The first thing everyone noticed is that smile of his. Not only did it light up a room but you somehow felt blessed in the moment that it landed on you.
He was calm and patient and had grown into a man of amazing depth especially considering he was only eighteen.
When I think of him at fourteen, so quiet and shy, his evolution to this open, kind young man with bright flashes of daring was simply delightful.
His parents always told him to follow his heart… so he did. He had just returned from Burning
Man where he celebrated freedom by living clothing free for a whole week in the desert.
He had a cheeky streak when you least expected it and a twinkle that called for mischief.
His dad Andrew and I co-host a weekly radio show and he would be at the controls most Wednesdays as our engineer.
Once, it was just the two of us, his dad was away and the phone lines were not cooperating. We had two guests calling in and without this technical connection there would be no interview. Worse yet there were moments of dead air as Daniel tried repeatedly to get the phone line functioning. I was panicking inside, the dreaded nightmare of being live and only broadcasting silence was getting to me.
I tossed CDs to him begging for a track just to fill the airwaves while he worked on the problem.
He calmly played some music and fixed it. What stays with me was that look on his face… there was that half side smile that said… oh well… what can you expect from life… curve balls are part of the adventure.
That smile of his could make sense of anything. It was as much his trademark as his friendly nonjudgmental nature.
These past years were big for Daniel. He had trekked in Peru, met with the Dalai Lama in India and had just stated at Quest University in Squamish a few weeks ago.
He was so happy, so full of joy and loving everything about Quest and its alternative approach to education.
He was cliff jumping at Mamguam Falls with friends and the boys got into trouble.
The current was strong and Daniel was pushed into a rock wall by the pressure of the water. Search and rescue helped the other two boys out.
Daniel treaded that glacier water for 45 minutes. The rescue team tried to lift him out but he fell back into the river and did not resurface.
We gathered at the bridge over the falls to be with family, with friends, with Daniel. At times when words hold so little meaning, when loss is unbearable, what is there that keeps the human spirit anchored to this plane? I believe it is the coming together of community, of people who love the family, who love Daniel. And then there is nothing more to do than feel what arises and hold each other.
The university was also waiting for the family to leave the bridge and drive the brief distance to campus.
Silently they stood, hundreds of students many of whom had not even met Daniel but joined in a common intent… to share their hearts.
Candle after candle glowed bright in the darkness as the student created vigil flowed out and offered compassion and tears of love
The students rose one by one to share their stories of Daniel, from brief encounters to life changing moments.
Coming together in tragedy is how we are meant to grieve, openly, with human touch and warmth.
We hold onto each other to remember our connection and that it goes far beyond the earthly plane.
It is when we ask why, or how could this tragedy have happened that the universe fails us in answering. No answer we could imagine could suffice.
And yet where we place our attention is important. To focus on Daniel’s impact on the world in the short time he was here and hear about the many lives he touched and continues to touch is the path of making meaning from something so random.
I once heard a definition of a warrior as one who hunts his own heart. That was Daniel to the core and in letting his light inspire us we are invited toto the same. He is in his pure essence now and can illuminate the path of the loving heart for those who hear the call.
Free in spirit he flies high on eagle wings and reaches out to remind us how fragile this world really is. We can honor him by living in gratitude with grace.
Fly free Daniel… fly free.
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