It is with profound sadness that we share the news that Linda Bily passed away unexpectedly on May 2, 2022, after a long struggle with mental illness. Born in Dawson Creek June 17, 1965, she was 56 years old. She is predeceased by her father Chuck and survived by her husband John Baldwin, his children Steven and Rachel, her mother Marlene, brother Brent, half-brother Victor Anderson, and many cousins and friends. She also leaves behind her beloved dog Dudley.
Growing up in Calgary, Linda was ever active and excelled at a multitude of sports over the years including trampoline, skiing, gymnastics, riding horses, basketball, diving, baseball, snowboarding, cycling and mountain biking. She also loved ALL animals including her many pets growing up as well as the farm animals she befriended when visiting relatives across the prairies. As a young girl her love of photography developed while pouring over her geologist father’s photographs especially those taken during his trips to the Amazon. A National Geographic coffee table book on the same subject left an impression on young Linda, planting a dream based on her own travels that would be realized later in life.
She was an excellent student and graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Calgary. After working for the oil industry (like everyone in Calgary) she decided instead she wanted to become an environmental engineer. This eventually led her to Vancouver in 1994 and a career at Environment Canada. Her commitment, ability and leadership were valued by her work colleagues as was her wit and talent to turn the most boring work meeting or training session into an enjoyable and productive event.
Always curious about the world, she spent two years travelling around the globe to Southeast Asia, China, Australia, India, Turkey, and Africa. Upon returning to Vancouver, she found time for ultimate frisbee, mountain bike polo, ice hockey, and dragon boat racing all while bike commuting across the metro region. On weekends and holidays, she began to embrace wilderness pursuits especially hiking, backcountry skiing and sea kayaking. As she met more friends through the outdoors, longer and more ambitious adventures followed, including expeditions to the remote parts of the Coast Mountains and St Elias Mountains. Her early interest in photography and skill in storytelling gradually translated into a new life pursuit, as she began to publish stories and photos as well as give entertaining presentations to share her travels to these special places with a wider community.
It was inevitable that Linda would find her adventure soulmate and partner, with John. Their first date was a two-week kayak trip in Haida Gwaii, and they quickly became an inseparable duo. Their affection, deep connection, and profound love for each other was magic to witness and inspirational to many. Together they intertwined a huge community and continued to build a vast array of friendships and trip partners. Over the past two decades they have shared an extraordinary life of adventure, inspired many others to embark on their own adventures near and far, and built a legacy of environmental advocacy work. On foot and skis, they’ve explored countless high meadows and snow-covered peaks in British Columbia and further north, all while documenting their experiences with tens of thousands of photographic images.
Given both Linda’s and John’s talents for photography, writing and sharing, it was not surprising that the culmination of their many long ski mountaineering traverses and summer alpine trips is their co-authored book of stunning photos and thought-provoking essays: Soul of Wilderness- Mountain Journeys in Western BC and Alaska. It was an ambitious project and the proud achievement of a lifelong dream for Linda to publish this collection and so adeptly share the wild beauty she so deeply appreciated everywhere around her. As well as a talented photographer and writer Linda was also an excellent presenter. With John she gave numerous presentations to outdoor clubs in BC about their book. And as a solo act she was known to keep a packed theatre both spellbound with her photographs and story telling one moment and howling with laughter the next.
Linda was especially known for her deep love of the earth, innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge and new experiences. She adored winter and all that came with it – snow (especially deep pow), ice, and glaciers. She was a beautiful, smooth, technical skier – The “Bily Bomber”. She equally loved summer – with paddling, beach walks and hiking though mountain meadows full of colourful wildflowers. She was one never to pass up the opportunity for a skinny dip in an alpine tarn. She shared her enthusiasm for the outdoors by educating others about the environment and helping others to develop their skills – teaching kayaking and telemark skiing as just two of many examples – she was an inspiration and role model to many. Linda was generous and incredibly thoughtful, always willing to invest time and energy into her many relationships.
Linda delighted in having more time with her mom in recent years after she had moved from Dawson Creek to Vancouver. More gentle adventures around the city sustained her while she faced numerous health challenges. In the harder times, she confronted difficulties with incredible courage, inner strength, and fierce determination. Together with John and her many friends, she found joy in beach picnics, playing guitar on music nights, paddling in local waters, biking, swimming, multiple daily walks, and teaching Dudley a growing array of clever new tricks. She spent countless hours making heartfelt tribute books and photo collages for friends and family.
She was a huge dynamo in a little frame – smart, funny, athletic, strong, and determined. She could start a conversation with anyone and instantly form a connection. She showed boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm for life. Always dressed in bright colors, she was forever smiling, loved to be silly and to make people laugh. She has touched so many with her brilliant light and joyful heart.
“Being in the wilderness is about moving your soul over the landscape and using your imagination to connect with it through your heart” – Linda Bily
“It’s (the Switzerland sized snowfields of the Coast Mountains) like the Alps, but with no pastry shops” – Also, Linda Bily
There will be a celebration of life on June 17, Linda’s birthday, to honour a very loved and beautiful soul.
As were her wishes, Linda was cremated May 26, 2022.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to West Coast Environmental Law (https://www.wcwel.org) or the Pembina Institute (https://www.pembina.org).
Celebration of Life
A Celebration of Life for Linda Bily was held June 17, 2022.
The spoken words from the celebration of life are copied below:
Speakers were: Wendy Bily, John Baldwin, Brent Bily, Robyn Dell, Mary Hearnden, Peter Pare, Diana Diaconu, Rhiannon Johnson, Dora Calvori, Victor Anderson , Lisa Baile
Service for Linda Bily
June 17, 2022
Words of Welcome
As Lisa has said, I am Linda’s cousin, one of the many of Linda’s Bily family, all of whom join me in grieving Linda’s loss. I am also a retired U.C. minister and John has asked if I would help us thru this first part of our time together today remembering Linda, giving thanks for her life but also trying to cope with our many different feelings.
I’m glad we’ve come together because we can draw strength from each other in the sharing of our gratitude for her life and our deep sadness at her death.
I will have met some of you 11 years ago at Linda and John’s wedding, when we celebrated at the lodge in the Callaghan Valley. On that joyful occasion, they chose this passage from the Bible to be read—about love. Love is not only for weddings and marriage, but in all its complexity is the mystery that holds us together as community, even now in the face of death. So let me read that for us.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ...For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
I imagine that, like for me, the news of Linda’s death was a huge shock. A flood of different emotions came: ‘if onlys’ (why didn’t I make more of an effort to be in touch, did I do enough to help, to listen?), maybe some confusion, even anger, and deep sadness at the loss of her many gifts and her very presence.
Perhaps one day we will understand more about anxiety and depression; perhaps we will understand more of the complexity of the human spirit, and perhaps one day we will even understand the depths of the human soul.
How is it that someone with such a deep connection with the soul of wilderness (to quote a certain book!), with beauty, with animals and people, who loved deeply and was loved—how is it that the path forward could narrow so much that finally it led only to the relief of death? For today, with our limited understanding, it is a mystery and we are left with wilderness, beauty and love to comfort us.
I dipped back into Linda and John’s book, Soul of Wilderness, this week and put before you their thoughts and experience that soul is sacred and in my words ‘full of love’. That soul/ that love is infused through the universe. We experience it in a drop of water, or the vast expanse of a glacier, the soft fur of a beloved pet like Dudley, in the caress of a lover, time with a friend or beloved family.
Opening our eyes to that love is one of the gifts that Linda’s life offers us/ opening our hearts to that soul is one of the gifts she has given us. To honour her, to carry forward that soul love is a gift we, in turn, can offer each other.
[invite folks to stand/move to urn] Let us close this part of our time together with these words by the poet Kahlil Gibran in his book “The Prophet”. Let it be our blessing on Linda’s soul as she continues in our love:
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Peace be with you Linda. Amen.
Linda always said you should start a presentation with something funny. I must admit given the circumstances that it took me a while to
come up with something funny.
Since I’m going to show you some photos, I decided I should tell you the story behind one of the photos since it is not obvious when you see the photo.
You will recognize the photo because there are balloons and Linda is riding her bike wearing a pink panther costume. How many of you have ever ridden your bike wearing a pink panther costume?
The occasion behind the photo was the opening of the bike lane on Pt Grey Road in 2014. When Linda discovered that one of the events for opening day was a costume contest on your bike she was out the door in a flash wearing a fleece pink panther Halloween costume complete with tail that her mother had made for her when she was 10.
At 49 she could still get into the costume though you will see that it only comes to just below her knees now.
She was up against stiff competition from batman and fairy (the only other people in the contest). You can see fairy in the photograph. I’d say she was about 4. Batman was perhaps 5.
In the end the judges decided that Linda was the winner of the contest. So as not to upset batman or fairy they declared them winners and gave them each some candy and then quietly awarded the gift certificate for first prize to Linda.
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is to tell all of you what happened to Linda. Everyone literally said “I don’t know what to say.” And then, between tears, you would add, she was such a bright light, a beautiful soul.
Linda lived life to its fullest. She laughed, she loved, she cried. She loved life.
She wrote in an anniversary card to me that “Every day is a day to celebrate together.”
She was curious about everything. She revelled in the beauty around her. One friend remarked that by the time Linda was in her 20s she had experienced more than many do in an entire lifetime.
We all loved her. And there are no words to describe how much we will miss her. The line from a well-known Simon and Garfunkel song comes to mind:
“If I never loved, I never would have cried.”
I have put together photos of Linda that I would like to share with you. I’m sure you will notice that she is smiling and having fun in almost every photograph. Her joy was infectious and she touched us all.
Her last words to me were “I will love you forever”
And my reply to her now is the same: Linda, I will love you forever.
(Followed by 10 minute slideshow to music)
My Amazing Sister
Growing up as Linda’s big brother, we shared many new life experiences together. Many of these experiences would shape what Linda would enjoy and value in life, and ultimately become her passions in life.
In nearly every experience that both Linda and I tried out and enjoyed, Linda reached further, went higher and became more committed than I or most others. I’d like to share a few of these experiences and memories with you.
As kids, Linda and I loved to play in the snow!!
We’d make snow angels in freshly fallen snow and build snow forts and tunnels in the huge mounds of snow piled high by Dad shoveling the driveways of Dawson Creek, Edmonton and Calgary. We took our first ski lessons at Paskapoo, long before it became Olympic Park and shared our first family ski trips to Fortress mountain, SunShine and Lake Louise. Of course Linda’s passion for skiing went further than mine with her pursuit and adventures in backcountry skiing on her many winter wilderness mountain expeditions.
Linda and I love playing in the ocean!!
As kids we spent many family vacations in California, Mexico and Hawaii, on warm sunny beaches building sand castles, collection shells and swimming or snorkeling in the surf. She continued on to live next to the ocean, to do much sea kayaking and to travel to many oceans around the world.
These family trips also fostered our shared love of travel!
One of my most precious memories and adventures was when I traveled to Kenya, where I joined Linda for a safari on the Masi Mara, visited the Ngorongoro Crater and climbed Kilimanjaro. Of course my 2 week excursion paled in comparison to her nearly 2 year long expansive trek across much of Africa, India, Pakistan and Asia.
Linda and I love animals!!
As kids we had many pets including, but not limited to mice, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and a big fat tabby cat named Tiger. Again Linda’s love of animals continued and she went on to pursue equestrian riding and jumping a horse named Clipper, with whom she won many ribbons. She also recently adopted Dudley whom she loved very much.
Linda and I love the beauty of the mountains!!
There were also many family trips to Banff, the Columbia Icefeilds and Jasper and much of the Rockies. Linda’s passion for the mountains took her to hike and trek many of the most majestic mountain ranges around the world.
Linda and I both enjoy music!!
We both took piano lessons. This was fostered by Dad’s passion for playing the piano. Linda went on to take lessons on the drums and guitar and I learned that she continued to play the guitar.
These are just a handful of things we both loved and experienced together in our early years and had continued to enjoy in our own ways.
Perhaps most of all, Linda and I loved our family and friends. Mom and Dad took us on yearly road trips to visit family in BC and across the prairies. We got to know our aunts, uncles and many cousins on both sides of the family. Mom and Dad were great at keeping in contact with family by writing letters and having regular phone calls. Linda of course had actively maintained connections, something I aspire to.
Although I am her big brother, it is me that is looking up to her, and admiring her ever growing achievements in the many passions of her life.
As I reflect on all of the amazing memories together, it is only because of the love and dedication of our parents, Chuck and Marlene (or Maggie as she likes to be called now) and how they encouraged us to try out so many things and provided us the opportunities to do so. These experiences would foster many of Linda’s and mine lifelong passions.
I thank Mom and Dad for giving so much of themselves to Linda and I.
Thank you Mom.
Linda, I love you!
You will be greatly missed.
Thanks to you and Rachel for the ski and coming for dinner last night. There are so many more things I wanted to say this week, but the timing wasn't right.
Yesterday was a surreal day. It just felt like Linda was unable to join us for the day. I kept thinking of how much she would have loved the mini ski day. Linda is going to be on many people's minds as we go on doing the things that she loved to do- enjoying nature by skis or foot.
I have so many memories of Linda. We first met her at the BCMC 100th anniversary dinner. She bounced over to me with a big smile and introduced herself. She was so friendly.
She was truly inspiring. I admired her love of adventure and her seeming fearlessness heading out on some huge adventures e.g. her long ski and hiking traverses with you, her traverse of Baffin Island, Mt. Logan attempt, international travels and the list goes on. She was always so kind and non-judgmental towards me and my slower pace and much lesser experience.
She was a huge dynamo in a little form- smart, funny, athletic, strong and always easy to talk to. A real role model in the outdoor world. Linda truly had the best smile and laugh and was just so darn cute! We always laugh when we talk of the Bridge traverse and her wandering around taking photos at the different tarns while wearing her sunhat, fanny pack, yellow crocks and nothing else. Was there ever a tarn swim that Linda passed up?
She was always so kind and interested in what others were up to and always thoughtful. I loved her curious mind. She was always a seeker of more knowledge. I will miss hearing about her latest discoveries and interests and our conversations.
I especially remember her for her love and engagement with nature and her joy in sharing her experiences with others. Her love of the geography, the animals ( especially the bears!), and always snow, skiing and tarn swimming. All of this she seemed to best enjoy when spending it with you and anyone of her huge group of friends.
Most of all the love you two shared and your relationship defined her. I always picture you two curled up on the armchair or couch together at journeyman lodge or under a tarp sharing lunch on a snowy ski day. I am so sad for the both of you that there aren't more years ahead of those moments.
There are a lot of grieving people right now. I think we all wish there is something we could have done to help. I'm really sad that her suffering was so great.
It's still unfathomable what you must be feeling and the loss that you are experiencing. Linda was one of a kind and a very special person and the loss of her is profound.
We're thinking of you John and if ever you would like some people to join you for adventures or just a simple conversation, we're here to do so.
As Linda would say,
Linda is my birthday twin. We were born 2 days apart in 1965. While I was super lucky to spend lots of time skiing and hiking with Linda (and also John), it’s the swimming episodes I will remember best. We shared a love of the water.
Often, we’d meet up in the city for a dunk in the ocean or a swim at Kits pool. She’d bring her bright pink bathing cap and goggles so she could explore everything underwater. There was one warm evening we went for a picnic and swim when the tide was fairly low at Spanish Banks. We walked way out to get to deep enough water. She interacted with all the paddle boarders and kayakers floating by. Linda talked about that swim so many times afterwards – it just made her so happy.
Other times we’d walk down to Wreck beach and walk along the shore, or she’d invite me to go paddling at Jericho and we’d stop to swim out on the sand flats. She always brought along her colourful layers of clothing – jackets, shirts, and hats in pink, orange, red, yellow, purple and aqua blue. Sometimes she found things in various pockets that she had squirreled away. Linda often saved treats for later when we were on trips in the mountains, only to find them much later when they’d gone stale.
There are two types of people in the world, those who will jump in an alpine tarn no matter what the temperature, and all the others. Linda and John fall into the former category of course. My favourite memories are of tarn swimming together on summer trips. We’d eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to swim especially on hot days, even though some of these spots are filled with frigid glacial water. Our clothes would quickly be stripped off and we’d be hooting and splashing around with joy, floating on our backs, taking in the sky views, and the surrounding mountain and meadow scenery. . There was one trip in the Coq area where there was an ideal series of connecting pools. Our group was soon participating in the swimming Olympics, led of course by Linda. There was synchronized swimming and distance swim events.
I came across a quote recently by the English poet Lord Byron: To have joy, one must share it.
That’s what I will always remember, Linda’s joy in sharing life’s best moments. And for me that includes all the times we swam together.
Lisa and I had the privilege of doing four two weeklong summer traverses in the Coast Range Mountains with Linda and John. These magical trips spent with Linda in the mountains are highlights in our lives.
Linda was the most joyful and fun mountain companion.
Invariably our trips began with a stop at a thrift store on our route to the wilderness. The purpose of this stop was to select the most colourful silk apparel for the coming trip.
As you know Linda, besides being the most photogenic person in the known universe as you have just witnessed in John’s amazing slide show, was also an outstanding photographer and she liked to have a vibrant colourful foreground and we were the foreground.
So the first pictures of our trips were usually posed fashion statements outside the changing room of some thrift store on our route.
The four magical skyline traverses took us from Owikeeno Lake to Seymour Inlet, around the headwaters of the Kingcome river in search of the perfect tarn, from Toba Inlet to Jervis Inlet along the Powell divide, and from Jump Across Creek on Dean Channel to Talheo cannery on North Bentinck arm near Bella Coola. It was an idyllic wild world, no trails, no people, only goats, bears, marmots, and pica, abundant wildflowers, winding glaciers, and snowcapped ridges.
Once in the mountains Linda shed her city life and slipped into the rhythm mountain time. She was most at home in her little backpacking tent, slogging up snowy ridges or fording raging creeks. She loved to strip off for dips in Ice cold tarns or for wild showers below roaring water falls.
She was funny, playful, and full of life.
Linda was strong and fast in the mountains. We couldn’t keep up with her and John. But she loved her tent time in the morning and she would often sleep in, so we would sometimes get a head start to try to keep ahead of them. But they would always catch up to us at some tarn or spectacular viewpoint for lunch. Once they turned up with severely sunburnt bottoms….too much tarn-time enroute!
The memories of those trips are etched in my mind and central to those memories is Linda, in her element, moving across the landscape. This is how I will remember her….until we meet again at the perfect tarn.
Linda, Linda, Linda, dear Linda,
So many happy moments we shared together. The colour pink gained new meaning through you and always brought and will continue to bring up some giggling image of you.
You made a difference in so many people’s lives, often without even being aware of it. Just how different would things be for me had I not met you, had I not shared a tent with you on unforgettable trips, navigating in whiteouts, sheltering from storms, shovelling and laughing. Always cheerful, never giving up, you were the Queen of the Coast Range, so strong and skilled, talented and beautiful.
Linda, I can’t even imagine how much you’ve been struggling. I’ve been to that dark place myself, where you start focusing on the wrong end of the tunnel. It is an extremely lonely and scary place, regardless how much surrounded you are by others and their love. It is a deep persistent weak layer you tiptoe around sometimes, never ever wanting it to release. It is very hard to ask for help. And a cry for help may sound anything but. We are all vulnerable at times, but we do not want to look or sound vulnerable.
It is my hope, Linda, that your passing will, too, make a difference, in the lives you touched, in our community, in the way we’ll care about ourselves and others, in our awareness of mental health issues. You were too important to us to not do something about it, as small as it may be on an individual level, if only to better self-care and educate ourselves on this subject. I believe this is what you would do yourself, Linda, and would want us to do.
I’ve been reliving a lot of happy moments lately, been crying and smiling at the same time and falling asleep thinking of you. Thank you for all the great memories. I’ll never forget you, Linda.
It’s great to see so many people at this celebration – Linda would have wanted to be here in person – she loved people and parties!
Linda knew you.. You must all be amazing. I want to know you all… Let me have a show of hands…
Linda loved outdoor adventures – who has been on a trip with Linda – whether a day hike, an English Bay paddle, an evening of skiing or a two-week glacier traverse?
Linda had the eyes of a camera – she noticed all the details in the moment and would bring a honkin big (and heavy) camera on her self-propelled trips – I loved the pictures she took, they captured so much -- Who ever had their picture taken by Linda?
I remember Linda as energetic and sparkly, able to tell a good story and make you laugh – who has ever laughed with Linda?
I have a couple of stories. I first met Linda a couple of decades ago. She’d joined the same Environmental Engineering program a year behind me. So I knew her but didn’t hang out with her – she was busy with her full-time school and then in her spare moments skiing, kayaking, or hiking.
But then.. tragedy struck .. she popped a knee, had to have surgery, and wasn’t allowed to move for weeks. That was NOT her style – she needed to mooooove!
Before the popped knee, she’d complain about having too much energy and being restless even after biking to the North Shore, going for a hike, then going for a swim at UBC. We called her the Everready Bunny…
So she popped her knee. She was really bummed out… I went and visited her in her recovery nest at home strewn with books and ice packs and made her balloon animals to cheer her up – that’s when we became friends. Not letting a blown knee stop her, she soon after decided to try out for and was invited to join the Vancouver Dragon Boat team and she was part of getting the team to the World Champions in China and winning!
She was a big influence and encourager for me becoming a solid backpacker. I went on a bunch of trips with her and others, and learned a lot and got confident.
I decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail which goes from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border. Now the PCT is thousands of km and the first 800 km or so is in the desert. After the desert come the Sierra Mountains where you transition into high-altitude passes, lots of up and down, and the real danger and complication of snow. The blogs said you needed crampons and ice axes and you had to know about avalanches and self-arrest. And I was terrified of this. I asked her to teach me about self-arrest. We went to a hill at Jericho in the pouring rain, wearing yellow rain slickers and carrying our ice axes and we practiced slow motion sliding down the grass and self arresting. We got muddy. We then graduated to snow up on Cypress. It was the best way to learn!
But I was still terrified of the snow in the Sierras. I begged her to meet me to start the Sierras with me. I needed her as a security blanket. She knew snow. She agreed. A few days before she was to come out, she asked me what she could bring. I’d been sweating in the desert for 6 weeks – I said mangos. She arrived with a duffel full of mangos and other fresh veggie treats which we devoured – it was heavenly!
So when we set out, water was still hard to come by even though we were climbing into the mountains. But a couple of days in, we came to our first alpine lake and couldn’t resist jumping in to wash off the layer of dust that had followed us. That started our first bad daily habit. We dubbed ourselves the Canadian Polar Bear Naked Swim Team and took to stripping down and jumping in whatever frigid stream or lake that we came across.
When we finally got to the first snowy pass – we had spent days looking at it get bigger and bigger until we were at the foot of it and it loomed up a half-day’s walk above us. Did I mention that I’m scared of heights? Linda, sweet Linda, was so patient as she talked my trembling hyperventilating self finger-walking the uphill rock face switchbacks to the pass. And then, Sweet Linda, she didn’t laugh as she talked me through the 10 feet of slushy but solid snow that the trail passed through, my ice axe at the ready. Up and over was clear of snow and cresting the 14,000 mumble feet pass, we came across, not glaciers and snowfields and postholing and hypothermia, and not snow blindness and the risk of sliding off the mountain, but a path clear of snow and blocked by…. A naked guy holding a strategically-placed ukulele …
… who informed us it was indeed Naked Hiking Day….
Did you know that was even a thing? Summer solstice… Naked Hiking Day… put it in your calendar.
So what did we do? We were on top of the world, taking our break from our big climb up, catching our breath from the lack of oxygen, and being serenaded by a naked guy with a ukulele…. On Naked Hiking Day!
Now back to our habit of stripping down and jumping in lakes and streams. This daily event tended to attract attention and we soon had two more on our Team , The Canadian Polar Bear Naked Swim Team –called 007 and Cheerleader. Now these are odd names – they’re trail names – everyone gets one when they’re hiking the trail. But Linda didn’t have one. And she needed one.
So some people are attracted to gold, some to diamonds, but it’s other things that sparkled for Linda – namely snow, ice, and polar bears so she decided to call herself Polar Bear as a trail name. And so us four covered 100s of km of the Sierras together.
And when Linda finally left us to go back to Vancouver, that first day without her, the three of us were so morose.. even snippy towards each other.. we missed her cheery chatter, and the brightness she brought to the day. At the end of that long day of hiking, we realized that we needed to hold a memorial of her absence. And around a small campfire, we all three shared the memories and the qualities that we appreciated about her and her time with us. That helped… .. As I hope this will help…
I can get lost in my memories of that trip and others and of our in-town adventures and just the constant knowing that she was there for me to listen to my troubles and to give me a cheerful nudge.
I wish I had that back.
I have been wondering…. What if I’d sent her an email or left a cheerful phone message – what if I’d reached out – would it have made a difference, would it have altered her path? I also imagine that a great number of people here have been asking themselves that too…. We can’t really know.
But what I do know is that Linda valued her friends and family, regardless of how close you were with her. And she would want that same love for you and the friends and family that surround you. So what I take from grieving Linda’s passing is that we need to remember who we are now and to treasure those around us.
To give them a smile, a listening ear, a twinkling eye, a hug – Polar Bear style - cause that’s what Linda would have wanted.
My Dear Linda,
Albany, 6-1/ 2022
It is early and the ache that is so often with me is waking me early and finding words to express the many things made clearer by knowing you, Linda. I am compelled to thank you for life’s burning realities brought nearer than I would ever have asked for or managed to meet. Our time together is simply precious and the loss of you is so hard to bear for my self and I see it in my family.
I miss you painfully. This loss touches and brings forward my many other losses. The reason you left is because the pain you endured and had to hide was just too much. I imagine your inner resources, and your people, your family and friends, however much we wanted to, could not touch that pain enough. Sadly we could not understand enough, or make space to hold it with you to relieve that primal ache. In a kind and forgiving way I wish to say this.....
” All of us were not able to hear and make some sense of it together in a way which would have eased it and allowed you to stay.”
I am sorry through and through, and I take on the responsibility for my failure. You are teaching me to make the effort and to reach to those who are in my life and want to be met, touched and understood.
Dear Linda - Your book “Soul of the Wilderness”, the combined voice of wonder during many arduous and heavenly trips. I often speak privately to your spirit and invite you to come and rest here with me a while because I fear your roaming in despair, and I know I have this openness and time to shelter your spirit. From this mortal world I wish for you to find oasis of care and remembrance. Let it be here, now to share and rest together a while. It relieves my ache to invite you here. You are surely not gone. Not in any way can I blame you or judge your actions. You
are pulling forth life from my resistance toward my own life. You are making me face my pain and accept my ache to simply let life in. “Come in life” here now, as you are.
It was Walt Whitman’s birthday May 31st and there was public reading. My dearest Dharma teacher celebrates his poem “Song of Myself” every year now for decades. A piece from from chapter 6:
“What do you think has become of the young and old (who have passed) ?
And what do you think has become of he women and children ? (who have passed).
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it.
And ceased the moment life appeared.
And goes on outward and onward, nothing collapses.
And to die is different from what anyone supposes, and luckier.
7 ) Has anyone supposed it is lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying and birth with the new wash’d babe
and I am not contained between my hat and my boots.
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good. The earth good, and the stars good and their adjuncts all good.”
So Dear Linda - I’m remembering the many long winding and intimate calls and conversations which would not have occurred if the lines that connect us through the feelings of love, struggle and wonder were not strongly there.. Your leaving us caused a huge response, and the response has brought more connection and life. It showed me the extent of the web which held us. Loosing you has derailed me for a time, and has touched many more people!!! The web is large, I tell you. Thank you for your nature love which I share. Thank you for the wondrous book on wilderness. Thank you for the stories and feeling toward family!! Thank you mostly for reaching to me, sharing your spark, and trusting me to hear and hold pieces of your struggle and joys.
We have had heart to heart talks since we met when I was 33 or so. I know it was a shock to hear suddenly as an adult that you had an older brother out there somewhere. After the shock wore off you embraced me and we found a common love of wilderness, though my journeys were quieter ones than your grand journeys. I had a dream to combine our journey ways and invite you to a meditative approach to the wilds. You lived it anyway. My wish did not have the conditions to really happen, but I do not forget it.
We found consolation in sharing the hard events and the people that were shaping our lives, and encouraged each other. We found gladness to hear of good events and got to know of the significant people in each of our lives. Sometimes a long time would pass between calls and we would carry on from where we were, and dive into the pressing need of the moment.
Linda, by being with you all the aching parts in my life are touched and partly relieved. I want this reflection to reach out to our wider network of people and touch their ache of loss with the balm of community and the faith that all is really OK, in a very large sense. I want each of us to sense the larger fabric of connection we are actually living in, and to open to some more mystery, to allow all feelings more space and expression. I hold and believe that it is the only way to create the world of loving and inclusion that we all need. This loving open aspiration will hold our individual heart ache with enough strength and tenderness to relieve it so we can breathe deeper. Then we fear life less and express our brilliance and vision.
Your Half Brother,
In love and Blessing,
Now I wish to speak to all Linda’s community and family,
I am here to relieve my ache and to honor your connection with Linda. I write to express to those at this celebration of Linda’s vibrant life that she had a brother, somewhat distant, but real. We shared a kind of secret life that meant a lot to me. It brought closeness and clarity to my history as adopted child of Maggie and half brother to Brent and blood related to a larger family. It expanded and healed a part of me I did not know was there!
Here also I can share my understanding of the ache. I carried a lifelong hard ball in my gut. It seemed to be the source of a greyness covering over my entire view of the world. Four years ago I knew I did not want to end my time with this ball and this greyness still in me. I wanted to love better and to open it up , to wake up!!!! So I vowed to open it up and feel what was there. I meditated more, I did ceremonies, I did breathwork and dared to feel some terrible things without falling into the feeling or being taken over with hopelessness. The tight ball responded with burning fear. Oh shit..... It was purification time for me.
I kept feeling and allowing this world of heaviness that was all previously held down. Now it showed me its negative and heavy moods and deflated my motivation and vision for a good future. I understand Linda has sought and found the lofty states of heart and natural beauty as I did.
My own explanation is that, for her, an unexplainable opening of the heart burst on the scene as showed her the possibility of greater human warmth and connection to life. It showed her also the real danger of loosing wilderness at this time. The wild world can be saved through the greater human connection.
I know many people go through a spiritual hell as the heaviness part of the awakening expresses itself. It is a lonely journey on the way to a deeper healing. I believe that Linda woke up, in a way she could not go back, and was reaching for greater life and warmth. I am talking about a very strong dark night. With people who know this phenomena and have spiritual guides and can summon inner strength and faith, one gets through it to a rare maturity. I believe Linda had opened up to this and did amazing work to grapple, to reach out and to get thru. Her writing and photography and willing heart were evidence that it was really her nature to love the world. The passage thru, even with loving professional help, became just too much. Then in a moment we lost her.
Loosing such a dear one going through a dark night means also we loose the new born person who can show us all what it is to love deeper and to let go of an egoistic identity. I grieve the loss of who Linda was becoming even brighter. Her awakening will continue. Her influence will be with me always.
I acknowledge everyone of you here for your love and your wondrous adventures with Linda. I smile for every trip or walk of sharing that you have had with her. Maggie and Chuck brought her physical body here in love and hope. We who care for her have all created the web which held her joy and expression.
I want to offer my blessing to all. May the grief be lighter and may she visit each of us may times until we are each satisfied that she is OK and on her way. May we know that her care for us is just as it was, sweet and bubbling and ready for another adventure. Her care from the other side is there and touching, maybe guiding, always present. For now she is everywhere.
Remember those wild times, Those carefree summer Mountain days You, a Child of Nature, Child of the Wild A fountain of fun
Sparkling, effervescent, joyful Hiking the ridges, scaling the peaks
Look at you!
Arms flung wide atop a boulder Balanced in a yoga pose Mountain girl, go-getter, skier Lover of winter’s powdered slopes Carving sinuous semicircles in the snow
Women of the wild Wet Coast Water cascading on your skin Raindrops glisten on your nose Yeah Water baby! Wave paddler River wader, Tarn splasher Swimmer of alpine lakes
Your bright side, light side
So richened my life
You will always be close to my heart
That is the last of our speakers. The family would like to thank all of you for coming. Now to end the ceremony I would like all of you to turn to the person on either side of you and give each of them a hug. And to think of Linda while you are doing this.