Ed. Why We Ride.

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Health and Wellness

 

Ed Surfboard

 

Wow, even 8 months later, I can’t believe I am writing about Ed in the past tense. I met Ed and Greg (my now husband) at Ocean Beach surfing in October of 2003.

Ed went missing in the Eldorado Forest in July 2015, and the story that unfolds has changed many lives, including mine. When we first found out he was missing, we just assumed he was enjoying a few days off the grid and surely we’d see his smiling face again. Ed was an outdoorsman. Every summer he took a group of kids into the wilderness and taught them how to backpack and survive in nature. If anyone could handle mother nature’s worst, it was him. I had faith. But when a couple days passed and still no word, the gravity of the situation started to sink in.

That’s when I decided to go up and help with the growing search party that friends and family had formed. This was Ed. Biggest-smile-in-the-world Ed! Ed, our surf friend that was always such a joy to hang with in the lineup. Ed, who I’ve always had so much mad respect for, for his health, the way he ate, the way he used his body, his commitment to his projects, his love of the outdoors, and his steadfastness. Ed, who crashed my first date with my husband and me. Ed, who helped us with our cheesy surfboard leash ceremony at our wedding. Ed, who lived life on the edge, who thrived on adventure (while taking calculated risks), but always with love and respect for his people and nature. The same Ed, who had Type 1 diabetes. The same Ed who, as I would later come to learn more about, had to shoot up with insulin a couple times a day. Suddenly, Ed missing became a life or death reality.

Before I headed up, I made a trip to REI to load up the supplies being requested by the search party, including walkie talkies, binoculars, backup batteries, food, etc. When I go there, a cabin that Ed’s biker friends shared had already become base camp for search operation. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. None of us had. As I was looking around, orienting myself, I did a double take when I thought I saw Ed’s face. It was his brother, Kevin. Same face, same soft, slow voice, same smile, same posture, love, everything. I couldn’t imagine searching for my missing brother in the woods, let alone marshalling the troops like Kevin was. His beautiful sisters and parents were also coordinating the efforts, radiating an otherworldly strength and compassion.

I’m pretty sure I could fill a hundred pages trying to recount all my memories from Ed’s search party, but I’ll do my best to stick to this shorter story. On any given day we had anywhere from 20 to 100 volunteers. Every morning, mission leaders like my new friend, Joe, delivered an “orientation” to bring newcomers up to speed, organize people into groups, talk about being safe and staying hydrated and giving a quick rundown of the country out there.

We were in dirt biking country where there were trails similar to ski mountains, with degrees of difficulty comparable to greens, blues, and diamonds. So far, Ed’s fellow dirt bikers had been trying to cover trails to see if Ed had crashed his bike in plain view. Hikers were covering ground to the right and left of the main trail. There were also search and rescue dogs that would pick up their search at night when the scents and sounds of other people were less distracting. Additionally, there were drones, and even psychics offered their services, not to mention local businesses from the Bay Area donating goods. We had elaborate maps that got better each day, and this is how we kept track of every step of ground covered during the search which ultimately led us to where we found him.

The friends, family, and strangers that comprised Ed’s search party was one of the most beautiful, inspiring, loving communities I’ve ever experienced. We became known as the Lov(ed) community. Everything we experienced together was raw, emotional, all about compassion, all-inclusive. When not searching, people were crying, laughing, partying, sleeping, praying, organizing, brainstorming, creating the plans for the next day. All of us wanted / needed to believe we’d find him alive, but with each new day and no ED, many of us started accepting the inevitable. And then we got the text. Ed was found on Tuesday, August 3—Day 11 of the official search. Ed had been missing for a total of 19 days.

When I got the text, I was driving in a car with 5 fellow searchers. We had just finished a 7 mile search hike deep in the woods. We were told there had been a development. Oliver, the driver, was playing a depressing Tracy Chapman song, and the drive back was one of the saddest, uneasiest moments of my life. At this point, I had also started to accept that he couldn’t be alive, and I found myself hoping, praying that it was a peaceful death and that his family was going to be ok.

Back at camp, it was quiet. Everyone was returning from their respective search areas to gather for the news. No one was talking. I was silently crying, tears already rolling. Then the family arrived. They looked so sad, yet relieved. Ed’s sister, Karen, was the one to say, “We found Eddie.”

The emotions that surfaced outside the cabin—what had become our search party’s base camp—were intense to say the least. People hadn’t felt tired up until now, adrenalin had kept us going. But now we knew. Now we felt it. Now it poured out. After a couple hours of processing, the Lov(ed) community had an impromptu memorial. The family was encircled by the search party, and everybody was sharing thanks, sorrow, love, and happiness that we found him. Then that evening, we had a party. It was a celebration of Ed’s beautiful life. Telling stories about Ed, sharing all that we had learned from him and loved about him. We also made a promise to each other that we would use this experience to be better, to not waste a second of our lives, to give love to everyone, and to never forget what we had all experienced together.

Ed had most likely passed away the same day he went missing, and we would never have found him without this amazing group of people who left everything behind to come together to find our friend. Our hodgepodge, totally crazy, organized group of volunteers had found him, in a densely forested place that could’ve easily have hidden him forever. But we found him. We found our friend Ed.

I’ll now share words from Kevin, Ed’s brother, as he explains Ed’s situation with Diabetes better than I can.

“Ed suffered from Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that results in the destruction of insulin producing pancreatic cells. Many of you have experienced certain moments with Ed, during which he became hypoglycemic: his blood sugar dropped at some time after taking insulin (and eating!) and he became, to varying degrees, fatigued and unresponsive. Ed knew well that during these times he might become fully dependent on friends, family, or even strangers, to feed him in order to bring his blood sugar (and thus brain function) back to normal. In the many conversations I’ve had with so many of you over the past several months, it seems to me that these episodes had been occurring more frequently, albeit somewhat randomly, as Ed grew older. And, from what I’ve read, the onset of these episodes may have been increasingly difficult for Ed to recognize.

I am certain that this is what happened to Ed in the Eldorado National Forest. Ed was fully prepared otherwise, but being alone, well….. he couldn’t have been prepared for an episode in which he became dependent on someone else for life’s most basic functions.
That said, Ed couldn’t have been with someone ALL of the time, and I believe that an episode such as this could have occurred at any moment, and in any place. The fact that it happened where it did, and how it brought everyone together to search for him, somehow made this tragic event one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

The possibility of an incident such as this happening is but one of the many realities facing millions of people with diabetes mellitus. In honor of my brother, I will join the LOV(ED) team in California this May 1, 2016 and will ride 100 miles in the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure. Please consider joining or donating to our team. Anything you could do is greatly appreciated. Thanks, and thanks to those whom have already donated. Much LOV(ED) to all…”      

-Kevin Cavanaugh

As I am sure you can feel, Ed’s life and death had a huge impact on my life as well as many others. I learned a lot from him about making easy healthy meals, like a simple dish of roasted vegetables that tasted delicious, because at an early age, he had to learn these skills to stay healthy and alive. He was a balanced person in every way, eating healthy but enjoying a splurge every so often, enjoying a beer or two but not partying too hard, taking care of his community from teaching/mentoring kids to being the common thread for an amazing group of friends and family, and always, always moving his body. He would be so surprised and honored to know the effect his life and death have had on so many people. People have quit jobs, started school, changed the way they eat, planted a garden, committed to riding 100 miles, and the list goes on. His students have expressed the huge impact he had on their lives.

I just wanted to share the story with you because if we can pass this love on in the world, it will be a better place. This is why I am riding 100 miles on May 1 as part of the Tour de Cure, and you can support our team by clicking on my Tour De Cure page. If we can help even a small bit towards research, prevention and hopefully a cure for Diabetes, one of the most rampant diseases of our generation, then we collectively are helping the health of many people. Thank you for being a part of this mission. Be like Ed.

Jenny Lightstone