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Here in the heart of me

Those left behind after Jim Haberl's death gather together in the Tantalus Range to launch an elevated tribute to the multi-talented photojournalist, speaker and mountain guide.

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Joe and I worked for three hours that night to assemble a wall display. We continued the next morning for another two hours. With tears in her eyes, Vicki watched Joe as he patiently held pieces in place so I could see what they looked like. When the last piece was nailed to the wall, I stood back and smiled. It looked full of love.

As 9:30 a.m. approached, there was a flurry of activity. The guys turned off the generator and hauled it out of sight. Tools were stashed under beds and Vicki swept the floor. I changed into clean clothes and put on earrings. Then we all gathered on the snow and shielded our eyes from the sun as we peered down the glacier for signs of the whirring machine.

In a pair of Jim’s old hiking boots, Mom Haberl tread carefully away from the cutting helicopter blades. There was something about the slow and purposeful manner in which she moved that filled my eyes with bundles of love. As we wrapped our arms around one another I told her how glad I was that she was there. And I thought to myself that she should never have lost a son. Dad Haberl’s cheeks puffed up and he blew the air out and shook his head slightly in wonder and commented what a beautiful flight they’d had.

After three more loads, everyone had arrived and there were hugs and handshakes and people were milling about on the rocks chatting. Ten or 15 minutes passed and there was a certain holding, a tension. Jim’s mom had stalled at the bottom of the stairs to the hut. Jim’s dad was picking up small pieces of building waste in the rocks. Liz suggested that we go inside. Jim’s mom hooked her hand onto my elbow and the creases around her eyes were mixed with excitement and apprehension.

They hesitated on the threshold as their eyes searched the vestibule and their necks strained to see further. Then their feet followed. There weren’t many words but the room felt full and thick. I smiled and followed their gaze as they roamed the maple-paneled walls, the tongue and groove pine ceiling, the birch kitchen cupboards, the sleek steel kitchen counter tops, the solid wood dining tables and chairs and the multi-shaped windows offering a 270-degree view of mountains: Black Tusk, Wedge, Diamond Head, Serratus, Dione, Tantalus. Mom Haberl pointed out of one of the windows at the first mountain Jim had climbed, when he was about 14 years old at Camp Potlatch. Dad Haberl ran his hand down the wall and asked if there would be finishing batons on the paneling. Yes.

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