Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cigars in Heaven

My thanks to those who continued to remember Kelly and our family. I am amazed and blessed that so many continue to check the website and often leave the most wonderful messages. On dark days, these words of encouragement are like rays of light.

It has been two years since Kelly’s frozen body was found in a hastily dug snow cave near the summit of Mt. Hood. In the months following Kelly’s tragic death, we stumbled reluctantly back into the everydayness of our lives. Gradually, the earth returned to its rotational axis, and we all have done our level best to press forward even though our hearts are still broken and tears remain close to the surface. God is still on his throne ruling the universe, but seems much more mysterious and unfathomable than before. And Kelly is enjoying the presence of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If someone were to ask me, would I remove Kelly from his glorious bliss and return him to this fallen world with its veil of tears—my answer would be: Yes, a thousand times yes! If I could utter an incantation or wave a magic wand that would have stilled that deadly unrelenting snow storm so that Kelly (along with Brian and Nikko) would have been miraculously rescued, I would do it in a nano-second. I am selfish I know.

Today, on the second anniversary of the discovery of the body of my little brother, I have taken the day off from work and in the evening I plan to drink a glass of wine, listen to some funky down-and-dirty Texas alternative country music and smoke a cigar in Kelly’s honor. I will drink the wine to numb the pain of his loss (which refuses to fade away) and I will listen to the country music because that connects me in a mystical way with Kelly. I actually hate cigars, but I know Kelly planned to smoke a cigar with Brian and Nikko once they reached the other side of the mountain—and so I will smoke my cigar in recognition (but not quite celebration) that they all have reached the other side. I smoke in their stead because I doubt there are cigars in heaven.



Christen said...

Thank you, Frank! Our thoughts and prayers are still with you and your family.

Christen H

Linda Wightman said...

And ours also.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Karen for sharing her story - my thoughts are with you, Kelly, Brian and Nikko and their families.

I was very moved by her intimate descriptions of how Kelly spend his time with Brian and Nikko just before they parted from the snow cave. I wondered if something slightly different happened. I somehow picture the three friends tried together to call 911 at 4 am, rather than Kelly calling after they left. Such a call offers a new possibility of their last conversation and mindset as they said their final personal and spiritual words together. If they had called together, they would have all known the situation together.

Love to you all.

Tom Hanson said...

Dear Frank, I still do think about Brian,Jerry,and Kelly. I do feel that God has a purpose for everything that He does. There is no doubt in my mind that He is taking good care of the three of them. I pray that we will NEVER forget these three men,and I pray for strength and wisdom for you and your family. Sincerely In Jesus name, Tom Hanson

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry for your loss. there's probably nothing i could say now to help you cope with the loss of your brother and his companions, but as a climber who has read many accounts of the tragedy, i feel compelled to tell you that it's very saddening to me, who did not even know them. of course, as fellow climbers i felt a bond with them, and hated especially those who would judge them adversely for their desire to accept and embrace risk. but anyway, that is water under the bridge. may they rest in peace, and may you continue to experience joy in remembering your excellent brother.

pncchy said...

Thru out the years I have checked to see if your brothers companions were ever found. Today was the first time I found your site which not only offered a answer to that question but also a glimpse into who your brother was. I do hope yours and the other families find some comfort in the fact your brother and his friends died living life instead of merely existing. As for anyone that does understand the need to climb the summit they have no right to judge another for choosing to live while able...Keep letting the world know how your feeling as there are people that care to know.... wishing you some comfort today.

Shane Schwab said...

This story has touched me very personally recently. Brian and I were roomates in Dallas in 1991 both playing professional soccer with the Dallas Rockets. Brian and I became very good friends and that summer was one of the best summers of my life. I moved from Dallas later that year and Brian and I fell out of touch. I wish I would have stayed in touch with him. I was very saddened to hear about the climbers and it really hit home when I realized that I knew one of them very well. I live in St. Louis, MO now and I recently went to the library to check out Lance Armstrong book about defeating cancer and winning the Tour de France. I was looking for some inspiration as a friend of the family has recently been diagnosed with cancer. As I was looking for the Lance book, Karen James book was sitting right next to it, facing forward, as if to say, read me, read me! I was a bit numb as I started to flip through it and see the pictures of Brian and Kelly and Nikko. I knew it would be a tough read but I needed to read it. I went home and read it from cover to cover that afternoon. It was the inspiration that I was looking for and I feel blessed to have read it. Your faith and your story have had a huge impact on many people around the world. Hearing about Kelly's relationship with God is just incredible. I am going to try to be a better dad and husband to my family because of the his inspiration. I just want to tell you that I will continue to pray for your family as well and Brians family and Nikko's. May God bless you all. Brian- I miss you buddy and I will eat some Cici's pizza and play in the arcade in your honor!

Anonymous said...

Dear Frank,
I was very touched by your words. It's obvious how much love you have for your brother. I truly hope that you will find some peace from the pain of missing him.

God Bless you,

Anonymous said...

I had just moved out west here from the east coast when I heard of the 3 climbers. Knew nothing of "mountains". I agonized with the families about them. I even felt guilty being in a warm house as the weather got colder, and colder each night. This was such heartbreak for many of us. I am so, so sorry. What beautiful young men. RIP always.

ROLO said...

Thank you for your thought Frank, I lost a very dear friend in an aircraft accident, I felt exactly the same as you did, the pain, the agony of having to be leading the search and rescue mission, the finding of my dead friend still in the cockpit, telling his wife by cellphone the terrible news. That pain never leave us, sometimes it lets us have a rest but that´s all. I am sure we will meet them again with the good Lord and then that pain will be erased from our souls forever. Wish you the best and will pray for you. Rolo

Carolyn said...


Your empathetic words mean a lot to us. What a terrible ordeal you have suffered. You are right about the pain never leaving. That is the price of loving. The memories of our loved ones are dear, and they leave a terrible hole behind than no one else can fill. I have since lost my father, so have a fresh awareness of how true this is.

Thank you for your prayers.