Sometimes legends come into your life and you don’t even know it.
Michael Leming was legendary and even he didn’t even know it.
Many legends and heroes have been made by glorifying their deaths from their too adventurous pursuits. As a climber and mountain rescuer I have had a few near death experiences, but personally I have never agreed with substantiating death from “doing what he or she loved.” None of us seek adventure to die. We do it to live. Living life to its fullest sometimes by pushing through fear with calculated risk.
“LemDog” as he was affectionately called by his skydiving and Base jumping friends, died in a wingsuit accident in Norway on June 25th. The world that he touched was crushed. It’s certainly not a surprise when you lose someone to an extreme sport, but it hurts. It hurts bad and it makes people question why, especially those that don’t understand the passion for living life at its maximum potential… aka The Edge.
Michael died doing something he loved, but he wasn’t considered a legend at any of his “extreme” activities. He wasn’t a legendary climber, sky diver, snowboarder, BASE jumper, mountain rescuer, philanthropist, photo model nor a legendary employee. He did all of those things and did them remarkably well, but his legendary status stems from something much deeper.
What made Michael Leming a legend was the man he was on safe and solid ground. He was a legendary friend that led an extraordinary full life that will never be forgotten. And the longer he has been gone, the more his legacy grows and reminds us to live passionately, purposely, and fully… thus the mantra “Live Like Leming.”
Michael had a sincere gift of caring for others. He was a friend to hundreds and impacted the lives of thousands across the world. He was a long time veteran of Portland Mountain Rescue. He volunteered for Big City Mountaineers and other dynamic causes. To some of us, he was simply “Leming”, our brother that stood out in a crowd. To others, he was a passionate culture enhancer as the top talent scout for Nike. And to ALL of us, a super cool inspiring guy. A guy that most of us want to be like or hang around.
Even as his climbing partner (we summited Hood together over 50 times) and one of his best friends, I questioned Michael many times about his need to continue Base jumping and wingsuiting. I was worried that this day would come and selfishly, my life wouldn’t be as full without him in it. And I was right on both accounts.
I was with him when he used up some of God’s “hall passes”… The time he dropped to the deck and fell down Mount Hood (“his church” as he affectionately called it) and was then choppered off the mountain. I was there when he flew off an unseen cornice in a whiteout for yet another hospital visit. I was there when he severed his Achilles tendon near the top of Mount St. Helens and together we pushed him down the mountain for over 6 hours while he sat on top of his snowboard. And that was just from climbing and snowboarding. His list of near death experiences certainly doesn’t end there. Not when you drive fast, skydive and BASE jump.
The truth is and what I have come to realize after the anger of his death, is that it wasn’t Michael’s destiny to live slower, get older and settle down like most of us. He was a tiger living amongst sheep and followed his own path… a purpose driven life. Michael lived his full 53 years of life on his terms. He lived BIG and we admired him for that. But again his willingness to live on that edge did not make him a hero nor a legend.
Michael “the man” made him a legend. He practiced what he preached and once told me, “You will be lucky in this life to count your friends on one hand. REAL friends. Friends that don’t judge you and will be there no matter what. And every time you “open” your fist, I will be there. I promise you.”
And he was.
All of us are saddened because we won’t ever again be able to speak, text, laugh (he had a HUGE laugh), cry, climb and jump with our legendary friend.
Instead we honor him because Michael Leming is one of those irreplaceable people and his spirit will always be burning inside of those he impacted. And we can learn from his life lessons. To not take a day for granted. To get out of our comfort zones. To touch our fears (with calculated risk). To be passionate. To find our purpose. To love unconditionally. To never judge others. To be there for ANYBODY in need. To positively impact as many people as we can possibly touch. To leave a legacy that reminds us that we only get one shot at life.
What are you going to do with yours?
Hopefully like Michael, you are within that fist for your friends.
Hopefully you are willing to live each day to your fullest.
Hopefully you… LIVE LIKE LEMING.