I found out on Sunday morning that Brian Delaney had died the day before in a climbing accident. I was headed to photograph a wedding and was trying to stay focused, but I was already scouring the web for whatever information I could find. Why? How? The journalist in me was making sure facts were being found and checked against news reports and climbing forums. Are we sure this is true? I was hopeful that somewhere I would discover a shred of evidence that this was a cruel lie.
The wedding proved a needed distraction. I was still in shock, but I put my photographer hat on and managed to make it through the day. During his toast to the newlyweds, the father of the bride had a moment of silence for the bride's grandparents who had just passed. She sobbed and my heart skipped a beat for her grandparents and her family's pain from their passing, but also for Brian. "Keep it together," I told myself.
For a couple days, I was in photographer mode, editing images and such. I took breaks and again scoured the news reports for any updated information and new photos of Brian I hadn't yet seen. It was so sad yet comforting to see his photo, him climbing on various trips, doing what he loves, always donning that sublime smile of his. I'm not sure if I realized that I was still in shock. However, I did know I was anxious to head to work at the rock gym on Tuesday. I wanted to be there, but I didn't. I wasn't sure how I would react, knowing that Brian would never walk through the Maine Rock Gym doors again, bringing his wave of calm that everyone felt when they were around him.
Brian's death finally hit me Tuesday afternoon. Lots of talking. Ran brought in a photo of Brian. I hung it next to me at the desk. More talking. Brian's wife Kris called the gym and I spoke to her for a few (a slideshow celebration night will be held at MRG soon). Then as Jess was trying to buy a membership, I lost it. The gym was slammed. A dad and his two sons even walked out, but I'm sure they had no idea what was going on. Jess kindly offered a hug and I hid my tear-streamed face behind her small shoulder, thinking I barely know her, but I need something right now. I feel lost and hollow, angry and sad. "Keep it together," I told myself again. Back to work. Get through the day. Tomorrow will be better.
I finally had the courage to pull the RAW images I shot of Brian during my Day In The Life shoot for the photo studio I work for, emilie inc. photography. It was back in October and one of my images of Brian made it into the final slideshow edit (ironically, bouldering). Looking through the RAW images, I pulled anything that had Brian in them. Even the out of focus ones with the tilted horizon line -- that doesn't matter now. The 28 frames right in a row, a digital film strip of Brian climbing and down-climbing a problem in the cave, that same smile on his face -- that made me smile.
Finally, my first moment being able to think and see more clearly; I could handle doing something with these images. Initially, I just wanted to process the photos and share them with folks. But I found myself not wanting to do anything to the images really, other than just color-correct the white balance for the gym lights. For me, I wanted these "unedited" 28 frames to just be a beautiful record of a mere minute of Brian's life. Writing this post and creating this short piece has me in a better place amongst my grieving process. Maybe it will help someone else as well. I did pretend that Brian was there editing with me. Would he like this if he saw it? Would he approve of it? I kept those questions in mind, and I think (I hope) I have succeeded.
I only knew Brian in the gym capacity. I never had the privilege of climbing with him outside. But now that he is gone, I realize how much a person like him affected me. I am only fully understanding this now. It is amazing what you can learn from others, if you're willing to be open to it. Brian was one of those people who probably didn't realize how much he taught others -- how to be happy, conscientious, curious, and bold. I just feel lucky to have crossed paths with him during his lifetime.
Last Wednesday was the last time I saw Brian. I was working at the desk, and he waited until I was off the phone to say hello and ask how I was doing, because that's who he is. I had no idea that would be the last time I ever spoke to him. I am sad it wasn't a longer conversation or that I didn't give him a high-five or do more. Oh, to have that moment back again. However, I am so thankful I had that moment at all.
Brian, you are so missed by so many. I have no doubt though that your spirit is living on.