Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Life is too Short

Photo: Mount Rainier by Craig Tuttle
Yesterday I came home to find freezer door open and the compartment was so iced up that it was refusing to close.  I spent three hours doing a job that was long overdue.  On the other side of the world a man and a little girl had their own more pressing issues.  They'd lost their partner and mum after she'd battled long and hard with Motor Neurone Disease, ALS as it's known in other parts of the world.  My friend Lori Salzarulo who lived in Seattle passed away. She was just fifty three.

I first met Lori when she accompanied John and Julie Eidson, my friends from Seattle to meet us on our first momentous trip to Yellowstone during the millennium celebrations.  Hikes around Mount Rainier and Mont Blanc were followed by a meet up in Corsica.  Lori and her then new partner John walked the whole of the grueling GR 20 in Corsica whilst Mr Lovelygrey and I aborted after the second day and had a more relaxing holiday.  Having the bairn put more adventurous travel on hold for a while.  The last time I saw Lori was after our Yellowstone trip in 2011 when we spent a night at her home before travelling back to England.  Her illness had taken quite a hold by then.  She was in a wheelchair for much of the time, had to rest in bed frequently and her swallowing mechanism was starting to fail.   But we had a fun evening with old, dear friends.  I had hoped that I'd be able to return for a final time to say goodbye but it was not to be.

Lori was a lawyer, a brilliant fun friend, much loved partner of John and latterly Mum to Ava who the couple adopted.    She worked and played super hard.   On our last meeting she could no longer work but was campaigning in the field of ALS research.  She opened my eyes around the ethics of drug development and the reluctance of commercial companies to undertake research for rarer diseases where the market for their products is limited.

My work brings me into contact more than most with people who's lives are ended prematurely by degenerative disease but I'm normally wrapped in a protective bubble against the emotional effects of this.  I need to remain distant to keep going.  But Lori's death has hit me hard.  I found myself weeping last night and my dear boy cuddled me and made hot chocolate.  It's not a bad thing that he knows that grown ups are allowed to be sad sometimes.    Lori was one of the most health conscious individuals that I have ever known but looking after herself was not enough to stave off serious illness.  Yet her shortened life was stuffed full of purpose and meaning.

So what's the moral of this story.  It just has to be about  living a full and meaningful life in the present.   Yes, plan for the future but seize the mettle when you can.  You just don't know  what is round that next corner.

I'm in the Pyrenees next week and will drink a toast of something good and red to my dear departed friend in  the mountains, a landscape where I hold my fondest memories of her.   And in her honour I'll stump up some cash for Motor Neurone Disease research and for those expensive insoles that I've been putting off buying that will sort my feet out.  It's mean that I can return to long distance hiking again, a long neglected activity that ceased due to being too painful.  I think that it's a legacy that she might approve of.


  1. Thank you for that very important reminder. It's so easy to think, oh, I'll do it tomorrow, when today is the most important day of our lives

  2. Sorry to read your sad news, but glad that you can pull something positive out of it. Enjoy the hiking and the glass(es) of red in her name.

  3. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.I agree about allowing children to see that adults can be sad too. K came to my Dad's funeral. She was 6, coped with it admirably and I answered her questions honestly. You are raising a fine young man- well done to him for giving you a cuddle and making the hot chocolate.