That's the beginning to a really awful geology joke that I never really liked anyway. But the Denali Park & Preserve geologist wasn't old, he was more what I would call young - just older than my dad, maybe. We found out today he died from heart failure while leading a group of kids on a hike outside the park.
I just met him yesterday at day 1 of the park research bonanza where he gave the one and only talk I would ever hear him give on the top 10 geological facts and features of the park. I introduced myself, immediately liked him, and he invited me to participate in his field research for the summer. Yesterday I was charged and ready to do everything I could to improve understanding of the park. But I wonder now what will happen with all the projects he had running, specifically the mining restoration at the west end of the park. I wish I knew more about the park and policies - I would love to help keep going what he already put so much work into.
On my semi-regular hike home from the office, I thought a lot about the apparent spontaneity of death. While I acknowledge that a number of young people who do healthy things still die from medical causes, most of the time there is a very good reason(s) someone passes away. Since I lost my uncle to heart failure and especially since working directly on a man who succumbed to the same at a hospital, I guess I felt super-sensitive to the news of the geologist's death.
Anyway, I talked to my dad earlier and called my mom while hiking home. Just had a hole in me, feeling empty and wishing I could see at once all the people I love. I sat on the bench overlooking the frontcountry area and just thought it out for a while until an audible cloud of mosquitoes gathered around me.