Thursday, July 10, 2008

Raging River Lonely Trail

I love this world you made us
And I love the rivers too

It was billed as the trip of a lifetime, and it was. Maybe it was even life-altering. It was certainly momentous.

Eight days of white-water rafting down the Colorado River where it flows through the Grand Canyon with 12 of my college roommates and their friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen in decades, and 16 others. One person died. Nine others quit the trip. Four veteran boatmen took us 18 survivors 240 miles to the end. Thanks Travis, Lindsay, Julie and Kelly. Our faith in you was well-placed. (Right: Andy watches as Travis’ boat falls into a raging cauldron in a rapids and momentarily disappears from sight.)

I have posted eight entries about the trip. That’s enough. The most memorable time was the hour we spent trying to save the group member who died of an apparent heart attack on the fourth day. We gave it our best shot, and afforded the decedent her best chance to live. Everyone performed magnificently. It didn’t work out.

I see your walls and canyons
And I feel you very near

(Left: Our fellow traveler's final resting site.) I wish it had been different, and to her family, I’m so sorry. Thanks to everyone who tried so hard. Travis who got the chopper coming and then positively supercharged the rescue attempt with his commanding CPR. Julie whose strong presence was ubiquitous in the rescue attempt. Lindsay whose outstanding capability maintained the airway. Dennis whom I have already spoken about. Mary who took her turn performing compressions. Beth who immediately raised the alarm and got swift first-responder help. Harrie who counted out the compressions aloud for us. Whoever it was that kept wiping the torrent of sweat off my brow with a cool wet rag as I worked. The people who helped land the chopper and secure the campsite from its backwash. The chopper crew. (Just two days later a helicopter coming out of the Grand Canyon on a rescue mission collided with another rescue helicopter and everyone died.) The persons who took care of the family members during their time of bereavement. You all know who you are and what help you were. God bless you all.

Travis came up to me at the end and shook my hand. That’s all. That means the world to me, to earn a measure of respect from a man like Travis.

(Right: This person is already fading into the spectral images of the past, the little boy happy with his strong father, the fast high school athlete getting through boarding school, the quietly confident young man making it in the world, the capable State Patrolman managing every perilous situation, the loving father imbuing his sons with manliness, the athletic runner gracefully traveling down life's paths.) Going down the Grand Canyon, the first four days were spent glorying in the stunning exposition of what the Lord gives to us. The last four days were spent reflecting upon the startling finality of what the Lord takes from us.

I may not be like your other children
But I feel very close to you.
Boatman's Prayer by Vaughn Short


Sunshine said...

Powerful stuff, Peter!
Thanks for all the engaging stories.
Congratulations on being such an important part of the group.
Whatever trips are ahead of you, this was certainly a trip of a lifetime.

jeanne said...

sitting at work reading this, crying.

DawnB said...

oh Peter, my heart goes out to all

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

somehow reading this, the hymn "It is well with my soul" comes to mind. Interesting that it starts by referencing peace like a river.

"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul."

akshaye said...

Peter.. your story is a powerful reminder of everything that's in our lives - good and bad.

You guys did great, I wish it had turned out differently. My thoughts are with all of you who were a part of this.

Don said...

You have been all of those people, Peter. Did the river experience open a window to become yet another?

Michelle said...

Wow, what a trip. Very well done. What company was the trip with?

BTW, I found your blog by way of Lisa Slow & Steady.

Jade Lady said...

What a trip! I'm so sorry to hear about this person dying on the trip. When I read the beginning of this post, I had to re-read as it caught me completely offguard.

CewTwo said...

Peter, I am linking to your blog in my latest article. Other people need to share your story. It has moved me and I wasn't there. Thank you so very much for sharing!


Just12Finish said...

So sorry to read the news Peter.

Sunshine said...

Your account of your Colorado River adventure is too good to be missed... I finally got around to adding a link to it at the end of my post today.
Hope you don't take too much time off from posting....

Dori said...

What an amazing experience, Peter. It was an adventure in every sense of the word and you were up to the task. I have even more respect for you.

skoshi said...

Hi Peter,
Just catching up on your posts, checking in to make sure you're OK. It sounds like a wonderful trip--going with 12 college roommates. And life altering for the experiences that are a part of you now. I would guess that you see some parts of life differently now. Thank you for sharing.