Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: What we have left |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: What we have left

Bereavement is handled by each person differently.

What has amazed me, as the father of a 13-year-old boy who spent six years as a classmate of Taft Conlin, is the way he and his friends have handled this tragedy.

Resilience is perhaps their most impressive trait, yet I can’t help but think it is enhanced through a cherished innocence that the rest of us can only carry in memory.

It softens the blow, if only a little, and allows them to continue living each day as a kid, still probably (hopefully?) impervious to the reality of mortality. But a small part of them now understanding how life can change in an instant.

How our community comes together is just as impressive. As we collectively and individually pay our respects to Taft, the support for his family and the survivors of the accident are the ones we are there to help with our words.

And it feels like words are all we have.

We try to say the right thing, trusting a natural human instinct for the words we possess and use over such a life-altering event, but never really know if they are of any true benefit.

Taft’s mom, dad and sister will never have a day go by for the rest of their lives without thoughts of Taft coming into play at some point. Same for the four young men who were skiing with him that tragic day.

I cannot imagine life continuing any other way.

Our words, when used correctly, can do nothing but help. Yet no words can fully express the way we feel as a community, nor individually, which makes me realize that the proper words, with the proper timing, can also be used to evoke memories.

And the only memories worth keeping are the good ones.

For now, every single memory of Taft will bring a tear. But after a while, and from then on, they will bring smiles — most of the time.

So we not only have words, we have memories as well.

And then I think of pictures. Photos and videos. It’s a different world from when I was young, and watching as the kids use Facebook to express themselves about Taft is a gift, one that they will not realize has tremendous value for years to come. The digital age is truly a memory keeper.

Yes, we hope that every child in this valley has learned some type of invaluable lesson, as we parents desperately reach for a positive angle to pursue, but we still feel a little helpless in the big scheme of things.

Those searching for answers will find none, as the questions do nothing to affect the outcome. There is no blame to be assigned, no excuses, no justification or rationalization needed, as doing so serves no point.

Accidents happen every day, tragedies less often, but tragic accidents are exceedingly rare, and this is exactly what happened to these young men.

Those involved are left with words and memories and photos and videos, all wrapped securely around the heartfelt knowledge of a young man who lived his life doing what he loved, and surrounded by a loving family and a community that cares.

And that is quite a lot, indeed.

Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at

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