Grieving A Friend Addicted To Highest Peaks
TJ Langley wished that he had been born a century prior, even if REI didn't exist back then.
Langley loved the outdoors and riding his bike around Seattle, but at his core, Langley was a climber. Five years ago, he died on a trip in the North Cascades.
Litsa Dremousis, who described Langley as her best friend, has written an e-book, "Altitude Sickness," about processing his death. She says that ideally there should be a support group for those who have lost a loved one to climbing.
“When you lose a loved one to climbing you realize you fall midpoint between those who have tragically lost their loved ones to suicide or those who lost their loved ones to an accident,” Dremousis said, speaking on KUOW’s The Record.
She would join such a group, with one caveat. “If anyone romanticized climbing or started spouting the phrase I am absolutely sick of – ‘At least they died doing what they loved’ – I reserve the right to get up and walk out of the room.”
Dremousis admitted that she and Langley, whom she called Neal, had very little in common – she an author with no interest in climbing. But, "We felt like home to one another.”
While he was alive, Dremousis would argue that climbing was a selfish activity. She said discussing it with him was akin to talking to an active heroin user or alcoholic – as soon as she touched on the subject of climbing, she got an excuse as to why it wasn’t as dangerous as it seems.
“The sentence I used repeatedly: ‘That no amount of experience or salience will trump avalanche or loose rock.’ And he would always say, ‘Well, I’m wearing my helmet,’” she said.
After Langley’s death, Dremousis found research that supported her position that the brains of avid climbers and addicts have similarities.
She said that now, five years since his death she doesn’t live in terror when she hears reports of climbers who are missing, because the worst has already happened to her. Instead, she has one piece of advice for their loved ones.
“Understand that should you choose to maintain the relationship, you love them enough to want them to lead the life that makes them the happiest. And if climbing makes them happiest, you have to accept that.”
Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.