Journey of 18 Months
On July 30, 2018 the life and family as I knew it abruptly and violently ended. I was gut punched by Spirit. On that day I was unaware of the journey Spirit had me embark on. The journey would last over 18 months and would test my faith, my courage, my strength, my resilience and my resolve.
I now understand, on that day, I stopped being merely a member of my family. I became, on that day in July, the matriarch of the family. I had no understanding what trials were ahead and how my family would look to me for leadership and depend on my strength of faith, will and mind. I only understood the depth of my grief.
On that summer day, my nephew, only 19 years young, was killed in an automobile vs motorcycle accident. This would be the first in a series of traumatic and painful events spanning the next year and a half. Each would come on the heals of the previous, compounding the trauma. Causing me to question my resilience and strength. On many occasions I found myself wanting to curl up in a ball and disappear thinking no person should be forced to endure one painful event after another. By no means do I think my experience is worse than others and by some measures it is considerable better than others. It is merely MY experience.
Over the course of the next year and half my home would become the focal point and literal port in the storm for my family. In addition to my husband and myself, my mother, daughter, son-in-law, both granddaughters, my brother, his wife and their three children would find refuge in my home.
Following the sudden death of my nephew, my husband would be diagnosed with two forms of dementia (vascular and Alzheimer’s), my step-mom would pass away - suddenly, my brother would be wrongly accused and incarcerated, I would have two significant injuries, both requiring surgery and rehab, my mother would also experience two major injuries which would also require surgery and rehab.
Intermixed with these events were moments of joy - watching a puppy play, experiencing the celestial bodies in all their glory continue on without hesitation, listening to my granddaughters’ giggles, a tender moment experienced between my husband and I. I relied upon meditation through my art, coloring and sketching; I kept grounded by working in my yard; I reached out and found profound support from friends; I practiced release and acceptance even when I didn’t fully believe it would help. These were the moments and practices that kept me going, kept me sane.
I now understand the childhood and early adult experiences - both beautiful and ugly - the lifetime of self exploration, struggle to break family-of-origin negative patterns of behavior and belief and the transformational work I had done had prepared me for this time.
I would not be the woman I am today without these exceptional and heartbreaking events. My fortitude, strength, faith and resilience have been forged out of grief, despair, pain and loss; as well as joy, blessings, love and family.
The pain is no longer acutely felt rather it is an echo of its former strength. I understand now that it is there as a reminder to fully embrace life and live in the moment.
~4 April 2020
We held dad’s memorial on the Wind River Pack Bridge not long after his passing. There, along with family and close friends, we saluted his memory and his love of the River of No Return, the Gospel Hump Wilderness and the Frank Church Wilderness by pouring his favorite, a Coors, off the bridge into the river. We shared a few memories and then seven of us, all with .44s - including his long barrel - lined up and gave him the 21 gun salute his honorable discharge from the service allowed. Each of his three children took a turn and shot his pistol in the salute. I still have and cherish one of the 21 shell casings from that day.
Richard James Cook, my father, passed away peacefully in his sleep on the 22nd day of September 2004; you are dearly missed. I love you.
Wind River and Dad
As I look at the Wind River picture on this day in September; I can’t help but remember its significance to me, as well as my family.
By this time, hunting camp would have been set and the first pack trip of the season across the Wind River Pack Bridge would begin. This was just one of my dad’s passions - taking big game hunters into the Gospel Hump Wilderness to try their skill and luck at bagging an elk.
On these pack trips dad always carried a long barrel.44 with him into the back country. The first round was buckshot, handy for dispatching the occasional rattler and as a good warning round. Dad carried it for its ‘shock and awe’ affect - he wasn’t worried very much about the four-legged creatures he might encounter as the two-legged ones.