I was doing some online research and came across a story that had a profound effect on me. So often it’s hard to find a reason for why bad things happen to good people. In a world that’s created by consciousness, I believe everything has a reason for being or occurring, even if we’re never made aware of its purpose.
Life doesn’t need our acknowledgment to carry on its business. Still, I was impressed by this story of loss because it reminded me of the perfect way in which life conducts its economy of scale. Nothing that comes into existence from the tiniest microbe to the largest planet or anything that happens from the most joyous experience to the most tragic is ever wasted. No matter how painful an experience might be or how big our loss, it always serves the greater good, even when we don’t see it right away. As it’s been said, nothing is for nothing, and it helps to know that as we face our own struggles in life.
Brandon Day and Gina Allen of Dallas were in Southern California for a business conference. During a leisurely hike in the San Jacinto Mountains, the pair got lost after they strayed off a trail to explore a remote part of the wilderness. Initially, they weren’t worried because they could still hear voices from other hikers in the distance. They were certain they’d find their way back to the trail once they crested the next ridge—except they didn’t, and by that time, the distant voices they’d heard earlier had faded from the air. They’d only planned on a brief hike, so both wore light jackets with shorts and tennis shoes, and neither brought food, spare clothing or even their cell phones.
The first night was spent in a cave created by a cluster of huge boulders where freezing temperatures and their own hunger pangs made it virtually impossible to sleep. The next day they struggled over the rocky, unforgiving terrain attempting to follow a stream downhill, only to find absolutely no signs of life. They spent their second night near a covering of brush, huddling together to keep from being awakened by their own shivering.
By the third day, the elements were breaking them down, and Gina was feeling particularly weak. Even so, they prayed a lot and continued to repeat the same mantra they’d created the night they became lost: “We’re going to get out of here. We’re not going to die. It’s not our time.”
Eventually, they stumbled upon a campsite inside a dead end gorge. They were ecstatic that someone would finally be able to help them find their way back. Entering the site, they found a sleeping mat, backpack, tennis shoes, spoon, disposable razor and a poncho hung in the brush to create shade. Almost at the same time it hit them; something was wrong. Most of the items were wet. A flashlight and radio wouldn’t work because the batteries were corroded. The camp was deserted. They were devastated.
They found identification at the scene that showed the camp had belonged to John Donovan, a 60-year-old retired social worker from Virginia. They would later learn that Donovan had been following the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to Canada when he vanished the previous year. The pair also found his impromptu journal, scrawled on the pages of a sketch pad and the backs of various maps. They were the desperate admissions of a man who knew he would never be found and was preparing for his own death. In an odd twist, Donovan’s last journal entry was exactly one year to the day that Brandon and Gina stumbled into his camp. No one had ever found Donovan, and now it seemed certain that they would meet their deaths there, too – a terrible loss.
Frantically searching for anything that could help them, Brandon found a sweater for Gina in the backpack, dry socks for himself and a box of matches. They lit a small fire, but a passing helicopter never saw them.
The next day, Brandon knew it would likely be their last and that he had to do something drastic. He found a huge culvert full of dead brush, stuck a match and set it all on fire. Very quickly, nearly two acres were ablaze. Helicopter crews were alerted and rescued Brandon and Gina at the scene.
Recovering in the hospital in Palm Desert, they wanted Donovan’s family to know that his death and their loss was not in vain but had a very noble purpose, to save their lives. “With tragedy comes rebirth,” Brandon said. “We have a special thanks for that person.”*
For more health insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit beingclarity.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter or check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN here. For daily messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram at @drhabibsadeghi.
*Jablon, Robert, (May 10, 2006), Hiking Couple Lost in San Jacinto Wilderness Find Abandoned Gear, StarTribune.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY by Robin Le Febvre | STYLED BY Sarah Cazeneuve