‘His death is not a tragedy’: Friends and family celebrate the life of an adventurous Utahn who died climbing Mount Everest

(Photo courtesy of Facebook) Don Cash, 55, a Utah mountaineer, died Wednesday, May 22, 2019, on Mount Everest, according to a report in The Himalayan Times.

Sandy • It was a different type of celebration than they’d planned for.

But it was a celebration nevertheless, as the family and friends of Don Cash — a Utahn who died after summiting Mount Everest on May 22 — came together Saturday to remember the man they loved, his accomplishments and the way he lived.

Cash, 55, loved neon, had 102 pairs of shoes and collected “seemingly everything that has an engine.” He was a joker, who after losing three fingers from frostbite on a previous climb wore fake digits on a chain around his neck as a “conversation piece.” He was quick to cry and sometimes joked that his tear ducts were connected to his bladder.

He had an adventurous spirit and put faith before fear.

“He would want me to tell you that his death was not a tragedy,” Monette Cash, Don’s wife, told a group of hundreds gathered at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Sandy Crescent Stake Center on Saturday. “What is tragic is an unlived life. And he really believed that.”

His family took comfort, she said, in the fact that Cash had fulfilled his lifelong dream of joining the 7 Summits Club — a group of those who have climbed the highest mountain on each continent — before he died.

The mountaineer, who left a lucrative job as a sales executive in the technology industry to journey up the mountain, collapsed at the summit of Everest last month due to what his family believes to be cardiac failure. He took his last breath on his descent near the Hillary Step, a vertical rock face on the southeast side of the world’s tallest mountain.

His body was left there.

Cash was the 11th climber to die on Everest this year, as part of the highest toll on the mountain since 2015, The Associated Press has reported. Most of those deaths have been attributed to edema, exhaustion and hypothermia, as well as to potential overcrowding on the mountain as the allure of Everest has led to more crowds and sometimes deadly delays.

Those who knew Cash shed a number of tears during the hour-and-a-half long celebration of his life on Saturday. But they had almost as many laughs, remembering the man who dressed up for Halloween as the tooth fairy and who had given his less-than-athletic son-in-law a “Weight Training for Dummies” book as a present to welcome him to the family.

Even as he and his brother, Jared, said their final goodbye in a small tea house in a desolate village in Nepal, Cash made a quip.

“As we were about to talk about the potential mortality of the invincible Don Cash, he starts with a joke: How I need to make sure that Mo does not sell his cars for what he paid for them,” Jared Cash remembered, eliciting a laugh from the audience. “They are at least worth twice that or more.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Collectable cars are parked outside the Crescent Stake Center in Sandy, where a celebration of life was held for Don Cash on Saturday, June 1, 2019. Cash died while descending from the Everest summit on May 22, 2019, at age 55.

A collection of Cash’s cars were parked in front of the church on Saturday, and a colorful display of family photos and images of the mountaineer at the top of other mountain peaks sat on a table inside.

Cash was born in Salt Lake City and raised in Ohio, where he helped out on the family farm and “subcontracted” chores to his brother, according to his obituary. He attended Brigham Young University in Hawaii and Provo and served an LDS mission in Taipei, Taiwan, and in Oakland, Calif. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in Chinese.

He leaves behind his wife, four children and three granddaughters.

Members of Cash’s entire family were involved in his summit, reading books and articles and watching videos about Everest. They understood the risks, but they were still shocked when they learned of his death, thinking of him as almost invincible.

At his memorial service, they expressed faith that they would see him again and hope that his life — and his death — will inspire others to chase their own difficult dreams.

“Something that my dad requested is that instead of flowers, he wanted everyone to do something difficult or challenging in his honor,” his son, Tanner Cash, said with a smile during the ceremony. “This morning, I ran my first marathon. So you guys are a little bit behind.”

After many laughs and memories of Cash’s life from his family and friends, Danielle Cook, one of his daughters, gave her father the opportunity to have one of the final words of the ceremony.

“Today, I am grateful for my family,” she read from his journal, in an entry dated the day before he left for Nepal. “Just in case this is my last gratitude entry because something bad happened on Everest, I want everyone to know how much I love my wife, my kids and all my family and friends. I lived a great life. God blessed me. I have no regrets.”

“I will see you all soon.”