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The last to touch him
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I missed his birth by a month, but he was there when I gave birth to my daughter. He was 2 and cried that it was hurting me. I loved him and he loved me. He was always in our lives. He lived in the gypsy wagon with his dad across the field in our commune, until they moved to Albuquerque to live in a bus while his dad went to school. They came for holidays. My daughter loved him, more like a brother than a cousin. The only time he was “too cool” for Lina was when he was a teenager. Short lived as he started visiting us in Santa Fe on his own. An adventurer at heart, he found his love in the Pacific Northwest mountains and ocean. Kind of a sketchy guy, he neglected to fix his headlamps and instead went down the backroads while driving at night. His houseboat was an electrician’s nightmare, with a carpet covering wires. He loved boats. His first sailboat was paid for with a gigantic check for $10,000 and balloons that showed up at my mom’s house, a drawing he won. Even though he owed that much in student loans, he bought the boat. My brother had a friend that bought a large boat to sail around the world. They invited Mike and Lina but the engine broke and they floated in the shipping lanes until finally embarking in Neah Bay. I have always loved Mike for saving my daughter, by not letting her back on the boat. He loved gardening and used an old dingy, tied up to his boat where he grew tomatoes. When Lina graduated high school, she, Mike and a couple of cousins lived with my brother in Seattle. My daughter moved to Seattle with her new husband and became inseparable from Mike. They lived together again. He fell in love with Lina’s sister in law. He fell more in love with kayaking and swimming with sharks. Every birthday would be a new adventure in another country. Helicopter skiing became a new joy! Having climbed Mt Rainier, skiing the mountain became his goal. He skied all the mountains nearby and the base of Mt. Rainier to prepare. He had wilderness training, bought a GPS and beacon and always wore 90 ft of rope, an ice axe and a helmet. Finally, he and his two friends hiked up and when the sun rose, they started to ski down in tandem. The two had come down around a batch of trees and were waiting for Mike, but no sign of him. When they hiked up, they saw Mike’s ski pole on the edge of a crevasse and slipping tracks on the edge, but no body. Colin built a snow anchor and Ryan repelled down his 90 ft of rope, but no sign of Mike. The search and rescue finally found him 250 feet down. His body was retrieved, which was a miracle in itself. So many are buried under the snow of Mt. Rainier, bodies undiscovered. He was taken to the mortuary and set out for a viewing. We were surprised. How could his body be intact enough to see? Everyone has a different experience with death and dead bodies. My daughter and son-in-law could not go to the viewing. His brothers went together. I wanted to see him, to really see him, and to touch him. He was covered very tastefully. His left face was clear and his mouth looked calm and peaceful. I removed the cloth from the other side to see the bruising there. I wanted to see his body, but the bag was tied at the neck. I touched his face, cold and unlike him. But, I knew he was gone. I needed to know. His clothes and boots were given to my son in law, who attempted to clean out the blood, but there was so much. Mike and I shared gardening, so he put the clothes on a ladder above my tomato patch and washed them with the hose. My garden is embedded with Mike. I may have been the last to touch him, but he is still touching my garden.

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