“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” – Audrey Hepburn
I lost two beautiful friends to the mountains a few weeks ago. Catherine Nix and Tyler Strandberg, young lives ignited with an adventurous, determined spirit. At 26, I’ve never lost a friend. It shouldn’t happen so young. The waves of emotion are incomprehensible. Life begins to seem more real. More fragile. Less forgiving. We are not invincible.
Conceptualizing the fact that these two girls are no longer here is surreal. Thinking about it causes me to react in the same way as if thinking about death in general. I close my eyes, shake out the thought, and try to forget about it. While avoiding the thought of death is a temporary relief, it’s unsustainable. Death is undoubtedly my biggest fear. I revere those who can accept it.
Nix was different. There was always something about her I couldn’t quite put my finger on whether her calmness, composure, stoicism, or hilarious sarcasm. She was wise, but youthful. She defined real. Nix told you as it was. At 5ft tall on a good day, Nix had the personality and confidence of a LeBron. I met her early on in my move to Jackson, WY; we ran in the same crowd, but it wasn’t until a few months before her tragic death that we grew close. I was so excited for this newfound friendship. Nix guided me to the summit of a peak in the Tetons called St. John’s. A baby of a hike compared to those she spent all summer summiting. Every move, Nix was there for encouragement, every question she answered calmly, but confidently. She was that teacher you’ll always remember. In that moment I felt a proudness for Nix, one I don’t think I’ve ever felt for a friend. I remember I couldn’t stop smiling, and that smile returns now. It’s rare to find a friend who is both a goofy contemporary, and confident leader –not just by example. Small but mighty, Nix commanded unassumingly, which in itself sounds like an oxymoron. That day in the Tetons taught me what to look for in any outdoor adventuring partner. Nix would be my girl.
I’m so thankful for those recent experiences with the incredible Catherine Nix. Not only that climb, but the next day Nix helped me bake and package granola, and label bags. I joked with Nix that none of our friends had ever done that before, and that of course it was she who came to the granola rescue. The mountains command a certain respect. A respect that, like the inconceivable loss of friends, is hard to conceptualize until you’re standing face to face with it. Whenever I look out on the Tetons, I think of Nix. I think of what it means to be a loyal friend, even better person, and inspiring leader. Thank you, Catherine Nix, for teaching me what it means to be great.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young