I really had no business attending the funeral of Stephen Jones. I’d never met him and I really didn’t know much about him.
But about two weeks ago, a skier went missing in the Park City ski area around Canyon Village. Immediately, the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers leaped into action, convening on Facebook as to how they could help their fellow runner. Officials forbade us from going to look for him, as it could make things worse (if there was more than one beacon out there, searching would be more difficult, etc.)
And eventually, a couple of days later, his beacon was found. Stephen Jones had been found dead, buried in an avalanche. I had no direct attachment to Stephen, except through my Facebook group, the Wranglers. But I mourned his loss for his friends and family and for our group of 2,569 runners, which comprise the Wranglers.
As I said, I had no business attending the funeral of Stephen Jones. I felt a little out of place, not knowing anyone, really, and started to feel that maybe I was a little bit on the fringe for having made the trip from Provo to Midway, Saturday morning.
The services for Stephen were top notch. Friends and family spoke of a man who was adventurous, opinionated, but above all- loved his family. This was a man to emulate. Everything he did pointed to his love for those around him. As I sat, listening, I realized that I wouldn’t leave this funeral unchanged. I wanted to be a better friend, father and husband.
After the services, our small group of Wranglers made way to the road to begin a run in honor of Stephen. Still uneasy, knowing that I was probably the only one who had never met the man we were gathered to mourn and celebrate, I introduced myself to those around me and even recognized a man from my first ultra, this summer, at Pony Express.
We ran from the Midway Town Hall building, along Main Street. While all thoughts were on Stephen, there were moments that ranged from somber, all the way to joyful as we splashed over muddy puddles, even laughing at points as the mood seemed to lift a bit as we made our way toward the Heber City Cemetery.
As we entered the cemetery grounds, we fell silent as watches dutifully beeped, giving signal to the end of a special commemorative run. We quietly walked over to where a large group of family and friends had already assembled, for the interment of a man who had clearly impacted all who were privileged to meet him.
A beautiful song was performed and as the service ended, I had the honor of meeting some of Stephen’s family and more of the Wranglers group that I’ve been conversing with for over a year. Eventually we pilled into a few vehicles and headed back to the Midway Town Hall, where I quietly got back into my truck for the drive home.
As I drove back down Provo Canyon, I reflected on my life, my family and those who I’ve been fortunate enough to associate with in my 41 years of life. I want to run more, be braver and try harder in those things that I dedicate myself to. I want to be a better husband, father and friend.
For not having ever met Stephen, he has made an indelible impression on me, anyway. Rest in peace, brother.