In 2010, he had been one of the guides who helped me climb Thunder Mountain in Sedona for my 50th birthday. We climbed it from the South side (I’ve since learned that there are shorter, less treacherous ways to climb the mountain). I’d made two attempts prior to that day, and had to stop half way up because of my fear of heights. It's a 1,000 foot climb, with some treacherous twists and turns and a few places where I had to hoist myself up onto rocks. Although we started our hike (with my brother, and my then-boyfriend, Don) around 5:30am, the temperature that day soared, and my brother and I had soon drained the eight bottles of water that were carried for the four of us. We knew we were in a bad way as we descended the mountain. Doug and Don were seasoned hikers, and in fantastic shape. They only needed a few sips of water. My brother and I were dragging so badly, I thought I would faint as we maneuvered (often on hands and knees) the long trek through the arroyo at the base of the mountain. Doug’s quick wit and ability to chatter kept me lucid and moving. I was so dehydrated that I drank no less than eight 16 ounce glasses of water within an hour or two when we got back home.
I reminisced about this as I waited for Doug to meet me. The weather was strangely dark and stormy, and there was hail on what usually would be a hot July day. We were seated in a corner booth, and I handed him my paperwork which he quickly pushed aside as we chatted about all kinds of things, spiritual and otherwise. He was such a kind and sensitive soul, and as I was no longer with Don, I could sense I was developing feelings for Doug. Towards the end of our visit, he suddenly reached over and cupped his hand over mine as he made a point about something that I don’t even remember.
It was that touch that I remember to this day. It wasn’t an attempt to hold my hand. It was a simple, soft touch that conveyed so much. It was so brief, so healing, so loving (in a non-sexual way), and the warmth, sincerity and peace that I felt in that moment is something I have never forgotten. Whenever I think of it, I can still feel it, as if it just happened.
Soon after, we left the restaurant, and the wind was howling so loudly we could hardly hear our goodbyes.
Unbeknownst to me until a week later, when the weather warmed up, Doug went on his 1,300+ hike up Thunder Mountain, and passed away.
I can't see him, but I know he is with me. Doug lead me, like God, around twists and turns, helped me scale unfathomable heights, and stayed at my side when I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. He then left me with a gift that I will always remember. That touch. Not just a touch, but a soft, yet lingering touch that filled my heart with the knowing that I was truly loved by him. Just as God has done for me.
Enough to sustain me for the rest of my life.