His name is Morrie; he has been skiing for 81 years — yeah, 81 years, no kidding, since he was 7 years old. His full-of-life bride, Suzie, just turned 80 this week and has been skiing almost as long. She started a bit later at age 17. Morrie and I have a connection. He was Vail’s first fire chief. In fact, he was also Vail’s first Ski School director. Truth be told, he was probably first at a whole bunch of other jobs in Vail. You see, he was here at the beginning of Vail along with many other pioneers that have made this place what it is today.
He saw it all, helped with it all, joined in the adventure of it all and he is still skiing — 81 years! He claims he has slowed down a bit and Suzie has sped up a bit. She now has to wait for him at the bottom of the slope — used to be the other way around. I hope I’m still walking at 81, let alone skiing with my wife, even if she can get down the hill faster than me, which is already the case. As for Morrie and Suzie, I find them amazing, inspirational, extraordinary and cool.
But, there’s more to Morrie and Suzie than skiing in their 80s. They have what we all envy — something I think of as largeness of spirit and bigness of heart. It’s simply delightful to be in their presence, as they are sharp, quick witted, joy-filled and interested in others — enviable traits. And, they smile and laugh ... a lot. I love to see “older” people in their 80s, 90s and beyond smile and laugh. There is something very pure about it — the expression of a life lived well.
And, I love their stories. Most of us tend to be too busy to listen to their stories. After all, we seem to think the elderly are past their prime, have little to teach us and are probably not nearly as brilliant as we are.
In reality, their “sageness” has much to teach us. It’s evident in how they carry themselves. You don’t always notice it at first until you look a little more closely. Decades of being around the block has etched wisdom into their faces. There is no pretense there; no “I’m too cool for school.” There is no more need to live or die by the approval or disapproval of others, no need to prove their biceps are bigger than the next guy, no anything. They have already proven it all. They have lamented and laughed, and perhaps now they look at life from a different angle to see the poetry of it all — they are ... sage.
Their legacy is, and will be, rich. It has given direction to the rest of their living. The importance of leaving a legacy and imparting something good to those in our path along life’s way is what it’s all about. Morrie and Suzie have already done it and are continuing to do it. After all, they seem to live it well — maybe at a slower pace possibly — but with more wisdom and intention — and they are still skiing.
Leaving a legacy
Legacy. There is not much I can say that would be more eloquent or more sincere or beautifully stated than what has been written during the past several days about Tony Seibert. This tragedy has once again numbed our senses and jolted our perspective. Vail Fire was there in the aftermath of it all, as were many other agencies. There was little we could do, a helpless feeling.
Of course, this was not the first tragedy of its kind, and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last. It’s not that simple. After all, avalanches are unpredictable, violent, overwhelming, terrifying, nondiscriminatory and, in a strange way, awe-inspiring — kind of like life. We are respectful of the danger, but we want to experience everything it has to offer anyway.
The “Tonys” of this world make a difference, not only by their presence, but because they are such a part of what we love about life. Like Morrie and Suzie, Tony had largeness of spirit and bigness of heart. The legacy he leaves gives us something to hold on to and goes far deeper than we can comprehend. Like all of us who have suffered deep, excruciating loss, we sometimes wish life would just stop for a moment so we could get off — just so we could breathe for a few minutes.
As I think about it though, maybe it’s better that we can’t get off or stop otherwise we might miss what is central to our core — to be deeply connected, to belong, to be enjoyed, remembered; and most importantly, to leave a legacy — parting, but forever entangled.
Stay tuned ...
Mark Miller is Vail’s Fire Chief.