Oh, I can still feel the strain of my first climb in every muscle. The first time gave me a confidence I had never known before. I had finally finished something. I had done something hard and conquered. From that point on climbing became a symbol of everything great to me. I just did not anticipate that it would be the symbol of the death of me as well. The thought had crossed my mind to get some life insurance to provide for my kids when I was gone. Since their mother had died I felt a greater responsibility to set things in order in case anything were to happen to me, but I guess I was just too scared of the thought of them being without both parents that I never did anything about it. Here is my story.

It seemed so dangerous, but I had some friends who invited me to join them one day after school. They had been rock climbing ever since their sophomore years. Now, as seniors they had accumulated quite a bit of experience. I watched a couple climb and was getting pretty comfortable just watching. I enjoyed seeing how my friends determined which hold to reach for next and the calculated moves they made so as to waste no energy.

It was in this moment of comfort that my buddy James pointed and said, “You’re up Valdez.” It did not register at first. I understood the words, but for some reason I did not gather that it meant I was going to scale that cliff with nothing but a rope and my trust in that friend between me and the ground. When he came towards me and clipped the carabineer to my harness it sunk in and all of a sudden I was not so sure that joining them that day was the best idea I had ever had.

But you know how it goes, the cool kids poke and tease a bit and then the kids that want to be cool too cave in and perform the prescribed rite of passage. This is how it went. I approached the wall and quite outside my regular faculties I took to the wall. The first five feet were not too bad, but it was after that when things got hard and really sunk in. I was stuck and needed help. The kind of help offered by my friend below was not the kind I was looking for. He just chuckled, told me to get going and soon started to pull on the rope.

After every muscle in my body quivered and gave out I fell from my spot and soon realized that my fear of falling was gone. I was now more afraid of giving in. So I got back on the wall and slowly scaled the rest of the way up. You see, that moment up top is what spurred on my lifelong obsession with the sport.

Well, it happened on my hundredth climb. I took some special friends to celebrate the occasion along with my oldest boy. It was the first climb of the day and I was using my lucky rope. Turns out, the rope was only lucky when it was not falling apart. I meant to get a new rope after this climb, but fate had it otherwise. About three quarters up I felt a sharp jolt in the rope as I sat off the cliff to regain strength. The jolt was followed by a snap and the last thing I remember was crying out to my boy.

I him and my two other kids in just the situation I fear most, parentless and without funds to provide for their needs. It would have been so easy to get some life insurance, but I let fear hold me back.

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