My best friend died last year, today. I have lost friends to kayaking before; Jeff West, Stephen Forster, just to name a couple. But, I have never lost my best friend.
|Enjoying the Idaho sun.|
It took me a long time to get close to Shannon. For a year, she told her parents she would make me be her friend, she would ask Snowy to tell me to hang out with her.
I'm not very good at having female friends. I'm competitive, protective, and I like having all of the attention. I finally gave in. Shannon started coming over to our house, her infectious attitude always made people laugh and smile, we (and Caroline Moon) started going to yoga together a couple of times a week. I remember one class we made Jay Mahan come with us, we giggled the whole session. Always pushing each other over, making farting noises, doing arm balances after class. We were like two peas in a pod.
|On the Bechtals front porch, best swing ever!|
In the spring of 2013, I was asked to go on a Backcountry Babes trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon with Canyons Rafting out of McCall Idaho. I of course said yes. I was then told I could bring a friend with me. It took me a little, but I decided to ask Shannon to come with. It was the best decision I have ever made, every day since then I smile when I think about how excited she was to go on the trip. I was happy to be able to give her the chance to go.
|The takeout to the Middle Fork of the Salmon.|
Shannon taught me a lot in those 2 short weeks in Idaho; an infectious smile gets you anything, find happiness even in the smallest of things, and always look to the future without fear.
When we got back from Idaho, it was back to the daily grind. I was training really hard for the Freestyle Worlds at the NOC being held in September, I was working, and so was Shannon. We got busy for the next few weeks. She really wanted me to come to the Great Falls Race with her. I was in the midst of having some massive breakthroughs in freestyle so I decided to stay back, I regret that decision every day.
|The girl with no belly button lives.|
I think about if things would have been different if I was at Great Falls, one year ago today.
|Where we belonged, on the river together.|
She stopped by the house when we were eating dinner one night, my friend Josh Chambers was there. Shannon came bursting into the house, started laughing and smiling and saying that she was off to the Potomac for the weekend. She was so excited. I wish I would have known that was the last time I was going to see her.
|What I woke up to every morning for 2 amazing weeks.|
On July 11 2013, I woke up at the NOC like another normal day. I paddled in the morning then mid day I was at Slow Joes with Claire O'hara doing a blog post. I got a pretty frantic message from Anna Levesque telling me to call Patricia Beaks and it was about Shannon. My life changed forever in the next few moments. I was told that Shannon was missing and presumed dead. Patricia was asking for Shannons' parents contacts. I only knew they lived in Andrews, NC, right up the road.
|Ah, jet setting.|
I had so many thoughts go through my head. I was alone in a place where I grew up and knew everyone. I just wanted to disappear from the world and pretend it didn't happen. I of course called Snowy, who had already heard the news and he told me to stay at the NOC because I should not be driving. I wanted to go home so bad. I wanted to be held by the man I love and grieve the loss of our friend together. I knew it was a bad idea to drive though.
|Besties for good.|
The next days were a whirlwind. I found Shannons' parents and met them for the first time on July 12. I felt like I already knew them and they already knew me also. I met her twin brother, whom has the same infectious smile, I could not stop staring. Her older brother was like a teddy bear to hold, when he hugged me I felt like everything would be ok. Her family is the most amazing family I have ever met.
|Smallest plane ever!! That poor pilot.|
|We rock at fishing.|
Things started coming together, Snowy and I had to fly to DC to get the Dagger van with Shannons things in it, her family was going to fly up for the weekend, it was all a blur though. I told Snowy "If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything." Snowy had lost a friend and collegue. I lost one of the few people who broke through my hard outer shell and saw me for who I was.
|But, not golf.|
In the month after Shannons death, I was a wreck. But, only on the inside. I kept as busy as I could, I was on a different plane every week, going places, doing things. I never sat still. I cried a lot, but no one saw it. I heard from people with condolences and their thoughts on Shannon.
|Shannon was good at everything. :-)|
I lost a part of me that will never come back. As I write this, one year later, I have changed, and grown, a lot. I don't want to run class 5 anymore, I don't want to be scared all of the time. Doing the Grand Prix this year was something I wanted to do to tell myself that it's going to be ok, and I knew that Shannon really wanted me to do it.
|Driving on the golf course.|
Shannon is with me every day, when I am at work, at school, at home, on the river. Losing her made me rethink my priorities a lot. It also has made me love more powerfully.
|Living the dream.|
|Looking to the future, without fear.|
I am typing this from the information center in Sort, Spain. I am here for the final Freestyle World Cup. I compete in an hour and a half. Today, I compete for Shannon. Today, I find happiness in the small things and I have no fear of the future. Today, I smile at everyone.
Rest in Peace my best friend.