Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us!

Timmy is funny, sure, but he’s also heartfelt, quite astute in his observations about human behavior, self-reflective, and clearly lives his life according to a set of values he’s considered very carefully. He’s super loyal to those he loves, and is quick to serve even those he doesn’t know personally (yet).

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[Photo (c) Dean Fidelman]

As excited as I am about how the entire podcast turned out, I was crushed that we had to cut out (so many technical difficulties, argh) the entire portion of the conversation where I had asked him about José, and how we might generally honor the dead, a question I’d been waiting to ask since I read these words:

The first of us to disappear, ahead of the curve even in death, I am sure he would want his absence to illuminate our presence and further dare us to have no fear and live as wildly as possible, now.

***

And then, a most horrifying tragedy: the Ghost Ship fire struck, leaving 36 more dead in the place where they gathered in Oakland for one more opportunity to connect through music and dancing.

Yet again, that question comes up: how can we honor the friends who are no longer with us, that ever-growing list that now includes Amanda and Johnny?

Since I can’t share the actual conversation Timmy and I had (serves me right for thinking that somehow publishing it would put this topic to rest for me), I’ve shared his tribute to José in full below.

Thanks, Timmy, for reminding us what José was teaching; this may ultimately be the same lesson that Amanda and Johnny brought before the fire, and do now still in their absence (and I paraphrase Timmy): do not confuse “you are here” with “this is you,” and remember that dancing with joyous abandon is another language with which to shout to the world, “don’t rob yourself of the now.”

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