One Simple Way to Support Someone Who's Grieving
A few months ago, I posted in a facebook group for Okemo Mountain ski resort in an attempt to find anyone who was present the day my father died on the mountain. 27 years later, I found myself craving more details.
I’m not sure what, but something triggered my desire for this information, 27 years later.
The Okemo skiing community came through. A lift operator told me that she’d seen my father ski all morning, so that I knew that he got some good runs in before he died. The Ski Patrol Director at the time wrote that she and so many others still remember that day.
A ski patroller gave me the name of the lift attendant who carefully removed my father’s body from the chairlift. I was able to track down his mailing address, and I’m mailing my letter of thanks to him today.
An Okemo local sent me a private message and told me what the word Okemo means – “All come home.” A perfect name for the place of my father’s last ski turn, my father’s last breath.
Another ski patroller sent me a digital copy of the newspaper article in The Rutland Herald, which provided so many details that I never knew.
From this article, I was able to read that my father’s body was bundled up in the ski patrol sled, and taken down the Lower World Cup trail at Okemo. Although his spirit left his body by then, I consider this my father’s Last Run.
I took a solo ski trip to Okemo a couple of weeks after learning this information to seek out the chairlift my father died on (which has been replaced), and to ski Lower World Cup with intention.
With gratitude for the love I shared with my father, gratitude for my days on so many different mountains all over the country with him, gratitude for the pure joy that skiing brings me, and gratitude that he left this world exactly the way he expressed to me just two weeks before he died. He said, “You know, when my time comes, I want to die on a chairlift. That’s where I feel most at peace, closest to God, breathing in the cool mountain air.”
After my awesome runs down Lower World Cup, I returned to the Okemo facebook group to thank everyone for their help in providing me with details, and to share my experiences of skiing down Lower World Cup, my father’s Last Run.
I was so touched by the posts that followed from complete strangers. Some Okemo locals wrote that they not only skied this run in my father’s memory, but they now thought of it as “Bill’s Last Run”, and they did it in my father’s unusual “happy skiing” style - skiing wide GS turns, with his arms outstretched. His skiing style simply exuded happiness. Typical of everything my father did.
I was sobbing thinking of these complete strangers, now all skiing this trail in memory of my father. Some reported that they have renewed appreciation of the sport. A bunch of ski enthusiasts “happy skiing” down “Bill’s Last Run.”
I wanted to share this story because honoring and remembering a loved one who has passed means the world to those who are left behind. It does not matter how much time has passed, or whether someone was close to the one who passed.
Do you know someone who is grieving? You can honor their loved one who has passed by doing something special. Then tell the person who is grieving about what you did. They’ll likely be moved to tears.