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Brook Golling 'taught us how to live in love'

When Joseph, Brook, Will and Derek arrived in Retalhuleu, Guatemala, more than 10 years ago, steeping in sweltering heat, they took up residence in a run-down, concrete-walled rental house; bare apart from rat droppings by foam mattresses on the floor.

Brook quickly made the place feel like home.

He found a hardware store, bought some planks of wood and got to work on a bookshelf for the living room, which stood as a sturdy marker for what the group of friends would accomplish in the years ahead, beginning with the construction of something simple and useful.

Joseph Bornstein can recall the memory perfectly today, now three weeks since his friend, Brook Golling, 35, died in an avalanche near the Etna Summit in California Feb. 3.

“Here we were, we’re supposed to start a nonprofit out of thin air, we’re living in a place with no tables, no real beds, maybe a couple plastic chairs, nothing,” Bornstein said. “Brook just looked at the equation and went out into the heat of the day. No matter how big the problem was, he just started with a sturdy step, a measured hand, intelligence, and he began.”

Friends and family are quick to highlight Golling’s loving spirit and no-fuss, grounded and fearless commitment to the task at hand as defining traits, which he carried into nonprofit work, personal relationships and his massage therapy and Qigong practices.

In his early 20s, following a friend’s unexpected death, Golling instigated a project to build a house for the friend’s son in Nicaragua — the “spark” that inspired another trip to Central America focused on biodiesel, Golling wrote in an autobiography published September 2014.

Golling co-founded the nonprofit Semilla Nueva, and wrote about traveling Guatemala with farmers who grew everything “from corn to coffee,” to learn and teach about leadership and sustainable agricultural practices amid the rapid effects of climate change on farming.

Bornstein remembers from the first days they met on the soccer field in middle school, Golling had a knack for communicating with and inspiring others, without any hidden agenda.

“We were partners even back then,” he said. “I always knew that Brook had my back.”

A mutual friend initially encouraged them to travel through Central America — what began as a mission to surf, play soccer, learn Spanish and get to know the people of Central America, then blossomed into years focused on social change and environmental sustainability, planting the roots of a thriving nonprofit. Family members say the progression was only natural for a confident and energetic leader like Golling.

Aside from his professional and altruistic accomplishments, Golling’s journey through Central America led him to meet Yaoska Liduvina Rosales-Suarez, who became his wife in 2012. Together they welcomed a child, Tonneson Antonio Rosales-Golling, in 2016.

Golling wrote about his wife as a brave and sensitive partner, who walked with him on a path of love, laughter and adventure in their healthy and strong relationship.

Now walking without Golling alongside her as their son grows, Rosales-Suarez said, “In all our life together, Brook never made me cry as much as he is right now. We had so much love for each other — this beautiful family, this amazing life; we were so happy together.”

Friends remember Golling as someone who was courageous and steadfast in his interpersonal bonds. Bornstein said he challenged friends to develop their highest selves through care rather than criticism. His positivity, disarming humor and sincerity in pursuit of the mantra “love grows with love given,” inspire Bornstein in his daily life.

“Brook was somebody that you could put your stakes in,” he said. “The idea that we could fly down there and build a house, or that we could travel Central America to do the biodiesel project or start a nonprofit together, knowing that we’d be doing it together was really such a huge enabler for that belief.”

A few months before he passed, Sheylan Yearsley talked with her brother, Golling, about arranging a land trust on their parents’ eight acres of property in the Greensprings — the same property they romped around as children. Raised in a cabin with one loft, a woodstove and no running water or electricity, Golling embraced the value of simplicity and choosing happiness, he wrote.

Golling believed in that land as a gift that would sustain the family in uncertain times, Yearsley said. As friends and family prepared the land for his burial, she felt her brother there, lightheartedly encouraging the crew to get the work done.

“In the days after, as we were preparing to lay him to rest on our property, this energy around fulfilling that tribute really came to light,” she said.

Though she feels the cycles of grief come and go, Yearsley said she also feels called to uphold the intentions most meaningful to her brother — his legacy to responsibly steward land and further sustainability, to spread healing and understanding in every project or simple conversation, and his undeniable ebullience.

Anyone who met Golling as a massage therapist at Ashland Natural Medicine will remember his dedicated attention and intuitive capabilities as a healer, Yearsley said.

“Every single moment he was giving,” she said. “But he wasn’t ever giving from a place of needing anything from anyone, he was giving because he was full and saw the good in each of us and wanted for us to see that too.”

As children, on winter days when the car wouldn’t make it up the driveway, the siblings, Sheylan, Tess and Kai, would follow Golling’s bright blonde head on a half-mile trudge through the snow. They trusted his leadership and sure footing. When they grew, Golling remained a trusted guide and mentor in the family, with kindness, respect, honesty and joy at the core, she said.

“He taught us how to live in love,” Yearsley said.

Though losing Golling in the mountains has brought waves of challenging emotions for the family, knowing he died pursuing a passion is a small solace, Yearsley said. Golling wrote about skiing as an anchor — where he learned to breathe, focus and fly through deep snow and tree groves.

“Let’s hope that in his absence, we all find ways to ground, take deep breaths, focus, then fly,” she said.

To learn more about Brook Golling, read his autobiography and other writings, stay connected, or support his family, see lovegrowswhengiven.org.

Yaoska Rosales Suarez Golling, Tonneson Antonio Rosales Golling and Brook Golling.