Photos attributed to Howard Buffett/WWFUS
I have put pen to paper so many times as I contemplated how to clearly articulate how important this trip to Everest has become to me over the past months. I have had passing-thoughts about reaching Everest Base Camp over the years, but that is all it was, a thought, a passing phase, a maybe. Then last September, suddenly and out of the blue, the most unthinkable happened to Michael, shortly before his 32nd birthday. Receiving that devastating news was one of the hardest conversations we have ever had or will ever have, and in October we had to say a very premature, sad and final farewell to him.
I should explain who Michael is and why this is so important. Michael was the eldest of two boys - the sons of my husband’s best friend since their time at school together - more than 50 years ago now. So, in virtually every respect Michael and David are my husband’s extended family. He has shared their lives and watched them both grow in to fine young men.
When we reflect on Michael and the times we shared, which were in the main, normal happy family occasions, full of love and laughter; I was always struck by his engaging smile, the smile that reached his eyes and beyond. You hear how people can light up a room, well that was Michael to a tee. I remember walking down the aisle to be joined in matrimony with Mr H and my eyes met Michael's and I was immediately calmed - his very nature had that quality and I will always hold on to that memory. The beauty of memories is that they keep us alive and they keep Michael in the here and now.
Michael loved to travel and had many adventures, often travelling alone and going to some amazing places and combining the ideal of travelling with a working holiday and giving back to those in more need than ourselves - a young Indiana Jones springs to mind as he cut his way through the dense forest of Cameroon in search of Gorillas. It is these travels that bring me to the point of this post and that is how I can do something in Michael's memory, not only out of respect for a person who was unequivocally loved but also for his parents, brother and other family members to help in my small way to support them at this most incredibly difficult time. I can't take away the immeasurable pain of their loss, but I can spend a few months training and 23 days trekking in the Himalayas with a stop at Everest Base Camp to show my love and support, because I have that small offering in my gift, raising funds along the way which will go directly to a cause close to Michael's heart-the WWF's support for the lions/leopards (his favourite animal) of the Masai Mara in Africa - an area he visited himself.
The trip begins on 31 October as I depart Manchester for a solo journey to Kathmandu. I might be on my own but in spirit I know that Michael will find a way to join me as he will think this is awesome –and given different circumstances could well have been there by my side himself.