To know Savannah was to love her. Nina and Court loved Savannah to the ends of the earth, and her unexpected death forever changed the climbing community. In their love and grief, Savannah’s parents turned everything that she was into purpose. Savannah left the world with a legacy of love, joy, and gratitude. This is part two of a two-part story. Introduction by the lovely Chelsea Rude. #donutsforsavvy
This episode is brought to you by Deuter, Gnarly Nutrition, Allez Outdoors, and Têra Kaia. Music by: “Southside” by Lee Rosevere, “Ichill” by Kakurenbo, “Blue Highway”, “60’s Quiz Show”, “Well and Good”, “Knock Knock”, “Pives and Flarinet”, “Good Times”, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, “Loll”, and “Satellite Bloom” by Podington Bear, and “Snowy Afternoon”, “Telling Stories”, “Early Morning” and “Christmas Memory” by Borrtex. A HUGE thank you to Chad Crouch, aka Podington Bear, for the support and to Peter Darmi for all of his help.
Thank you so much to everybody who contributed to this very special episode, and a huge, huge thank you to Matt Moy and Chelsea Rude.
(KATHY KARLO): This podcast is sponsored by Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort, but most importantly–your snacks. Deuter has a history of first ascents and alpine roots. Their head of product development even climbed Everest once, in jeans (hashtag not fake news.) Deuter is known for fit, comfort, and ventilation. Founded in 1898, Deuter believes in good fitting backpacks, so you can focus on way cooler things like puppies, pocket bacon, and gettin’ sendy, whether at the crag or in the alpine.
– We’re working with Better Help to connect you to licensed therapists. They’ll match you with the perfect therapist for a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy. You know who goes to therapy? Prince Harry. Emma Stone. Jenny Slate. Kesha. Therapy is beautiful—everyone should go to therapy. Go to betterhelp.com/climbing to sign up and receive one free week. It helps support this show, and it helps support you.
– This podcast gets support from Gnarly Nutrition, one of the leading protein supplements that tastes “whey” better than they need to because they use quality natural ingredients. So, whether you’re a working mom who runs circles around your kids on weekends or an unprofessional climber trying to send that 5.13 in the gym, Gnarly Nutrition has all of your recovery needs. The only question you need to ask yourself is: Are you a sucker for anything that tastes like chocolate ice cream? (Yeah, me neither.) Gnarly Nutrition is designed to enhance your progress—and taste like a milkshake, without all the crap.
(FEMALE VOICE): Today we’re going to talk about “allez”. “Allez” means “come on!” in a way, or to encourage. Ok! We are done with the simple and normal uses of “allez”, now let’s cut to the chase:
(KK): Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. Their rich and repairing ingredients for their skincare collection are inspired by desert landscapes, and their simple and recyclable packaging makes them eco-sustainable. Allez commits to protecting the open spaces that we love by partnering with the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. You can win a year’s supply of Allez product by following them on Instagram (that’s Allez Outdoor: “A-L-L-E-Z”), posting a story about an upcoming or past adventure and tagging them. Allez will announce one winner per episode. Allez Outdoor—made by climbers, for those who love the outdoors.
– Têra Kaia, made by women for women, is redefining the standard with sizing. The TOURA basewear top is their swim-friendly sports bra that’s designed for outdoor adventure—so you can hike, sweat, and climb to the summit in comfort. You can even wear it camping for days on end—it just about never gets gross (trust me, I have tried.) You can take 10% off with code “fortheloveofclimbing” and show your support for the show. Go ahead and throw out your other sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.
– Well, it’s officially December, so you know what that means. (Don’t worry, this is not a “holiday” episode.) That’s right, climber friends. It’s time to renew your gym memberships because it’s starting to get cold as BLEEP out there. Unless you’re like me, and you’ll do everything humanly possible to avoid winter. (PS, I don’t actually care about the word “fuck”—I just really wanted to use a bleep sound.)
A little life update: hectic doesn’t begin to describe the last few months. I ate my way through Canada and slowly made my way back to the southeast. I’ll be here until I finish my winter project, but I also settled down because I’ve been traveling all year and I think I just needed to be in one place for longer than a few weeks. Honest van life confession? Sometimes, I fucking hate van life. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of perks. And I love my life, but there are days when I don’t. And I think that companies and people and social media have done a good job of glamorizing hashtag van life to the point that we’re all privy to the fact that you can’t draw boxes around every single unique situation. It’s impossible to sum everything up with a 2,000-word character limit, and you can’t always accurately capture or caption certain things like heartache or pain or loneliness. I mean, what does feeling “sad” on the internet look like, anyway? How do you post things like sadness or grief to Instagram? A lot of people feel this way, but it’s still hard to find the words to explain it. It’s hard to curate the perfect image to go along with it. So, sometimes the inner dialogue is us asking ourselves: “How much do we share and how vulnerable should we be when we’re sitting behind a screen?”—and then we post a picture of our dog. Or whatever.
I don’t have the answers. I just think it’s important to acknowledge when something feels heavy but you don’t have the right words yet. When you’re exhausted but explaining to people why seems even more exhausting. And now that the holidays are here, it’s even more important to check in with yourself—and the people you love. This time of the year isn’t just about joyful celebrations and making merry with friends and family. And the media might create this “perfect” vision of how it should all go down, but not everyone greets the season with good tidings and abundant generosity.
We do want to acknowledge that the suicide myth is inaccurate—despite a long-held belief that the rate of suicide spikes dramatically during the holiday season. According to the U.S. Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate is highest between April and August. So, it’s really hard to speculate about the holiday blues, and it could be anything from the burden of financial stress to your strong hatred of commercialism to—maybe you just really miss the sunlight. Stress is a well-known trigger for depression—and holidays can be stressful. But for many people, it could also be the worst time of the year. Maybe they can’t afford a good meal on the table, let alone gifts. Maybe someone is struggling with addiction, and drinking alcohol during the holidays has become so normalized. Or maybe the tragedy of the death of a loved one is too painful to force happy, joyful feelings when every day is a struggle. It’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year”, but what happens when the holidays cause you emotional pain?
If you know someone who might be feeling feelings during this season, check in with them. Check in with your friends who might be struggling. Check in with your strong friends, too. It could be something as simple as asking them how they’re doing, and listening to what they’re going through is really powerful. And if it’s you, remember to acknowledge how you feel; it’s ok if you don’t feel like celebrating. And reach out if you need to. The holidays don’t mean that you have to pretend you’re over here making everything all magical and shit.
This is part two of a really special episode and we wanted to take the time to dedicate it to Savannah Buik and her mom and dad, Nina and Court. Savannah, we love and miss you. Every day.
– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This is not a climbing podcast. Well, sorta. This is a funny, sad, and somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability and talking openly about our pain. This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Here’s the show.
(CHELSEA RUDE): Hi, my name is Chelsea Rude and I considered Savannah Buik to be a little sister to me. I first met her one summer in Atlanta, Georgia while coaching a pre-national’s training camp, as I was one of the U.S. team coaches at the time. Savannah really stood out to me as this spunky soul who was actually really wise beyond her years. At the time, I didn’t know her but she did open up and let me know that she was really struggling. She didn’t really let me know what she was struggling with but I could see it in her eyes. She definitely was going through some stuff.
That training camp was only about a week or two and then I flew home back to Colorado. Savannah, after that, continued to stay in touch with me and this was something that was really unique compared to all of the other athletes that I’ve ever coached, especially in the training camp since. Savannah would reach out to me and just say, “Hey! How’s it going? What’s up?” And I would respond and just see how she’s doing and, you know, it was just very short and sweet and that was it. But she continued to do this–not just the first couple weeks post-camp, but for years. I knew that she had moved from Atlanta to Chicago with her parents. For a while, didn’t hear from her at that point, but she reached out again and again.
It was the summer of 2017 that she reached out to me and was like, “Hey girl. Guess what? I nailed an internship with the American Alpine Club. And I was super excited to tell her that at that time, I was working at the AAC. And I was super excited to be spending some more days with her while she was here in Colorado. And that’s kinda just how it began. She came out to Colorado. She was renting a house in Denver, but really wanted to be in Boulder and I wasn’t home very much, so I was like, “You know what? You can stay at my place. You can stay in my room. Make yourself at home. Wear, use, whatever you wanna do. Go for it, sister.” And she’d come to work and she’d be wearing some of my hoodies or some of my jewelry and was just so happy to be in Colorado that summer. She was queen of taking selfies with my dog Puma, where her face and Puma’s face were having the same expression. I’m looking at one right now where both of their mouths are open and both of their eyes are closed and they just look like they’re in total bliss. And it’s not just one photo—it’s probably about five photos where they are totally mimicking each other. I can’t even get Puma to look at the camera and take a selfie with me.
Savannah and I climbed together that summer and she took me to Vedauwoo for the first time and I watched her trad climb these things that, honestly I was too scared to try! And she was just giving it her all and it was really inspiring for me to watch. I was always inspired by her climbing, but I really was inspired by the woman who she had inside of her. Her wisdom, which was well beyond her actual years, and just her commitment to being herself. To keeping a smile on her face and reaching out to everybody.
And we would have these long car conversations on the way to Vedauwoo, on the way home, on the way to Rifle—about life. About her struggles. About where she was at in that moment. About boys and climbing and what her dreams were and how excited she was to almost be done with college and to be able to spread her wings. That summer that she was with me was her first summer away from home and she rocked it way better than I did my first summer on my own. And she was proud of it and she could sense this deep growth within her that would have been not possible just a few years prior. And she was really proud of herself. And we were driving down the road one day. Puma’s in her lap and she just looks over at me and she starts talking about eating disorders and how she wanted to make it her life’s mission to spread the word about eating disorder and make it more normal to talk about it so that more people could feel comfortable bringing up the subject and just asking for help. It’s not just whether the person who’s struggling with it is strong, but it’s also creating space in society where it is actually safe to talk about and you’re not going to get looked at weird and people aren’t going to get disappointed in you. Instead, they’re just actually going to support you and hold your hand and help you through that path. And she really wanted to do that—not just outside of the climbing world, but especially in the climbing world as well, where, unfortunately, eating disorders run rampant and it’s not easily talked about. There are a lot of coaches that feel uncomfortable around the subject or might not even really understand or see that it is an actual problem. And I was really proud of her for looking forward and wanting to make a difference in that way.
When I got the news that Savannah had passed away, I was at my grandmother’s house and I was in bed and I got a text message. And that text message said, “Savannah died today in a climbing accident and I know you guys were really close…and I thought you should know.” And I can’t even describe the confusion and pain that I felt because I had begun to consider her a little sister to me during the summer that she was in Colorado with me. When it was time for her to go back to Chicago for school, I was sad, but I wanted to stay in touch and help her on her next journey. So, she packed up her car with a bunch of clothes of mine, my first pots and pans that I had when I first moved out, and was just like, “Here you go, little sister. Go rock your last semester of school and then we’ll continue adventuring from there.”
The day that I found out happened to be six weeks after I had had shoulder surgery, which was really impactful for me. And with the death of my little sister figure, it actually really made me hate climbing for a little bit. I hated climbing—that it hurt me. And then, I hated climbing that it took my friend’s life. And still, I’m working my way through that grief of loss. But you can’t have these really great, fabulous times and be vulnerable and open up to accepting people and loving people without the complete opposite feelings as well. The feelings of loss and everything balances each other out, and Savannah was just a beautiful soul who really inspired me to actually step more on my feet.
I know that it is the mission of her family and a lot of her friends to continue her personal mission statement to normalize eating disorders so that it can help others recover. And it is my mission to always live my personal truth and always help her live her mission. And Savannah Buik—she told me one day that she had hoped to be able to make a big difference and reach many people and I don’t think that at the time she really realized how many people she’d actually already touched when she passed. She allowed people to maybe be a little bit more vulnerable with themselves and I’ll hold that close to my heart forever. Love you, Savvy.
(NINA BUIK): I’ll start with the beginning of the day. So, she had just finished school. She had just gotten her beautiful new tattoo which she had researched for quite a long time and decided that the chrysanthemum was what she wanted. It was the flower of the city of Chicago, but it also represented her blooming here in Chicago. So, it really meant a lot to her to have that tattoo. So, she was sporting her new tattoo, going up to Devil’s Lake. She got up in the morning as she normally would to go on a climb and I said, “Make sure you get back early! Your brother’s coming in tonight.” And we had the weekend planned out: we were gonna go—
(COURTNEY BUIK): Second City.
(NB): Yeah, yeah. Second City, and we were gonna go out to dinner and then we were gonna go have breakfast at her favorite place, Victory’s Banner, to which she said she was going to pay for and take her brother out for breakfast. And so, you know, we were just looking forward to a great, kind of celebratory weekend. And so, when she was walking out—she had her procedure down pat—getting ready to go climbing. Like, you know, there’s steps: getting your gear together, getting your food together, make sure your car’s ok—you know, all that good stuff. And so, she was in the zone getting ready and I said, “Savannah!” I said, “I need you to empty the dishwasher.” And she goes, “Ma! I am—“
“—I gotta go! I gotta go pick up Rudy ‘cause we’re meeting Rob at a certain time.” And I said, “Ughh!” when she left and I know, when we see each other again—which I know we will—she’s going to tell me, the first thing, “Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t empty the dishwasher.” So, that was the morning
and later on that afternoon—
(CB): I’ll talk about that. Ok. I just need a second.
(KK): Take as much time as you want.
(CB): I’m ok.
(CB): Ok. So, I really don’t talk about this much. This is the hard part. Ok, so—and I haven’t talked about this much because it’s not something
It’s not something any parent should ever have to go through. Savannah would always call me when she was heading home from wherever she was at. I was in the office. My phone rang. It was from Savannah.
And I answered it the way I always answer it: “Hey, babe. How was your day?” And the voice on the other side of the phone was not Savannah, but it was a male voice. And as a parent, your mind immediately goes to a bad place and all I could hope at that point was something happened in the car and the car broke down or there’s a flat tire, and maybe it was one of the guys that was with her that was calling me to ask me where the spare was, or something like that. And it was none of those. It was the DNR calling me to let me know
that something awful has happened. And I was like, “Is she ok?” and he said, “I’m sorry, but no, she’s not.” So, naturally, you’re stunned. I dropped. I just shut down my desktop and I got up and I left and
you have all kinds of thoughts going through your head at that time: “This can’t be real. Not us. Not Savannah.” And my first thought was just to make sure I got home as fast as I could. I called Nina at that point in time as I was driving. In hindsight, I probably wish I had waited till I got home, but I let Nina know that something terrible has happened. And I think Nina’s first reaction was, “Is your mom ok?” I mean, my mom who’s now eighty-nine. And I said, “Yes, but Savannah had passed away.” And…and it is very dark at that time. And you talk about being in a fog and what I’d told my brother—he had come into town in the next couple days, as several people did—and for us, it wasn’t a fog. It was ten thousand layers of fog, and it was just trying to cut through one or two layers every day to get to a point where you could get see some sort of light. And I’ll never forget lying in bed that night and just, I didn’t sleep one wink. And just going through your mind, like: how? And why? And you just questioned everything.
The hard part was the young climbers that she was with that day called, right? And
having to drive her car back, but then having to meet the two of them out in front of our house and it was just as gut-wrenching of a day as you could possibly imagine. And just, it was in a flash. And you always think that it’s somebody else, and it’s, “Boy, I would hate to be those parents. I’d hate to be that person.” Right? And then when it happens to you, it’s like oh my gosh—you can’t even fathom just how bad it is and how emotional it is and how devastating it is. And it just puts you in a position where you almost don’t care at that point what happens to you. You know? Like, there were moments when I was like, “Well, you know what? The worst day that could ever happen in my life, happened.” And it was never a thought of doing something harmful to myself or anything like that, but it was certainly a thought of, “Well, I can go out and I can do whatever I want now.” from the standpoint of I’ll walk down the street in the middle of Chicago at three in the morning because, you know what? What’s the worst that could happen to me? It already happened. And so that’s, for me, how that day played out and I’ll never forget it. And I don’t talk about the phone call. This is probably the first time I’ve really talked about it, ‘cause it’s hard. Very hard.
(NB): Courtney was absolutely right about the layers of fog and the darkness. And when you can’t see, somehow others step in to help you see. Or when you can’t stand, people are around you and help you stand. And it was between our neighbors, our absolutely wonderful neighbors—amazing neighbors, the city of Chicago, Roscoe Village, the climbing community, the eating disorder community.
(CB): Our employers.
(NB): Our employers, a hundred percent.
(CB): Our family.
(NB): And our families and our close friends that were all there to help us stand and to help us walk when we felt like—
(CB): Just to hold us up.
(NB): —we couldn’t stand anymore. Those were in the early months, and I describe the early months as predictable. You wake up and the first however-many-weeks, there was no sleeping. We’d get up and we’d cry. The times that you do fall asleep, you wake up and for that brief second, you think that it was a dream—it was a horrible dream. And then when you realize that it wasn’t, you get back into that really dark place again. But it was predictable. And I knew that we would wake up being sad and go to bed being sad—I mean really, really sad. And then, that begins to transition to something that I think was even worse, which was the unpredictable—which is when you try to go through the motions of going back to work and somebody says something or you see something on TV, or in my case, it was being on a plane and seeing a child that reminded me of Savannah. And I just started sobbing and I couldn’t stop and then people ask you, “What’s wrong?” “Are you ok?” And you can’t explain it and you just spiral from there. And it still happens to this day. It’s very unpredictable and it’s hard. And it’ll be that way.
On the flip side, there have been some amazing things that have happened—like all of the trees that were planted from the request that Savannah made of me on the balcony one day. And that ended up going in a newspaper and it went viral and there were trees planted everywhere in this community, behind First Ascent, including up at Devil’s Lake, and from places from Nigeria to Dubai to the Scottish Highlands. All the way across the country, people would send us photographs of the trees for Savvy. And to me, that was her way of providing more oxygen so we could all breathe and have peace in our own lives. The work we’ve done for Project Heal, everything she wanted—we have turned into purpose. For her and her legacy.
I also wanna call out our gratitude to Dan Bartz who’s one of the owners of First Ascent, who has really been by our side and have had now two climbathons in honor of Savvy. And we continue to stay involved in that and support the American Alpine Club and other causes that were important to her, like Project Heal. But aside from all of that, Dan has been just a really good friend to us. And all the climbers there.
(CB): Yeah, the climbing community’s been great.
(NB): We have a new tribe (laughs).
(CB): Yeah, yeah. We’re part of many tribes.
(CB): But they have been great and Dan’s been great, First Ascent’s been great, but yeah. You know, it kinda prompted me to go climb. And one of my big regrets is: I had knee replacement in December of 2017 and part of that was so that I could climb with Savannah. We were kinda psyched about it. It was going to be me and her and Liam at some point, and it was gonna allow me to go to the climbing gym with her and, you know, I was just getting towards the end of physical therapy which, you know, after you have knee replacement, it is a long time. And it was right towards the end of that that Savannah passed and so I never got to do that. But I said, “It’s not going to stop me.” And so, the gang and the tribe at First Ascent’s been great. I have to be honest, for me, going to climb for the first time can be somewhat intimidating when you’re not a climber. So, I was kinda like, “No, you know. I’m ok. I’ll just do the auto belay.” Because for me, it was comfortable, but at the same time, I felt like it was giving me a closeness again to Savannah.
She’s not here, but I feel like she is there in the gym. And it also connected me a lot of the people that she was very connected to, and it helped me gain a much better appreciation for the community and what they represent, and why she was so passionate about, not just climbing, but that community itself. I still kinda restrict myself a lot to auto belaying only because I’m still not super comfortable with—I don’t know, it’s just like, I wanna get good at it, but it’s not until I’m better at then I’m going to be like, “Ok. I can belay you if you can belay me.” And that kind of stuff, but yeah. The community’s been great.
(NB): And I’m the reverse. I’m scared of auto belay, but I don’t mind when someone’s belaying me and I’m climbing up. Auto belay is like, I’m putting trust in this thing and
plus, I didn’t do it very well
when I tried it.
(NB): You know, belayers are pretty good about guiding you and cheering you on. And there’s something to that that feels good. When you’re up there and I hear, “Go Nina! Good job!” And I’m like, that’s timeless. I don’t care if I’m ten or I’m as old as I am (laughs).
(CB): Yeah, whereas I’m the opposite.
(CB): I’m kinda like—and I don’t know what, I think the term is, I don’t want to look like a gumby
(CB): or whatever they call them, right? But I feel like that’s where, hey you know what? Until I’m not a gumby, I’m gonna be over here on the auto belay wall.
(NB): Oh, I don’t care what I look like. I just want to have fun. And a couple of her friends, Carson and Andrew, asked if we would double date with them to go climbing.
(NB): It’s really cute. It’s fun.
(KK): That’s really cute.
(CB): Yeah, we got a lot of places to visit. You know, I think Chelsea is someone that keeps texting me: “Hey! When are you coming to Colorado?” And so, we got some trips to make.
(NB): We gotta go to the Voo!
(CB): And there are some routes out there I think that have been named after Savannah. I think there’s one in Utah that it’s way above any of our levels for sure, but it’s something we’d like to see at some point.
(NB): Well, let’s face it—anything above a speed bump is (laughs) is above our level today.
(CB): Speak for yourself.
(NB): Well, we’re still freshman grievers, but I will say that I realize you can also grieve the loss of a relationship. You can grieve the loss of a job. You know, there’s lots of things that you can grieve over and it’s kind of interesting and it seems like a dichotomy, but while you are kind of retracting in your grief, you have to lean into the process. If that makes any sense. You want to stay away, but you have to lean in and do your own work to work through and allow the process to happen and not run from it because you have to go through all the sleepless nights crying. You have to go through the anger. You have to go through the questioning of things. You have to go through all of that to get to the other side.
(CB): Yeah, I think for me, and what I can say is, no two people are going to grieve the same way or on the same timeline. And for me, it’s ok to ask, right? And it’s ok to ask me how I’m feeling. You know, I’m not running away from the topic, and sometimes, it may be if I wanna talk about it, it’s because I trust you or I feel open enough with you. And I think all of us can take a little of something from Savannah, and I think one of the things I’ve taken is, I am gonna talk about Savannah and I am gonna be open about how I’m feeling with regards to the grieving process. And I think people were really afraid at times to approach you, or even things I notice was as simple as looking you in the eye. And one of the things that we’re very fortunate for and talked to our neighbors about was, “Hey, look. We don’t want to be that couple on the street, right? That everyone kinda walks across the street when they get to your house, then passes your house and then comes back to your sidewalk after they get past your house.” We wanted people to look us in the eye and to feel comfortable with us and ask us how we’re doing and involve us in things. You don’t want to be left alone. You wanna be amongst people that are willing to kind of share in it with you, too. That, for me, has been the process and it’s the little things, like I remember going back to work. I work in a little building that’s got about five stories and it has a little rooftop. And one of the guys told me, “In case you ever need it,” he goes, “I put a little chair on the rooftop if you just need a place to get away for fifteen minutes.”
And it’s just understanding, right? And it coulda been, “You know what? No, I don’t ever need it.” But the idea that someone was thinking of it was pretty special. So, it’s those kinda things. It is a process that you think you are coming out the other side of something and the littlest thing can kinda just trigger you for a day. For me, a lot of the times, it’s music. Savannah had awesome taste in music and I put this playlist together after she had passed which was all the songs that she had kinda introduced me to or the groups she had introduced me to that I still like listening to. And it’s a long process and I don’t know that there will ever come a day that I don’t still feel that hole or that darkness, but thankfully, it’s instead of ten thousand layers of fog, I’d say I have about a hundred left. And so, that’s kind of how the grieving process worked for me.
(NB): You can get through it. It’s just, it’s hard and you have to lean in. And I, a hundred percent agree with Court about the lack of parallelism and the grieving process. Everybody has to do it differently. Men, women, husband, wives—you’re going to process things in a very unique way and understanding that it’s ok for Court to be happy on days when I’m sad. And it’s ok for me to be happy on days that he’s sad, and for us to understand that that’s just part of the process.
(CB): You have to go through it. You cannot go around it. It does not allow you to.
(NB): You can try, but at some point, it will rear its ugly head and you won’t be as healthy as you can be. You have to allow it and you have to, again, lean into it. And I don’t use that lightly because it is hard to do that. It’s really hard. Imagine you’re on top of a cruise ship in the wind. And we’ve been in this situation where it’s so windy. You lean forward against this force and that’s the best way I can describe it: it’s this force. And you have to work at it to lean into it because if you don’t, it’ll push you back. It’ll push you over.
(CB): I mean, Savannah’s legacy, or the inspiration she provided—there’s been so many people that we’ve heard from, and so many people that have been inspired by it. It was interesting. It was somebody that was a client of ours from work, and somehow I got copied on some communication at work and said, “Hey. How you doing? I haven’t heard from you. I just saw your name pop across. It’s been a long time.” And I don’t know who knows, right? And so then, all of a sudden, I got a note back and she was like, “Oh wow.” She goes, “Hey, you know, I’m really sorry about Savannah,” and she goes, “—but I gotta tell you. After she passed—” and she didn’t know who Savannah was, or I don’t even know if she knew I had a daughter at the time. And she said, “I read her blog and it totally inspired me.” She goes, “I go out and I walk every day now and I have made myself a better person and all the things that I used to worry about about my job and things that I thought mattered at the time,” she said, “It just flipped that on its head.” So, it’s those kinda of things that I continue to hear about that, just for me, it’s like, I am so proud of Savannah. Right? But—
(NB): She gave us a lifetime.
(CB): —but I miss her so much. And that’s the part for me that I still struggle with, is just the idea that she’s not here and that she was just gettin’ started. You know? And the things that I will think about for the rest of my life are, you know, on her thirtieth birthday it’ll be like, “Gee, I wonder what Savannah would have been doing now. What her job woulda been. What kinda activities she would have been involved in.” And then I think about on her fiftieth birthday, and all those kinda things and for me, that’s the stuff that I’m really gonna miss.
(NB): Sometimes people that hear her story or know her tell us, “Wow. You guys must have been really good parents to raise a daughter like Savannah.” and we often reply, “She made us better parents.”
(CB): She raised us.
(CB): She did raise us.
(MALE VOICE): To Nina and Court: I know we have talked a few times, but I cannot help but keep saying how amazing a person Savannah was. When we talk about an open and welcoming climbing community in Chicago, I can’t help but think of Savannah. She embraced everyone, no matter who or what the situation entailed. She had such a positive energy about her that it was infectious. One memory I have is of a trip where she really, really wanted to go to this specific crag and I wasn’t sure if I was up for it. Her smile and exuberance easily won me over, and we both struggled on climbs that day. She just said, “It’s hard.” with a smile and just really enjoyed and embraced the climbs for what they were.
(MALE VOICE): Hello, Nina and Court. My name is Charles Park and I would like to share with you how I first met Savannah. The first time I met Savannah was when the First Ascent climbing gym opened in Chicago and my daughter was at the climbing gym team tryouts. Savannah was one of the coaches for the newly formed team. She walked over to me and introduced herself. Even when she did not continue to be the coach of this team, she would always say hi to me at the gym. She was always welcoming and kind, always with a smile. She is truly missed.
(MALE VOICE): There were so many incredible things about Savannah, but I think the one that stuck with me the most is how she would constantly reach out to friends and family just to check in and see how they were doing. Even if I hadn’t seen her for months, she would text me out of the blue and ask how my week was going at school or how my recent trip was. And I never got the chance to tell her how much that meant to me, but I try to carry it forward now. Any time I have a memory or a thought about Savannah, I use that as motivation to reach out to a friend and to see how they’re doing and to make sure that they’re in a mentally and physically safe place and I’m trying to carry her legacy forward that way.
(NB): What I loved most was when she was stoked about something, like meeting Lynn Hill for the first time. I mean, you would’ve thought she won the lottery. I mean, that was her lottery. Just that joy, that real joy—down to the cellular level—was so fun to see and be a part of. And in that respect, it really helped you see what joy really is. Right? That, sometimes it’s those human moments. And she had that—the human gift. And I think her gratitude led to her joy.
(KK): Even though I still have no idea what I’m doing—things are happening. And if you’d like to help out and support this podcast, please check out patreon.com (that’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N) where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 per episode. It really helps keep this podcast going, and I’m so grateful for all of your help. Special shout out to Cameron MacAlpine because he makes this thing sound good.
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(NB): Please come back and bring Shooter with you.
(CB): Yeah, it’s been nice having you here.
(CB): And honestly, I don’t know that I could ever live your lifestyle.
(CB): I said something to Nina this morning about like, “Hey, you wanna get one of these little vans that Kathy’s got?”
(NB): (laughs) Just sell everything!