Liz, Tania and I were sitting around a small table in a restaurant in Marpha, Nepal. We had only met about 10 days ago and now, just a couple of days prior, we had walked through Thorong La pass (on the Annapurna circuit) together. We were all feeling a bit of accomplishment (as well as relief that we hadn't gotten acute mountain sickness [AMS] and had to turn back).

So here we were waiting for dinner, getting to know each other better, telling stories, and somehow our words came to rest on these stories.

I told the story of a boy I knew in middle school. How one weekend he went to the beach with his family and his best friend. This boy and his friend had been digging holes in the sand — you know, digging until you hit water. To make it easier, his friend had gone back to the house to get a shovel. Upon returning a few minutes later, he found his best friend dead. The hole he had been digging collapsed — suffocating him.

The kids at school found out on Monday morning. I thought about this boy, who had to wrest his friend from the sand. Who had to decide whether to run back to the house for help or to try and carry his friend back. Of his teary calls for help on an empty grey beach.

Tania told a story about a girl at her school (whatever they call high school in England). She said that while she knew the girl, had seen her in the halls and such, they weren't friends. Not that they didn't like each other, just that they didn't run in the same circles. Anyway, along comes a three day weekend and the girl and her three friends spend it together. They book two double rooms in a hotel on the coast that sits across the road from the ocean. It's the first night; they've gotten all checked in; they're dressed up to go out for dinner — nice dresses, a pretty necklace, heels. They're ready to go and, as they've all done a couple of times by now, the girl hops from her balcony to the others. Only this time she's not wearing runners. In her heels, she loses her footing and falls. The rooms are on the fourth floor.

And I think about three best friends in high school. On the cusp of adulthood, where dressing up and going out on your own are still new and full of laughter. And I think about them looking down from the railing on their balcony. And in those seconds before their first scream, everything in their world changed. And I can imagine that helpless feeling of

"...but everything was perfect just a few seconds ago..."

Liz told the story of her little sister's best friend. Her sister had been walking home with her best friend. Along the way were stumps from large recently felled trees. The friend was going along jumping up on the stumps, jumping off, walking to the next one. At her street Liz's sister said goodbye and headed home. The friend said goodbye and continued on her way... jump up, jump down, walk to the next one...

Liz was at home when they received the news — the little girl had slipped and come down on one of those vertical stump fins. She was dead.

Liz said she will never forget her little sister crying, trying to understand or perhaps to explain how this couldn't be, saying the words

"...but she said 'see you tommorrow'!..."

I don't think that I'm afraid of my own death, but it stories like these that scare the hell outta me.

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