Off the Bus

I feel a little bit sick this morning, because over the weekend I learned that an old friend of mine was killed in an avalanche in Western China. He was climbing a peak with two others (one dead, one still missing) when he was struck.

Until I heard the official statement that they’d identified Jonny’s body, I was hoping (along with the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who are also devastated by this news) that he and his partners had sidestepped the snowslide and were holed up in a cave, waiting until it was safe to move again.

I am so sad for his girlfriend, for his parents, for the many, many people he inspired in his 35 years. Yesterday, Brad and I remembered the last time we saw Jonny, at the Med in Boulder. After a big bear hug and a typically exuberant conversation, we’d returned to our table where one of our friends asked whom we’d been talking to. “Jonny Copp,” I replied, and watched our friend crane his neck to get a better look.

“That dirty guy talking with his mouth full?”

“Yeah,” we said, not needing to turn around. That was Jonny. Wild-eyed and unshowered, hanging out at a sleek Boulder hotspot just as he was—no pretention, no show, just unrestrained psyche and love and passion and fire.

Another time, after a long day climbing (and getting off route, and getting scared, and getting back on route, and still being scared) in the Black Canyon, my partner and I topped out to find Jonny and a gallon of water waiting for us at the rim. He’d climbed a much harder, much longer, much more demanding route that day, but just then, all he wanted to talk about was how our day had been—how exciting, how awesome, how cool that we’d topped out just before dark.

You know how a good veterinarian always makes you feel like yours is the most important dog in the world? That’s sort of how Jonny was. When you talked to him, he was wholly focused on what was happening with you, what was important to you. In the nine years I knew him, I never saw him unhappy or angry. He gave such good energy; it was impossible not to feel good in his presence, not to want to try harder at life.

I’m done asking why. Too many of my friends have died too young to keep asking that. The list will only continue to grow. I’m not saying that I accept any of this, though, because I am fully enraged at the universe for taking another good one.

I suppose I could turn to pre-determination and take comfort in the belief that Jonny (and Chris and Zack and Jeff, etc.) was here exactly as long as he was supposed to be here, that his work was done, that it was time for him to go. But I just can’t believe that, not when so many people are mourning, are confused, angry. Not when he was in love, not when he still had so many plans.

No. Rather than pre-determination, it just feels like the world is spiraling out of control. Nothing seems quite right.

RIP my friend.


Kate said...

I'm so sorry...I don't know if this gives you any comfort - it helps me a bit. It's all temporary - the good and the bad. The pain of loss...it's fleeting. The time with people we love - just as fleeting. So people like Jonny - who are intense with their lives, who really give, who tear it up - can teach us how to use the little blip of time and space we have in the universe. It's one of those things that - yeah, yeah - we all know it. But it's harder to live it.

It still sucks, but it would be worse if you hadn't known him.

Jen Yu said...

I am so very sorry. I've been hearing about it all over climbing/local news. I didn't know he was a friend of yours. Sending love and peaceful thoughts to you and B. Be safe, my dear friend. xxoo