I am not a person who cries easily.
Going back in my memories, in the last years, any tear i shed was caused by anger or frustration, and even these haven't been a common occurrance.
I can't say i don't cry because i am particularly strong or with granite-like feelings, i suppose it's rather a consequence of the fact that i haven't had that many reasons in my recent life to be overcome with pain and sorrow.
But a few days ago things changed.
Last week-end my aunt called me, she wanted to know if everything was all right, since my grandmother had heard of an accident on Jof Fuart (Julian Alps) that involved a person from my home town, and she was worried it might be me. I reassured her that everything was fine, and hoped nothing too serious had happened to the person who had the accident.
When i got home i looked for some more information and i discovered the unfortunate person had died after losing his ground on an exposed terrain.
I felt really sorry, especially because, unlike many other accidents (the death toll in the Alps last week-end was of nine people, if i am not mistaken), i had recently been in the area, and me and my friends had faced an experience that had made me think about the risks of climbing and the proximity of accidents in the mountains, right while we were overlooking Corsi Hut, the objective of the unfortunate man and his friend who fortunately was unharmed.
Though any tragedy has an effect on me, the fact that this accident had happened in that particular place made it more personal.
The day after, tuesday, just after lunch, i received a phone call from my mother.
It was David. He was the one that had died in that tragic accident.
Who David was to me
I can't say i knew him well, i certainly was not a close friend, and i knew very little about his current life, except that he had a wife, Alessandra, and three children. And not living in my home town, I didn't even know he had a passion for the mountains. From the outside one could think that we were simply two people who would say hi when meeting along the street.
But David was a volunteer in the church just in front of my home , and as a boy i would go there on saturday afternoons, with other kids from the area, and there he was, teaching us fun songs and making us play games. I distinctly remember him sitting on the corner of a table strumming a guitar and making us sing.
His partner in this activity was a young girl called Alessandra, who would later become his wife. I remember when they married.
Although, in a nutshell, this all i can say about what i know about David, i have always had wonderful thoughts and feelings connected with him, and even after years of me not being part of the community, living away and rarely coming back home, i considered it a given fact that in the Christmas period i would run into him in the square or on the street, and we would shake hands and ask if everything was going fine. The last time i saw him was six months ago, exactly in these circumstances that had become a tradition for me.
There is not much more to say. He was always smiling. He was a good person, and a symbol of my childhood. He was the “guy with the guitar” that i would have liked to be.
When a person you know dies in the mountains...As soon as i put the phone down, i started making coffee and went back to my computer. But as the minutes passed i started seeing moments i had forgotten, small fragments of those saturday afternoons, the words of the songs came back to mind, and i felt something heavy in my throat.
I just kept thinking of how everything could have happened so suddenly, of how beauty can turn into jagged teeth of stone, of how, i'm sure, they must have been smiling and happy getting off of the car and getting ready to start up the trail, feelings we all know so well.
I thought about his companion, who watched his slip away, i thought of the misery of being there, alive and knowing everything went for the worse. In just a handful of minutes so many terrible images crossed my mind.
All this happened to a person that had taken part in my life...
I had just enough time to go to my room, sit on the bed and think “How strange, i think i am going to cry”, i tried keeping it all in for a second or two, but it was too strong for me, and then i just let go, i couldn't stop the tears, i couldn't even wipe my eyes or sob. I was crying like little kids do when they are desperate. Quietly and heavily.
Yesterday i was at David's funeral. The church was full, there were people of all ages, and many were crying. It wasn't only my opinion, David was a good person, and everyone was there for this reason.
At the end of the ceremony as people moved aside to let the coffin pass, the choir sang “Signore delle Cime”. As the song ended the coffin stopped, he's friends (at least i think) had started singing “Stelutis Alpinis”. These are two of the most moving mountain songs in the Italian (and Furlan) tradition. It was beautiful and incredibly painful to hear them on such a sad occasion.
Then they took him away.
As i write i still feel the knot in my throat.
David is the first person i knew to die while enjoying this passion we all share. Maybe this makes me feel closer to him and his accident, maybe i am just saddend by a part of my childhood being ripped away so suddenly.
Maybe it is both.
For sure this passion is something that bonds people together. I feel that in many ways it has changed me and made me better, i hope. And i often feel we who love the barren rocks, the snow, and all that comes with them, are in a way brothers and sisters.
Our brother David left us, and i wanted to share this with all of you.
David, you will be missed.