As we were riding the gondola to Eagle’s Nest for the Tony Seibert memorial on Monday, we looked downvalley to the west. In the gondola were three of us in our 50s and five in their 20s. The death of Tony Seibert spanned at least three generations. As we looked west, the sky had a hole in its throat through which the sun was gloriously setting. Jeff, sitting across from me, brought my attention to it. The wound was raw and red, surrounded by dark clouds. It was, in its way, at once beautiful and frightful.
At Eagle’s Nest the crowd was thick with celebration, laughter, and the irrepressible weight of sadness, the weight of “what if,” what could have been, and what, sadly, was undoable.
My sons graduated from Battle Mountain High School, classes of 2008 and 2010. The class of 2008 — roughly 80 boys — has, too soon, lost three of our native sons. Two of them, I knew well — had always been a part of life and energy and innocence — and the third, though I knew him less well, I had still known since he was barely out of diapers. I watched all three of them — along with our other sons and daughters — grow out of childhood into burgeoning adulthood, these children of the valley that we all in some way own and all, in some way, have no claim on.
Besides Todd, Graham and now Tony, we have lost two other young men from Battle Mountain: Eric and Andrew, all of whose memories persist among the pines and aspens, chutes and bluffs among which they were raised. I am not alone in thinking of them often, in hearing their laughter in the wind, their joy in the rivers ever flowing. Although no longer with us, they are part of us and part of this place we blessedly call home. They are imprinted upon this spot as certainly as the immutable ancestral rock.
What have I learned from their untimely deaths, besides the fact that fate is unpredictable and sometimes mercilessly cruel? At the least, it’s this: Hug more, laugh more, forgive more, cherish each moment, be generous, and be kind. And for all five, within reasonable bounds, go big.
What makes this valley home is not the mountains, not the sky, not dry powder on a morning so picturesque it hurts the eyes and challenges the soul, although surely that is some it. What makes it home is how the hurt is shared, how the loss is all of ours, how the valley turns out to love and support, how the families in their grief and horror cannot ignore that they are not alone. What impressed the most were the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of those who had lost their own before and how they, despite the freshets of renewed grief, were resolved in their attendance, in their need to lend their solidarity; it is what brought me closest to tears. What else impressed is how we all had both our own private grief and our collective pain which were ineffably conjoined.
Classmates flew in from far corners. Faces I hadn’t seen in years were there after long drives and hasty flights.
At the memorial, there were tears. And life. It goes on although with an emptiness that fills and yet doesn’t fill.
Paul Simon wrote, telling, in “Bookends,” “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.” Our memories of Todd, Graham, Tony, Eric and Andrew are ingrained and incorporated into who and what we are. They are our DNA. And we are better for their being part of all of us.
That early evening, the sky had a hole in its throat. Just like the one in our hearts. And yet it set, became suffused with night, and, in the morning, a new sun rose as full and as resplendent as the last.
There is one other thing of which I’m certain; there is no better place on earth to be and no better people to share our lives with than this selfless community we have all together created. Live joyously for one another. And for those who have too soon left us.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECOTV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.