Seize the day, week, month, year.....lifetime
'In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away'
My Dad died last month. Fortunately that's something you don't get to say in a blog post more than once. After 81 healthy and vibrant years a heart attack caught him out. He was such a special person to my family and the 300+ people at his funeral must have thought so too(*). He taught me so much about listening to others, being compassionate and living life to the full.
I thought about him today as I sat in a church at Huay Luang village listening to the Pastor's sermon. I couldn't understand a word he was saying but I wasn't at all bothered because there were so many other things to enjoy. The children were doing laps around the aisles, a couple of Mums were making faces at a little baby to keep it amused and an old lady was snoring in a nearby pew. The Pastor didn't seem bothered any more than I was either. He just carried on preaching.
My Dad would have loved it, but unfortunately I'd never have got him here. He was really nervous about flying and it was a challenge even to get him on a plane to Spain. His idea of an adventurous journey was a cruise through the Mediterranean. He didn't want to travel far for his adventures but he didn't really need to. He seemed to have a new experience every time he went out. Whether it was befriending someone new, getting invited to some special event or simply doing a good turn for those who needed it - he had a way of making every encounter an adventure and it was a special gift. He used to like reciting the classic Latin saying 'Carpe Diem' (seize the day) and he certainly lived it. I want to do the same.
So, at the moment I'm seizing the day in Thailand and that's what led me to this little village church close to the Burmese border. I'm not a regular church goer but we were in the village on a Sunday and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. The bulk of the trip has been leading a trekking group in the Khao Yai National Park but we've landed at this place and it's great. The trekking was stunningly beautiful and it really made a pleasant change from my usual vertical adventures, but it's really this place that has been the trip's highlight.
The church is in the village of the Lahu people. They are a 1000 strong tribe that gravitated to the area from western Thailand and bought the land they now farm for the cost of a buffalo. Many of them later sold out for a fast buck to a tangerine farmer from Bangkok and, after failing to make the best use of the money, soon after ended up labouring for him for a subsistence wage. It's a tough life but the sense of community is strong and this church service sums up why.
In a few days I start the long journey home to spend my first Dadless Christmas with my family. Christmas will now never be the same but he certainly lives on in spirit. Seize the day? I certainly will and I hope anyone reading this does too. If you are seizing it yourself I hope to see you out there. At Peak Mountaineering we feel privileged to be able to make some peoples' dreams of adventure and challenge come true so if you need some inspiration we have a packed programme of activities for the coming year that should help. Whether it's winter climbing in Scotland, Peak District cragging, mountain biking, ascending a Himalayan giant on one of our overseas expeditions or a host of other options - there's a way for everyone to share the love of travel, love of adventure and love of life that I and the Peak Mountaineering team hold so dear.
Very best wishes to you all for Christmas and the new year ahead.
(*) A huge thanks to the many friends and Peak Mountaineering clients who have contacted me to express their condolences. It means a lot.