“I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try”
(Jackson Browne, For a Dancer)
I was struggling, too much effort and too little output. It was my eighth day on skate skis. Since early February 2019, we had epic Nordic ski conditions. Every week I skied four or five days, alternating classic with skate. A strong classic skier, I was determined to achieve some level of competency on skate skis.
My friend Al Grahn was a strong, competitive skate skier. He was always trying to get me out. Knowing my pitiful skill level, my pride wouldn’t let me join him. I always had an excuse.
Now in early March, the end of the season was in sight and at mile three I was struggling to skate up a hill. But today, something happened. I heard a voice in my head, “relax” it said, “find your rhythm.” It was Al’s voice. I felt a gentle push from behind. It was Al’s touch. The tension drained from my body, and with strong measured strides, I skated up the hill. I kept up the pace for the next six miles. It was the first time I completed my nine mile loop without walking a hill.
Al died a year ago today. He was riding his bike home from lunch with high school friends when he was struck by a school bus and killed. He was 75 years old, rich in life and loved by many. We were climbing buddies and shared stories of our lives.
I know Al is still with me. If you have an open mind, you can feel the presence of those who have passed from this world. I am lucky to have known him and grateful for his words of encouragement and gentle push.