Sometimes, I worry about development – about our houses and our gyms and our stupid super stores taking over the planet. Yes, this trend is concerning and I want to rip developer’s “FOR SALE” signs out of those open fields. But then, I take a road trip to the Mid-West. It is when I drive through parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin with miles and miles of corn, and I think “Ok, we’ve still got plenty of open space.” I am so snobby that I fail to remember that lack of things to look at on I-90 means food on the table, corn in my belly, orange soda in my hand. I’ll admit it, I’ve got some Colorado elitism in me and I carry some opinions about our neighbors to the east. I am, after all, a Colorado Buffalo. Sorry Husker fans. Did you know there isn’t a Starbucks within 200 miles between cities in Nebraska? I looked.
This road trip helped me to identify a few growth areas within my personality – say some acceptance for slower ways of living, a respect for those who don’t sport my same coffee addiction, and a questioning look into my privilege of honestly craving carrots and hummus on the road rather than fast food. This trip, too, gave me an appreciation for roots, and for tradition, for open spaces, and for love that families create.
Dylan’s grandfather passed away last week. It wasn’t expected, and he was fairly healthy at 84 years old. It was less than 48 hours between finding out he fell, to finding out he had passed on. News like that is never easy to absorb. It is easy, however, to mobilize, and within a few days we packed up a car and ordered snacks, and loaded our Kindles to make the 15 hour drive to Wisconsin because nothing else in that situation would make sense. Seven adults in a Ford Excursion is a lot different than a road trip with the cousins when you are ten or eleven. We still had fun, still made the most of it.
It can be, at times, hard to find beauty in tragedy or peace in the midst of suffering. My experience participating in Dylan’s family as they began to grieve was very different than that of when my own grandfather passed away. We all handle emotions differently and my family is known to be, well, “over processors” when it comes to emotion, so I wasn’t sure how to act or what to expect.
Tears were shed, and stories were told, and laughter was more common than silence or weeping. I was exposed to a Catholic funeral, a viewing, a rosary – cultural experiences I had never had before. We ate a lot of cheese curds, our sandwiches had butter on them, comfort food was shared.
This is Grandpa as a kid – an original Cheesehead I suppose
What I found to be most beautiful in this experience, however, was pausing to reflect upon all the lives this man created and influenced and impacted. Gerald had six children, and a few married or committed to someone, and a few of those six had their own children. As the grand kids grow new additions get added on – me included. He has three great-grandchildren. Gerald served in the Army and the Navy so many men from the VA, or VFW or Knights of Columbus came and shared their respects. What a powerful thing it is to honor someone who has served our country.
I feel so blessed to be a part of their story – that I could hold some tissues, and hold Dylan’s hand, and give support to a family that has long ago accepted me as one of their own. It is never easy to lose someone you love, and even harder to think about what they will miss in your own lives. A part of me is really sad that the wedding did not come sooner – had we not postponed, both of our grandfathers would have been able to attend.
While I did not know this man very well, I have been blessed to be exposed to the beauty of what he created. A family of expansive love that gives freely, and ask questions, and has fun. So here is to you, Gerald Sullivan. Thank you for what you have given this world, and by extension, what has been given to me. Please know that you are loved.