I couldn’t be in crowds or around large groups of happy people. My friend said, “Fake it till you make it — smile until the smile is real.” So I did. I spoke with mediums. Some great, some fraudulent. Loved the ones with the “Grieving Mother” rates; higher than normal. I believe Karma will take care of those people. I read endless books on death and souls. The most helpful being, “Journey of Souls.” I found that helping others made me feel better. A cliché, but it actually helped. Even down to posting encouraging comments on people’s FB posts felt good. While hiking with the dogs one morning I literally felt like I wasn’t attached to the earth. It felt like I was existing on the planet, but not living. I knew down deep that I couldn’t live like that for another 30 years. I decided then that I wanted to live and not just exist. I wanted to be around a large group of happy people at a concert. I signed up for a 150-mile running race across Sri Lanka (funny enough, a former Sri Lankan military captain ran by my side for four days ... just because. His name, John...). I signed up to climb Mt. Blanc. I agreed to go to Cambodia to take some girls in an orphanage shopping. I signed on to climb Mt. Everest again. I was no longer afraid of sharks or flying. I had nothing to lose if I died. In that, I started to live again. I wanted to live every minute to its fullest. Just as my son did.

The day came when I could finally move from the basement and sleep upstairs. The painters moved my bed into my bedroom and I was back into the light. That was the first night I had a dream about Johnny since getting back to Park City. It was an awesome dream. Little by little I came back to the living. I found out who my real friends were and had very little patience for the ones who drained me. Hearing someone complain for hours that they had to take their son to a routine doctor’s appointment wasn’t a friend I needed at that time. What’s not important in life gets paired down. And that’s ok. People were not understanding why I wasn’t seeing a therapist or on any anti-depressants. They didn’t understand that I didn’t want to spend money talking to someone who probably hadn’t lost a child. I didn’t want to go to any grief support groups as I didn’t want to be around really sad or depressed people.

I was trying to climb out of the crevasse, not stay in it. I didn’t want to take any meds, because I felt that I would have to stop them one day and then have to deal with the true feelings all over again. I also had two amazing children who were alive and needed their mother. Their lives were just as important to me as Johnny’s. If I had done something harmful to myself, what would that have said to them? That their lives weren’t as important and meaningful to me? My girlfriends, dogs, and the cold air of the mountains were the best therapy for ME. And that’s my point; everyone grieves in their own way and it is all ok. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, whatever you do, is OK.

Little by little, I started focusing more on my son’s beautiful, adventurous, amazing life, than on his tragic death. I visited the mountain he jumped from and died on. My first and last three words upon seeing for the first and last time, Mt. Gitschen, were the same. Starts with an F. And it felt good to say it. I went paragliding (to get any sort of glimpse into what he felt while flying) and was, thankfully, a bit bored and nauseous. I also did the unthinkable; I watched in-person someone wingsuiting. As the two young men flew past me at incredible speed, I finally understood my son’s passion. The power was undeniable. I could feel it through my bones. My son could fly. Literally fly. I burst into tears and yet was relieved to finally understand what he did and why he couldn’t stop; my son could fly like an eagle.

Johnny sends so many signs to me that I am so grateful for and I appreciate and acknowledge them. He is still a part of me and a part of my world. I just don’t see him. I AM the mother of a son. When people ask how many kids I have, I answer, “three.” It is still hard to look at the nighttime sky when it is full of stars as I start questioning where in the world he is. There are still mornings when I wake up incredibly sad, but I choose every day to go outside with the dogs or my mountain bike, and live.

With the help of my friends, those women ‘on my rope’ and my animals, I have been pulled out and climbed out, of that crevasse, one crampon point at a time. I will forever be on the ice, but it is now a strong, thick, solid ice with a stable foundation.

One of Johnny’s gifts to me was in the form of an incredible man. The signs Johnny kept sending me, to let me know THIS was the guy, started to become comical. Where I literally said, “Ok Johnny, I get it.”

Life is meant for the living...