I saw someone in the mirror as I backed out this afternoon…it was Bernie again. I stopped intuitively and looked over through the passenger window and a moment later saw the burly chocolate lab flash he calls ‘Chester’ run up the snow-covered bank beside our house at 19 Mile. The last time I saw him was the last time I wrote, the day he told us about Duncan.
Running late, I had buckled my own little princess into her car seat after my wife called to see if I had heard the news…we are connected that way. I paused, looked him in the eye through the glass and in a moment thought to myself ‘he looks just like that day’…unshaven, solemn, aged…and in the next remembered my son would be waiting outside, raised a hand in the window, and drove on. I knew he knew. Sarah Burke was gone.
Driveways and lift-lines, coffee shops and the cash tills at Nesters Market, and the simple places that make this our home share our grieving, the passing and our love. I see it in the school yard in the parents eyes, me with Kate in her little Helly Hansen snow suit with her head buried in my chest to keep safe from the bitter wind at -17 degrees. I know, we all see it on computer screens and news casts and old videos popping up on YouTube, but it’s the people that we meet, and how every one of them knows someone who knows a story, who knows her, who remembers when, that make it all so real. That is our home.
The smiles and laughs rounded the office remembering when she first arrived and for the past week my wife read the stories I didn’t want to read and said the words and here at home we filled the Twitterverse and Facebook with #believeinsarah…hoping, praying, hiding, knowing.
One night between Yearbook and Focussed…2000 something, I honestly can’t remember which, we hosted another annoyingly awesome Matchstick Ski Movie premier and somewhere in the madness I passed on the party where Sarah made heroes of the boys from the Helly Hansen shop crew when she asked them if they were pro-skiers too…and it didn’t occur to me until today that was exactly the type of girl she was, the glowing centre of the room that makes everyone in her view feel like they are super stars too. That is Whistler, that is our home, where we love and share our heroes like brothers and sisters and they in turn treat us like their own and love us right back.
I told Bernie once, “(my son) Jack doesn’t like dogs.” “That’s OK”, he said, “He doesn’t like kids.” I don’t know why I told you that just now but I do know he’s not as tough as he looks…Chester or Bernie. And while this town will drop the gloves and take it on the chin as well as any small town I’ve had the pleasure to call home (and punch it up in), the truth is beneath it all, beneath the glamour and the hype and the logos and the sponsors’ stickers, we are all heart.
We have been here before, more recently and more often than we wish to recall, but never before quite like this. Sarah was our girl. She was quietly everything, every reason we put boots on and strap sticks to our feet and fall in love with women and this mountain town, and with that spirit she was an inspiration to generations of women and girls like our daughter who will one day say, “I can”, in her footsteps.