A couple of months ago, our family received the following letter from Jessi, Dave’s buddy on the Impact Phase. As you can see from Dave’s solitary journal entry below, she was the UK cutie he mentions. She gave us permission to post her letter on the website.
“…We have a pretty solid group of guys, and to my surprise, about 5 young ladies. We were all paired off w/t designated buddies. Mine, an 18yr old cutie from the UK. Go figure? She seems pretty cool, but we’re obviously just getting to know each other…”
Here is the letter she sent:
I only knew Dave for forty eight hours, and yet he has affected my life completely. I have some memories and moments that I’d like to share that might give you a clearer impression of his last few days.
He was the first person I talked to that morning in Provo, cracking jokes as we paid for our stay in the Travelodge, letting me go in front of him in the queue. I was nervous about meeting the group, and he made me relax and laugh as we grabbed as much food as we could carry from the breakfast buffet. Part of the preparation before heading into the field was plaing games to get to know each other, and getting paired into buddies. I was lucky enough to get Dave as my buddy and we helped each other get our gear sorted.
We walked into the desert as the sun went down, chatting as we went, full of energy, picking our way across the incredible rock formations before finally picking a spot to sleep. We all wandered our separate ways to find our own sheltered spots and settle down for the night.
The next morning Dave helped me sew a button back on my shirt, (he had very practically brought a sewing kit) and we laughed about how he had tried to cover as much of himself as possible with a trash bag to keep the heat in!
We began our hike at dawn, a beautiful golden moonscape ahead of us. We took our morning drink in a stream, all in high spirits, getting to know each other. However, I was the least experienced of the group and had breathing difficulties early on in the day. Dave stayed at the back with me, always with an encouraging word and a smile. He told me about his time in the Marshall Islands and how he would love to go to China some day, see the Great Wall. He had so many good stories and a great sense of humour, even when it got tough.
We would stop for breaks in the shade and talk about the wildlife and plants around us, picking up samples of different kinds of pine and sage and learning their properties. It was a beautiful morning, taking in the richness of our surroundings.
When he began to weaken also, we stuck together, taking it step by step, encouraging each other, pulling ourselves up and onwards. There wasn’t much energy for talking by then, but I drew so much strength from his presence. I cannot even begin to thank him for how he supported me that day, and I know other students feel the same. We were both so caught up in our own struggle, yet we always were aware of each other. That’s really what a buddy is all about.
Towards the end of the hike, we walked together and supported each other till he needed a rest. When we had momentum, we would always keep walking knowing that the other would catch up. I moved on leaving Dave with one of the instructors who always were with us, thinking I’d see him in five minutes or so. Then I heard a shout that we had found water, and I was told to head to the canyon to find the rest of the group. Dave didn’t come down. I waited and waited, and then I realised something couldn’t be right, and the instructors were called up to where he was.
Later we were told that Dave had passed away. I was in utter shock. How could that kind strong, patient, funny man be gone? How was he not there, a step behind me? I was devastated. We all were.
I could not sleep that night, my mind could not rest. Something so precious had been wrenched away from us. I sat by the stream on a sand dune, looking up to where Dave rested in a peaceful sage grove, a small light flashing next to him. I thought about every word he had spoken, every kind deed, I thought about you, his family, his friends, the life he had left behind. I looked up, and a silent lightening storm cracked across the black sky, illuminating the red rock walls. It was a pure force of nature, and I have never seen anything so beautiful or so terrible. It felt right that the landscape was reacting to what had happened.
I couldn’t bear not having said good-bye, and I can only imagine how you must all be feeling. He was a rock, incredibly solid and genuinely good human being. I treasure those days that I spent with im and will never forget his companionship. I was one of the students who stayed on for the rest of the course as I felt I needed the time in the desert to contemplate and recover from that day.
We six remaining students and our instructors revisited the sage grove where he had lain several days later, and the cave where we spent the night. A small rock cairn was piled up and sage and flowers placed in respect and honour of Dave. It is a place of such sadness and beauty that is etched in my mind forever. I know he loved to be out in the wild, and most of all it is a place of great peace.
The next month in the desert was very important for me, and Dave was very much in my thoughts throughout. I learnt not to fear the desert, the wild and many other things that day had brought out in me. The more I relaxed in nature the more at peace I felt about what had happened.
Returning home to England was a big readjustment and I had to give myself time for it all to truly sink in. I told my mother what happened and some days later she told me that while meditating she had thought of Dave and wished him well. Without hearing actual words, she felt a response to tell me that what I had done was exactly right, and he was well and that is important to tell me this. When I heard this a wave of emotion overcame me as I realised I had been carrying some kind of guilt and uncertainty about that day, about leaving him behind and then continuing the course. Hearing this message really helped me, especially to hear he was alright, and I hope you find some comfort in this too.
I can’t even imagine what the past several months has been like for you and what a shock it must have been when you received the news. Even though Dave was with people he hadn’t know for long, he was never alone, and was supported and very much liked from the start. I know that I will never forget Dave and the many things he taught me in life and in death, and I am forever grateful to him for this. He helped me that day more than you can imagine, and I will always thinks of him as an incredibly generous and strong soul.
As I was Dave’s buddy I spent more time with him than some of the others, so if you have any question about anything it would be my honour to write you more. My thoughts are with you and Dave and I hope this letter is helpful and find you well.