal for me. Drew died while he was away on a trip. Mike is going to be alone in the woods, in potentially dangerous cold temperatures, with zero cell service, for several days. One of the reasons that he hasn’t been on any solo backpacking trips since I moved here in fact is because of his fear of triggering me. Of knowing what it will mean for me in that moment when he leaves for the trip and we are saying our goodbyes. It may just be a few days, not a few weeks, as Drew’s trip was supposed to be… but there is no way that the thoughts will not still cross my mind: What if you don’t come back.
I had those thoughts when Drew left too. His job was dangerous, and we always knew there was a chance he wouldn’t come home, or that the next time he stepped into a helicopter could be his last. But back then, I didn’t REALLY think about it. Because I hadn’t lived through it. Back then, it was more of a vague fear that didn’t really have a huge amount of weight to it. I believed he was coming back. I had faith. Until two weeks into his trip when that faith was destroyed. When his body was delivered back to us from the crash in Washington state, without his beautiful soul inside it. I cannot erase any of that. I cannot unknow what I now know, which is that death is always possible. Every single day.
We had a talk, Mike and I, a few weeks ago, about all this. About his reservations about leaving for a long weekend backpacking. He’s struggled with the idea of disappearing into the woods not knowing whether I was freaking out the whole time, with no way to get a hold of him. And it’s understandable. But I’ve watched him over the past year, very subtly, becoming less happy, less connected to the outdoors, more stressed, and more tired. I’ve watched how he’s sacrificed his own passions because of all the craziness of my moving here, and trying to help me become comfortable with so much change. There’s still plenty of love and laughter and fun, but I can tell, something is missing for his soul. The thing that feeds him in a way nothing else does.
So a few weeks ago, I picked a date for him in December, and told him – the hell with my triggers about trips – he needs to go backpacking. We can either keep avoiding this, which prevents him from doing something that he loves. And all be less happy for it. Or we can do it anyway, knowing the dangers, and be happier on a day to day basis.
Then he found something really great. A small tracking device called a Delorme, that looks like a walkie talkie. It uses satellite signals to allow you to send out basic messages to tell loved ones you’re ok and where your location is when you are out of cell service. Even more important, it has an SOS button. Upon pushing it, a message is sent to the global organization for search & rescue, giving them your exact gps location, and allowing you to text with them any further information needed. So if anything were to happen while he was out alone, this device could be life-saving. It was a few hundred dollars to buy, but I didn’t hesitate to agree to it.
Before being widowed, I would have just said that was too expensive and that we shouldn’t “bother” with it. Now, I know different. Now I know, anything could happen, and that money is not only well worth it for his safety, but also for my peace of mind. Instead of sitting around for 3 days wondering if he is ok, I will get reminders from him a few times a day of when he has reached camp, or leaves camp, and that all is well. Deep down, I also know, that a small device cannot prevent death. I know that if Drew had the same device with him in the helicopter that day, it would have done absolutely zero to save his life. But that doesn’t mean I won’t put every measure I can in place to help avoid it, and to give me some peace of mind.
In a way, I am glad that being widowed has made me take safety measures more seriously. I’m also glad that being widowed has made me realize how precious life is. That knowing Drew has reminded me how important it is to get out there and do the things that feed your soul, even if those things sometimes come with calculated risks and potential danger.