Everlasting Memories Blog About Life, Loss and Everything In Between
Angels Among Us
I believe there are angels among us
Today is Sunday, March 25, 2018. An average Sunday for most. The celebration of Palm Sunday for many. A day of unwinding, prepping for the week ahead, getting together with family and friends and having Sunday dinner together. My boy gooses have training, a little time with their pops and my girl gosling - she’s preparing for exams and getting ready to come home for Easter. As I said, an average Sunday for most, a day on the calendar. March 25.
That day is not just a ‘day’ for me. For our family. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of when my nephew, Colton, died in a single car accident. Happened on March 25, 2016. Good Friday. Nothing good about that Friday. Hit a patch of hail with one tire coming up and around a bend and lost control of the car he was driving. Wasn’t speeding. Wasn’t texting. Wasn’t under any sort of influence. Just bad luck, bad timing, bad. Colton was my sister and brother-in-law’s only son. Their only child. The center of their universe. 1/3 of their triangle. So today - there’s nothing 'average' about today in my book.
Sent down to us
It’s hard to write this post, the second year now that I’ve tried to capture the right words, put down on paper a commemoration that does Colton justice, a way of letting my sister and her husband know that gone does not mean forgotten. Not even a little bit. That his loss has left all of us feeling empty, sad, regretful, hurting - not just for our own loss but for theirs most of all. Because no one, and I mean NO ONE, should have to experience the pain of losing a child.
So I thought what I would is I would share a couple of memories. Share some laughter, some tears, some hope. Two of them interestingly enough revolve around Easter and one of them is more recent. But they are all three memories that I will treasure always.
Easter Circa Late 1990’s
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Colton as he was growing up. I moved to Massachusetts in 1991 and lived here full time in 1995. I did however get the opportunity to go back and forth for a week here or there and one of those times was during Easter. And that particular Easter, Colton came over to Nana and Papa’s house and we all spent the day together. Not atypical of an Easter day for many of us.
We have always done egg hunts from the time we were little. It’s probably my most favorite Easter tradition. Generally filled with candy, maybe $1 bill, some quarters (again, back then $1 was a fortune for a kid), etc. Colton was young enough to still love the candy but old enough that the prospect of getting $1 slightly edged out the candy. I laugh now looking back thinking - Colton had nothing to worry about. He was the only grandchild and a shoe in to get ALL the eggs - candy or money.
From somewhere up above
My brother and I hid them around the inside and the outside of the house and Colton went on his merry way with his bucket, collecting his eggs. Once all the eggs were in said bucket, opening them and delighting in the treasure commenced. Unbeknownst to Colton, there were some extra special eggs in there, courtesy of his Uncle Casey. Uncle Casey had gone on a treasure hunt of his own and put one of the dog ‘treasures’ in an egg. Imagine Colton’s surprise when he came upon that particular ‘golden egg’. We, of course, thought it was hysterical. Colton however - he did not. Going forward he was much more wary of opening Easter eggs at Nana and Papa’s.
Easter Circa 2005
I’m not 100% sure on the year but I do know that it was around the time when Lexi was probably 4. CJ would have been around 2 and Jax a newborn. Regardless, my children were little and fully and completely believed in the Easter Bunny. It wasn’t Easter weekend but it was a weekend within a few weeks of Easter. And my mom and I got to thinking - wouldn’t it be great if the Easter Bunny could come to visit the kids at her house! We went down to the local costume rental and sure enough - they had an Easter Bunny costume to rent. We arranged to rent and asked Colton if he would have any interest in wearing the costume. He readily agreed.
They come to you and me
That very next day, Saturday, the kids were sitting at the table. My parents have a big plate glass window in the dining room of their ranch and it overlooks the front yard. Lexi happened to look up from their activity and there on the front yard was this giant Easter Bunny. And let me tell you - this Easter Bunny was cray! Hopping around the yard, spinning in circles, you name it. Lexi and CJ went out with me to see the Easter Bunny, one with a death grip on my hand and the other with a choke hold around my neck. One touch of the Bunny’s furry hand and that was it for both of them. They ran for the house and proceeded to watch his antics for the next 15 minutes from the safety of the plate glass window. And it was a memory that I’ll treasure.
I was writing a blog post a couple of weeks back. Actually was one about Spring and how time is so finite, precious, not something to take for granted. I was thinking of my nephew as I was writing it, tears falling and listening to YouTube music - I rarely if ever listen to music while I’m writing as it serves as a distraction. As I’m writing my paragraph about Colton the music switches in the middle of a song and out of nowhere Alabama’s “Angels Among Us” starts playing. I cry now just remembering. And I know with every cell in my body that my nephew was there at that moment. And wanted me to know. And, boy, I was grateful.
March 25, 2018
My Mom had the opportunity to have some time with my niece, Maddie, this weekend and yesterday, they went out to the site of the accident. And she shared the pictures with me (I have yet to have the courage to go) and said in her text message with the pictures that she couldn’t talk right now. And that sums up perfectly how I feel today. Like I can’t get the words out. But, as someone told me this morning, dig deep and remember the gift of being able to share my words and thoughts. Where his voice was cut short, share his story and let us celebrate his being. So that's what I'm trying my hardest to do.
In our darkest hours
You look back on the day when you lose someone and there are moments that stand out, are stark white against a black day. My sister-in-law telling me that Colton didn’t make it. Rob sitting on the couch in the office with me when I got the news, saying “What? Are you kidding me?” Going to the gym the next morning, seeing my trainer and she starts to cry and says, “What are you doing here?” Getting on a plane that Monday night and talking to a couple that was flying home to see their brand new nephew and dissolving into tears as I tell them I’m going home to say good-bye to mine. And they started to cry too.
And several weeks ago I had written about how most people are good. And about how I had come in contact through a fundraiser for a football player with a woman who was doing the Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics, something that Colton as well as his parents were heavily involved in and that my sister and her husband continue to support to this day. Anna said that she would ‘plunge’ in Colton’s memory. That she would be honored to do so. And so she did. Beautifully. And it served as a reminder to me this weekend that gone does not mean forgotten and that the impact of Colton’s life, his legacy, continues to thrive in the lives and the hearts of so many. And that he would be so happy about that. And so incredibly humbled.
To show us how to live
There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think of my nephew. Days where I rage at the unfairness of it all. Days where my heart breaks because there aren’t words or ways to help my sister and her husband and it is such a feeling of helplessness.
And there are days where the memories make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me smile in memory. Make me wish I had lived closer and knew him better. I wish I had seen him on the football field. Play basketball. Watched him interact with his Olympians. I wish, I wish, I wish…
To show us how to give
I do know that his impact is still being felt by many. That his memory continues to live on and that he truly did lead a life of service to others and that legacy continues to touch other lives. That he loved with his whole heart. That the sun rose and shone on his mom and dad.
Lexi was closer in age to Colton than any of my children. They had a friendship, a bond that came about from being closer in age. He got to be a part of her life from early on, a part of her memories of going to MT and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
My CJ - he thought Colton was so cool. From the balloon launcher to the fireworks to taking them shopping for fishing poles - Colton was the bomb in CJ’s eyes. And I am grateful that my son has those memories.
And my Jax - him and Colton had a love for fishing that bonded them instantly. Colton was so patient with his questions, teaching him to cast and they could sit side by side off the dock and quietly wait for a bite. Every young man needs someone to look up to and I am blessed that Colton was one of them for my youngest son.
To lead us with a light of love
Bad things happen to good people all the time. I say it, I write about it, it is a part of my life. And that is the sucky part of life. It is our responsibility to look that demon in the eye, acknowledge its existence and live our lives accordingly. As if each day matters. As if each day is a gift. As if each day could be our last.
I miss you, Colton. We all miss you. So very much.
Colton Tanner Rohlf
October 28, 1992 - March 25, 2016