Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

I knew you’d been here. Not when I first stepped onto the dingy, gray tiles blanketing the green mermaid’s lair at the airport café. Nor when the women behind me raved, a little too early in the morning, how “she loved my sandals” which I’m sure I found wandering discount shoe aisles years before.

No, it happened as I waited in line for my latte, hoping to lift the early morning fog clouding my brain. Without warning, an avalanche of emotion swept over me as I realized you’d been here. You were here the morning you left. Inhaling deeply, I steadied myself, hoping to stave off the tears forming in the recesses of my eyes.

Images of you flashed quickly, like slides in Dad’s old projector. Pictures of you grinning at family gatherings, relaxing by a campfire, anchored to the side of a mountain wearing your signature blue parka, and painfully, at your beautiful wedding that was too recent to reconcile. 

Dave, I’ve been to this airport cafe many times since we lost you, and I don’t recall ever being affected. Why now? 

Was it the tall, broad-shouldered man ahead in line? His profile so familiar, I tried to glimpse his face, but oblivious caffeine-starved travelers relentlessly blocked my view. His sandy blond hair and royal blue jacket struck me as I arrived, like a whisper, reminding me that you should be here too.

I often wonder what you were thinking as you waited for your flight to South America that morning. Were you reflecting on how miraculous it was our whole family came together for Dad’s 80th birthday the night before or were you already visualizing your Andean glacier and methodically calculating the route?

Sitting next to you at dinner the night before your fated trip, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d ever see you alive. 

I considered asking everyone to toast to your safety, on the highest peak in South America no less, but I did not. I also remember thinking we should say a prayer, but again, I regret I did not say a word.

Would it have made a difference? Now, I’ll never know.

It was Dad’s special day, and I remembered reading somewhere that it’s inappropriate to praise someone at another’s celebration. Today, with the wisdom of a few years since your passing, I think with regret, what a sad, foolish rule to have actually followed.

Regret, there it is again. I regret all my thoughts left unsaid to you. I regret not calling or texting you after I realized you’d slipped from the party without announcing your departure. I assume you didn’t want to steal Dad’s spotlight. Were you following the same silly rules?

Dave, I’m so sorry. I intended to keep in touch, to leave you a voicemail, to text you, but sadly, I did not. Not on that morning, or at any time during your expedition.

I inexplicably did not wish you well, tell you I love you, or even text the truth, that I was feeling uneasy about this summit bid.

What stopped me from reaching out to you this time? 

I can still pull up our old text messages before your expedition to Russia.

On May 27th at 11:05 a.m., I wished you well on your attempt to summit Mt. Elbrus, and you texted back, “Thanks. At JFK now. Next stop, Moscow.”

Nine days later, on June 5th at 2:20 p.m., I texted, “Sending you love, are you stateside yet?” 

“Yes,” you responded, “Having beers at JFK. Arrive in PDX tonight. Love you too.” 

A few days after you flew out of Portland to start acclimating to higher altitudes, I “liked” your progress on Facebook as you careened down Bolivia’s “Most Dangerous Road in the World.” Prophetically nicknamed the Death Road, the sick irony is not lost on anyone who loved you.

I was relieved to hear you’d landed safely in Mendoza, Argentina. I even cheered your group’s safe arrival at Mt. Aconcagua’s 16,000-foot base camp. I worried about you, but I never reached out and sent you a message. 

Boarding the plane with my double-tall nonfat latte in hand, I’m grateful the seat next to me is empty as an impending storm gathers on the windows of my eyes. 

Dave, I don’t know why we didn’t connect when it mattered most. But today, sitting in seat 6A, I’m finally sending you a message, “I love you, and I can’t wait to hear about your journey. You are deeply missed and forever in our hearts. Love forever, Lisa.”

Lisa’s brother, Dave, succumbed to high altitude sickness at approximately 21,500′, on the Polish Direct Route just below the summit of Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. December 29th, 2012.

You may also like:

You Were Supposed to be Here, But You’re in Heaven Now

That Day My Brother Died

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Lisa Reinhart-Speers

Lisa has always wanted to write, and at 50 decided she better get on it. As a mother to three young adults, she's looking forward to "almost empty nesting" with her husband of 27 years. Her oldest son has autism and other special abilities, so it may be a while but it keeps life interesting. For the last fifteen years, Lisa's acted as Director of Philanthropy for a car dealership in the Pacific NW where she calls home.

Sharing Our Grief Frees Our Hearts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two women holding hands over a hospital bed, color photo

Almost 18 years ago, we lost our first child. It was unexpected. It was public. It was traumatic. It was a moment in time that even to this day, burns with a scorching flame, running like a reel in my memory and igniting a pain deeper than anything I’ve ever known into the empty corners of my heart. And while time has marched on in beautiful ways—healthy children who I get to watch grow up, an incredible marriage with the love of my life, a gratitude for all the milestones each year brings—I still can’t help but hold space for the...

Keep Reading

As Long as It Beats, a Grieving Heart Lives with the Pain of Loss

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking through brown field with hand outstreatched

Life churns forward in a somewhat continued and steady momentum that I find I must consistently adjust my pace to keep up with. There isn’t tolerance in life for the way grief seems to ache for pause. In the silence of this space, my body feels crushed under the weight. I sit alone with my thoughts often. I’ve made peace with the solitude that surges in the aftermath of death. Maybe not peace. Perhaps it’s surrender. After all, which one of us doesn’t fall prey to the helplessness of mortality? I can no longer count on one hand those I’ve...

Keep Reading

6 Things You Can Do Now to Help Kids Remember Their Grandparents

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood
Grandfather dances with granddaughter in kitchen

A month ago, my mom unexpectedly passed away. She was a vibrant 62-year-old grandma to my 4-year-old son who regularly exercised and ate healthy. Sure, she had some health scares—breast cancer and two previous brain aneurysms that had been operated on successfully—but we never expected her to never come home after her second surgery on a brain aneurysm. It has been devastating, to say the least, and as I comb through pictures and videos, I have gathered some tips for other parents of young kids to do right now in case the unexpected happens, and you’re left scrambling to never...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Ready for Life Without My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Woman sad sitting by a window looking out

I’m not ready. Not ready for time to just keep trudging forward without her. Four years have gone by, and I still think about her every day. When that awful third day of October rules around every year it’s like a tidal wave comes and sweeps me up tossing me this way and that. The rest of the year I can bob up and down with the occasional waves of grief. But the week before October 3rd the waves pick up, and I can’t see over the crest of one before the next is already upon me. I find myself...

Keep Reading

Since She Left

In: Grief, Loss
Older, color photo of mother and young daughter blowing out birthday candles

It’s been 14 years since she left. It’s like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. The loss of my mother was indescribable. We never had a traditional relationship. As I grew older, our roles were very much reversed, but even still, missing one’s mother (for lack of a better word) is hard . . . plain and simple. Sometimes I wonder, what is it exactly that I miss? Of course, I miss talking to her. I miss how she drove me crazy. I miss her baking. I miss hearing about her newest needlepoint. I miss when she...

Keep Reading

I Carried You for Just 17 Weeks but I’ll Hold You in My Heart Forever

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound image of baby in second trimester

September 11 will be a date that is forever etched in my heart, not only because of its historical significance but because it’s the day I saw your lifeless little body on the ultrasound screen. I couldn’t hold back the sobs. My chest suddenly felt heavier than a ton of bricks. I’ve been here before. I’ve had losses, but none this late. I didn’t feel their movements or hear so many strong heartbeats at my checkups. Your siblings felt you move and squealed with utter excitement. I want to wake from this nightmare, but it seems it’s my new reality....

Keep Reading

To the Woman Longing to Become a Mother

In: Faith, Grief, Motherhood
Woman looking at pregnancy test with hand on her head and sad expression

To the woman who is struggling with infertility. To the woman who is staring at another pregnancy test with your flashlight or holding it up in the light, praying so hard that there will be even the faintest line. To the woman whose period showed up right on time. To the woman who is just ready to quit. I don’t know the details of your story. I don’t know what doctors have told you. I don’t know how long you have been trying. I don’t know how many tears you have shed. I don’t know if you have lost a...

Keep Reading

I Was There to Walk My Mother to Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Hand holding older woman's hand

I prayed to see my momma die. Please don’t click away yet or judge me harshly after five seconds. I prayed to see, to experience, to be in the room, to be a part of every last millisecond of my momma’s final days, final hours, and final moments here on Earth. You see, as a wife of a military man, I have always lived away from my family. I have missed many birthdays, celebrations, dinners, and important things. But my heart couldn’t miss this important moment. I live 12 hours away from the room in the house where my momma...

Keep Reading

To the Loss Mom Whose Tears Keep Her Company Tonight

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman sitting up in bed with head in hands

Three pregnancies in one year. Three first trimesters. Three moments of celebration . . . until they turned to moments of sorrow. I’m sure every woman who experiences pregnancy loss has the thought, “I never thought this would happen to me.” I truly never thought this would happen to me. I have two healthy boys—conceived easily, uncomplicated pregnancies, by-the-book deliveries. We even thought we were done having kids . . . until the pregnancy test was positive. That’s when my heart opened up to more children, and I realized I ached to carry more life. Raise more littles. Nurse more babies....

Keep Reading

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Unless the Horse They Loved Is Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Loss
Little girls Toy Story Jessie costume, color photo

The knee of my pants is wet and dirty. My yellow ring lays by the sink—it’s been my favorite ring for months. I bought it to match Bigfoot’s halter and the sunflowers by his pasture. Bigfoot is my daughter’s pony, and I loved him the most. The afternoon is so sunny. His hooves make the same calming rhythm I’ve come to love as I walk him out back. A strong wind blows through the barn. A stall labeled “Bigfoot,” adorned with a sunflower, hangs open and I feel sick. I kneel down by his side as he munches the grass....

Keep Reading