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STRENGTH IN NUMBERS:
THE IMPORTANCE OF GRIEVING TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY



Belonging to a community like the one we have through mountain biking, we benefit greatly from the inspiration, influence, and individuality of others. But we also suffer enormous losses and feel these losses very deeply. For all the positives we gain, we also surrender to great sorrows throughout our lives simply due to the enormity of our collective.

Stevie Smith
Kelly Mcgarry

It’s no secret that the beginning of this year has been complete shit when it comes to the untimely deaths of great people. Both Kelly McGarry and Stevie Smith passed away far too soon, but each touched our lives by showing us what was possible. In bearing witness to their accomplishments and setbacks, we took from them the inspiration to push our own boundaries. We love them as much for who they were, as we do for how they made us feel about ourselves. And whether we knew them personally or followed their strong media presences, we lived vicariously through their passion and traveled the world through their eyes. We are all affected by their loss and the loss of all heroes like them, but we are also united as a community in sorrow.

While some are grieving an intimate loss – the absence of friendship, family, love, daily interactions, and future plans – even fans who never met them are all grieving on some level. Our expressions of sorrow and the intensity of our feelings will vary because the uniqueness of every person, every life, means tragedy impacts each of us differently. At the very least, the loss of anyone in our midst reminds us of the fragility of life and that nothing lasts forever.

When Kelly back flipped the canyon at Red Bull Rampage in 2013 –whether you were there on the ground, watching it live on TV, or saw it later through social media – that moment bonded us. Through that shared experience and those like it, we have built a far-reaching international community of mountain bikers.

 Paris Gore 2013 This image may not be used distributed copied printed published or displayed without the prior written permission of the Photographer Paris Gore Paris Gore Photography . Doing so without prior written permission will result in a charge of 3 three times the Photographer s customary fee for such usage.

We all watched Stevie grow up through races, movies, and interviews and we all pinned our hopes and dreams on that young, fast kid from a small town with the awesome mom. From the moment the movie Seasons dropped, we knew he’d be our champion, our great Canadian hope who would inspire riders around the world. The culmination of this was his win in Leogang, Austria, earning him the World Cup in 2013. We all lost our shit – so to speak – when we heard Rob Warner announce, "only a few seconds away from winning the World Cup for the very first time, Stevie Smith attacks, here he comes – look at the time!"

Stevie Smith

Uniting in celebration of these achievements and historic moments in our sport, and now in the process of grieving, strengthens our bonds and bolsters our community. Positive or negative, these common experiences allow us to connect and validate our feelings. By supporting each other, we can build something positive out of these tragedies – and the future ones that we are powerless to stop.

When I heard the news about Stevie last week, I was standing alone on a sidewalk in North Vancouver. All I wanted was to be with people who understood the gutted feeling I was experiencing – so I went to the nearest bike shop. It didn’t matter who would be there, I knew we would all be feeling the same way. I walked through the door and was immediately embraced – I didn’t have to say a word, and no one else did either. We cried and hugged, no pretense or preamble required. I was comforted by the fact that I belong to something that is bigger than me.

Will the circle be unbroken. Bye and bye in the sky. We ll see you on the other side.

Grieving isn't necessarily only about the memories we already have; those are in the past. It's also about the loss of future moments we were certain we would share with those we’ve lost. We are grieving the loss of inspiration, the loss of feeling united while watching Stevie race to triumph or Kelly seemingly prove physics wrong again. We are grieving those unknown experiences that we always assumed we would have, but that have now been stolen.

The passing of Kelly and Stevie will not be the last time our community deals with loss and grief. But we can take comfort in knowing that we can learn from these tragedies and build our community up. Talk to your friends and share with your community. When we share stories, memories, feelings, videos, and photos, we are adding new dimensions to their lives for others to experience, and we are expanding on the impact that they made in our world during their short lives. We are ensuring the everyone has the opportunity to know exactly how great they were, both on and off the bike, and why we will always miss them. We are inviting others to know them better, even though they are gone. Sharing past moments will keep those we’ve lost close and bring our community even closer. It will keep the spark they ignited in each of us alive and flourishing.

Friends family and everyone that had Kelly in their lives. Couldn t ask for more of a true remembrance for a real hero.

Tom Hey and Emmerson Wilken
 mcgazzaforever

There will always be new people to share memories and stories of our lost heroes with, and we have new traditions to develop in their honor. We are strong individually, but when we come together when we share the responsibility, we are unstoppable as a community. Together we keep the essence of the great people we’ve lost alive in our sport.

Stevie Smith



51 Comments

  • + 185
 got crapped on at school for all my posts about these guys dying when I don't even know them. non bikers will never get it. I may have never met stevie or kelly but both were great losses to me. this is a special thing we have and stuff like this really makes you appreciate it. #longlivechainsaw #mcgazzaforever
  • + 78
 We got your back, brother.
  • + 33
 And from down under, we got this bro.
  • + 37
 My girlfriend texted me after I posted about that she was sorry for my loss and it meant the world to me. Funny thing is she doesn't even ride.
  • + 7
 Right with you Zach people shit on me so much hahaha even when people die they can't give respect and make it a huge joke pisses me off so much these guys are legends and deserve respect
  • + 21
 @Takeshi194: you got yourself a keeper. Take care of her!
  • + 3
 Just holler!!! The field is hella in with support my good man.
  • + 21
 There's quite a bit of evidence emerging that shows that it's our level of perceived closeness that influences how much we're impacted. So we don't have to be socially close or geographically close to be impacted greatly... anyone who criticises us for being impacted probably doesn't know this (until it happens to them). If it ever does, let's be different and show them compassion and understanding. Like the article says, it's times like this where we should be drawing together. Talk to a friend, family member or even a professional who gets it (and don't give up if the first few people you seek support from doesn't understand... keep seeking support until you find someone who does get... They're out there for sure, just need to find them!).

Stevie and Kelly didn't know me but I knew them and felt like I could identify with them in some way... that was plenty enough for me to feel close to them which no doubt was a significant factor in how much I was impacted by their passing. Totally normal. Grief isn't easy so don't think you need to do it on your own.

RIP Stevie and Kelly. Thanks for the inspiration and good memories.
  • + 8
 It's all good broski! F&#k them, Kelly and Stevie are our hero's, you keep remembering all the awesome edits, video parts, World Cup races, and articles. That way they never die! McGazza and Chainsaw forever!
  • + 103
 Let's not forget our friend Dave Mirra ...
  • + 2
 Best ever-rip boys
  • + 75
 Or Will Olson of Edwards, Colorado
  • + 1
 No doubt!
  • + 51
 perfect, beautifully written, I'm so proud to be a very average mountain biker right now..
  • + 27
 Beautiful article. I never had the pleasure of meeting them but I couldn't help but shed tears for Dave, Kelly and Stevie. Literally my 3 favorite riders... all gone. What amazing memories I have cheering them on. From X Games, to World Cups to Rampage. Reading this makes me want to bomb the steepest hill I can find in their honor.
  • + 4
 If you shed a tear, no need to stop that. Every time a listen to a record by Chuck Schuldiner I shed a tear as well. And he's been gone for almost fifteen years now. I'm pretty sure the same will happen every time I pop in that Seasons or Follow Me dvd. It is good, it means that they still matter to you. Yes I will forever celebrate and appreciate their contributions yet at the same time there will always be a time and place to be sad they're gone. Know you're not alone.
  • + 3
 @vinay: DUDE. HELL YES. Death has been literally one of my favorite bands for a long time. Very surprised to hear you mention Chucks name. What a legend!
  • + 1
 @JPK-LKN: Yeah man, from the first time I heard ITP I was hooked. I still recall I dropped by the record store several times a week because the Symbolic album was about to arrive (back in March 1995 that was) and when they finally had it, the guy from the record store came running at me "yeah, we've got it!". Chuck was a hero to me, giving high fives to the crowd whenever he was holding a note in the middle of a guitar solo. In my mind there are definitely similarities between Steve Smith and Chuck Schuldiner. Both accomplished so much yet still were at a point where they had so much more to give. Both enjoyed massive support from their mom. And both will be remembered smiling.

Once again times are hard for the cycling as well as for the music world. I just found out that Nick Menza died, who's been playing drums for Megadeth for a fair while.
  • + 14
 Great Article Danielle.

A thought though... if I don't feel much remorse for death of Kelly, thus according to all social norms I should feel there is something wrong with me, does it mean that if I almost cried a few times thinking about Stevie and his mom, I should feel good about myself?

If that makes anyone angry because it is such a cold hearted thing to write, does that mean that loss created anxiety, the release of energy gets channeled into wrong direction to hate a stupid, narcissistic troll? Can we channel that energy to do something positive? Can we treat someone's death and make something good out of it? It seems that it is exactly what Stevies closest person is doing, turning a loss into a win. His mom, wants to start a foundation. Perhaps she will be shuttling kids up the mountain and I am happy to support that in every single way.

Do we really need to give ourselves occasions to cry? Instead of reasons to smile based on what happened? I rode a bike the day after I learned about his death, and it happened that I had a bloody good day, I had a great time, I thought of him and I smiled I was happy I am alive. I hoped I was smiling as much as he was on so many pictures and that one podium I saw him on with my own eyes. I smiled a bit more, because his Death made me think how easy it is for everything to end. That I may be killed on the way home from woods. The brutal fact that many of us can't appreciate something that comes in abundance, the fear of loss is what makes it more vivid.

Favorites of Gods die young. The most brutal truth about young Athletes passing away is that they are better remembered than those who died on their beds. Many leave greater legacy this way. Community... they can hug you, and they can f*cking hang you. Have no doubts, not even for a moment. Think for yourself, question whatever you don't understand. Make the best out of every fall.

Let's give yourselves reasons to
#smilelikeStevie #smilelikeMcGazza
  • + 3
 While I don't agree with everything you said, I appreciate your perspective here very much. There are some ridiculously hard-hitting truths in your post, and I seriously appreciate that. Ride on!
  • + 6
 Waki

I just read your comment and the one in the uci memorial article. I respect your right to post anything you want but can you just let this go for now and let people grieve?

For once this isn't about you or what your reactions to his passing say about you as a human being.
  • + 3
 @Bike078: The beauty of this site are the comments, if you don't like someone's comment just neg prop him. If a there are more people who dislike the comment it will be hidden. I don't agree with Waki in a lot of things, but in this case he is no being hurtful or disrespectful to anyone.
  • + 12
 Stevie smith was a great guy I remember riding provost with him on Vancouver Island and coming home with soaked shoes and glove and cloths and him latterly making sure me and my buddy were going home warm and healthy in fox gear thank you Stevie it was an amazing ride and I will always remember you and remember that if I ride that trail to stay left them thorny bushes between the jumps suck
  • + 16
 Well written Danielle, you've very eloquently summed it up for all of us.
  • + 13
 Very nice piece on a couple of amazing athletes and role models.
  • + 8
 A few years ago my friend Mark arrived early at Fort William and was standing around the bottom of the course when Stevie rode past after getting in an early practice run. "How's it riding Stevie" he shouted, and to his credit Stevie did an about turn, rode back and chatted for a while about the course, how he felt his chances were and just riding in general. A truly nice guy who will be sadly missed and I'm so glad there's going to be a tribute for him at Fort William in June.
  • + 2
 oh man, that's awesome.
  • + 4
 This article, and related PB content, is both a salve and a wound: comforting yet painful. Thank you for articulating our consciousnesses. How grief brings us closer to our community is the best way to frame any loss. It is refreshing, if not astringent, to read a sincere string of comments. Such respect is often lost in the anonymity of internet posts. Raise a glass to those who inspire us and contribute to the most fun a person can have.
  • + 7
 time doesn't heal all wounds. it just softens the blow. and thanks god. for the pain reminds us that we're alive.
  • + 4
 The majority of our celebrities don't make piss poor choices that land them in jail or rehab, therefore keeping them out of the public eye. Everyone here in New England gets upset when Tom Brady is caught deflating her balls, but most of them don't know him and still idolize him. Same thing. Talented individuals who share a passion(Except Brady, she cheats.)
I used to explain downhill as "Bikes are my sunday football." And all of a sudden it made sense to the non followers.

You'll always have our support. It's the way of the brotherhood. The same way I slow down and give extra room to cyclists on the road, it's not dirt but we still share a passion for two wheels, it's about respect and understanding we're all family.
  • + 8
 That was very heartfelt. Comforting. Thank you.
  • + 3
 The passing of these great athletes is sombering for sure. Each of us may have never had the chance to meet them in person but we all know their names. For they have taken our sport and shown the world the greatness that is biking. We join together in mourning and in celebration of their lives. RIP McGarry, Mirra, Smith. Ride on...
  • + 3
 I didn't know Stevie or Gazza, but these guys were my inspiration. They didn't know it, and maybe I didn't fully comprehend it either, but watching these guys, and their equals, hitting stuff I could only imagine, and living the life I sometimes dreamed of; they gave me inspiration, and contributed in some small way to getting me outside on my bike, especially those times when maybe I didn't feel like it. I've never regretted a single day riding my bike. It simplifies my life, and breaks it down the purest elements, where I can find my center and remember why I love living. It's joy. These guys will be missed for their personal contribution to my joy.
  • + 5
 The great humans are always the hardest to lose. Didn't know any of them, but it hurts like I did. Time to make time for more rips!!!!! Ride in peace fellas.
  • + 2
 This put into words why it hurts even though i never met either Kelly or Stevie. I don't have a pic with them with one of my kids, or a personal story to tell about how I saw them in a lift line or out on the trails. Still, the pain is real and I've been wondering why or if it was even genuine of me to feel this way. After reading this it's clear that we are connected in some way to those that inspire us, we love them like family or friends that we just haven't met. Also the pros in our sport make themselves hugely accessible to us. I sent a DM to a top pro last year asking if I could send something for an autograph. I didn't expect a response, but I got very nice one and it meant more than the autograph ever could. Love to the MTB fam!
  • + 2
 Danielle Baker; thank you for your insight and wisdom. Your ability to articulate the impact and individuality of grieving, and to remind us all that its ok to grieve and to come together for comfort is greatly appreciated.
You clearly 'know' grief and we wish you strength and comfort... as you've just given us.
  • + 1
 This is kinda off topic but, McGazza (and of course Stevie too) actually never defy the laws of physics. Quite the contrary, they have a deeper innate understanding of it. McGazza knows (maybe unconsciously) just how much speed he had to clear the canyon gap and just how much he had to pull back to make one perfect backwards rotation. In case of Stevie, he knows how fast he can go on those slick corners of MSA before he lost traction.

unless @dbaker is writing in figurative manner, and I'm kinda missing the point.
  • + 2
 Very well written. One of the worst things we can do IMO is to become numb to these tragic events, so mourning together brings us closer and exercises our emotions.
  • + 4
 Excellent article. It's great to be part of this community.
  • + 4
 Couldn't of said it any better............
  • + 3
 It's too bad there is no way to favorite an article, I totally would.
  • + 4
 I think you can actually, it adds on your profile under favorite news i believe.
  • + 2
 Fave button at the bottom beside the YouTwitFace buttons. A very nice article indeed.
  • + 2
 You have to have it in desktop mode, I only ever pb on my phone. Learn something new every day...
  • + 3
 Cheers to that brother.... ????
  • + 3
 This quadrupple questionmark thing in PB stupid. Takes the beauty out of a respectful comment. Pinkbike (@mikelevy, anyone) please fix that. Thank you.
  • + 1
 @vinay: it was supposed to be a emoticon of two beers clinking together, it came out as question marks.....I don't know why....but good on you for paying attention to such trivial things
  • + 3
 I just want it to not be true
  • + 2
 That's why I love MTB. We are very strong together, at the good and bad moments. A Big Global Family.

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