Sometimes Mountains Move

In Memory of David Koop
December 30, 1947 to April 28, 1968

The Story Behind “Sometimes Mountains Move”

By Calvin Landrus, SRCFC National Director

When Dr. C. Everett Koop’s died, in late February 2013, he was eulogized in the national news as one of the first U.S. Surgeon Generals who was out-spoken and used his position to champion health related causes. In the news, one aspect of his life that was not mentioned but it deserves to be shared with the climbing community is that his son died a climbing accident.

Before becoming Surgeon General, he had gained notoriety as the surgeon-in-chief at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for doing cutting-edge surgeries on younger and more fragile children. Success was a reality but failure was as well when dealing with such precarious patients. In a circuitous way, Reader’s Digest published an article by Koop in February 1968 called, “What I Tell a Dying Child’s Parents.” On April 28th of that year, the dean of Dartmouth College called and told him he had bad news and he went on to say, “The worst, David is dead. He was killed in a climbing accident on Mount Cannon this afternoon.” (1)

From that perspective, he and his wife, Elizabeth, wrote “Sometimes Mountains Move.” I first become aware of the book after my mom passed away because in her “stack of books” was a copy of “Sometimes Mountains Move.” Since I was the only climber in the family, it was passed on to me; I read it in one sitting as it’s not a long book. The amazing thing to me is that it contains a different viewpoint than most have when it comes to the climbing death of a climber that they knew. It was full of hope! In the book, the thesis for hope is based on trusting in the sovereignty of God.

The story shared does unfold with great sadness and the many tears that should come after the sudden death of a loved one. Of course, the what ifs and if onlys were written about. However, from the very beginning, the Koops felt, “the grace of God was sufficient, and we knew a peace that did indeed surpass understanding.” (2) And by the end of the book, they encouraged the reader with this, “In every death there are agonizing thoughts of how death could have been avoided or at least postponed (delayed). But a firm belief in the absolute sovereignty of God is the only sure way to avoid the futility of dwelling on what ifs and if onlys.” (3)

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The book also shares about a brother of David named Allen. He has been part of SRCFC for many years and has provided copies of “Sometimes Mountains Move” for Solid Rock to share with families of climbers who have died in climbing accidents. One of those families was the Robertson family.

It was in April 30th, 2010, that Joshua Robertson flipped upside down in a lead fall, hitting his head with deathly force (read more). Upon hearing the news that a Solid Rocker had died, we contacted them and offered a copy of the Koops’ book. It was graciously received by the Robertsons and God spoke clearly to Josh’s father, Mark, through it.

In an email soon afterwards, he wrote: “I was so moved by Sometimes Mountain Move that I wrote to the Koops, and eventually….they came to our house in Georgia for dinner with the purpose of providing comfort to my family. Dr. Koop gave us his perspective on the loss of his son, David, 42 years ago. There was a lot of crying and prayer offered to a sovereign God who numbers the hairs on our heads, and does not allow a sparrow to fall to the ground apart from the divine decree of a sovereign, loving and good God!” God’s grace was sufficient for the Koops and God’s grace through them was made available to the Robertsons.

Near the end of the book, the Koops offer the following practical things (4) about the course of recovery you might one day find useful for yourself or to minister to others: there is no timetable for grief; there is no blueprint to show one the way through it; each recovery is extremely personal; and the expectations of others should be ignored.” The best nugget of truth I found is that they “found that the void is really never filled, but God does make the void bearable.” (5)

In conclusion, as a climber, have you ever thought you could be the one who may die in a fall? And if that happens, what is the greatest gift you could leave those left behind? The Koops wrote, “In the midst of comfort in the sovereignty of God and His plan for David’s life, we are perhaps most grateful of all for the knowledge that he is at this moment with the Lord.”

Have you settled this issue? Do you know if you were to die in a climbing accident the next time you go out, would you be with the Lord? If not, take this moment make sure. Invite Jesus who died, was buried and rose again into your life as your Savior and Lord. Then make it clearly known to someone so that all can rejoice that death has no victory over you!  

Visit our How to Become a Christ-follower Page for assistance!

C. Everett Koop and Elizabeth Koop; Sometimes Mountains Move; Grand Rapids, MI; Revised Edition; Zondervan; 1974, 1995.
(1) Page 14
(2) Page 19
(3) Page 87
(4) Page 83
(5) Page 68


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