Over The Rainbow
Colton Tanner Rohlf
10/28/1992 - 3/25/2016
October 28, 2017. A beautiful day here. Sun going to be out and shining bright. A little football, a little time spent with the Iron Mistress this morning, a few beverages and some family time on Hallie’s horizon. Happy Saturday peeps!
I’m smiling on the outside for sure but my heart weighs heavy today. Because today is no average Saturday. My nephew Colton would be turning 25 today. A quarter of a century. A big milestone. And we are left to celebrate without him. And I use the term celebrate loosely because in the midst of us celebrating his life we are still mourning his death. Grief-stricken at times. Sad.
Through the looking glass
For those of you that don't know, my nephew Colton was driving home from college on March 25, 2016, Good Friday, to spend the weekend with his mom and dad. He was coming up around a bend and there was a patch of hail that if you tried to hit it 100 times you’d probably miss 99. Colton was not so lucky. One of his tires hit the patch just right and he died from injuries sustained in the accident. He was my sister and brother-in-law's only son. Their only child. Their whole world. There was nothing ‘Good’ about the day.
The past year
Life has a way of moving forward regardless of disaster, regardless of time, regardless of loss. Things are different for sure and will be forever. For years, as long as I can remember, our family has gone to Seeley Lake for the week of the 4th of July. Colton had always been a big part of the trip and it was sad last year. His lack of presence was so obvious, so in your face that it was just too much. This past year, with Lexi graduating, work obligations, dr appts and maybe even just divine intervention - that didn’t happen. The trip was postponed to the end of July and I think it was better, easier, a little kinder on the heart.
Seeley Lake, MT circa 2015
My sister and brother-in-law are continuing to move along. I don’t say move forward because for them, a part of them will always be ‘stuck’. They are making some improvements in the house, taking some time for themselves individually and figuring things out as a couple. I think there have been a few more moments of laughter this year, some days that were joy inspired, a time here or there where hearts were uplifted. But I know without question that every day is a fight to get out of bed and continue to live life without.
It’s funny the things that you take away from a loss. I can tell you that it is different for every person. And I’ve learned quite a bit.
Use your words
I never take for granted telling my children "good night" and "I love you". Every night. Even with Lex away at college and CJ away at school, I have a Lexi/CJ chat and without fail, even if they’re pissy with me, they get a “Goodnight, I love you” from Momma Dearest. And Jax gets the benefit of hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.
I love you, son.
That’s been a harder lesson to learn as when you are so involved in your children's life and your family life, you lose a part of yourself in the process. If your time and attention is primarily ALWAYS focused on them it's very easy to not nurture your own self. And I have got to have a ‘me’ to fall back on. And my family, they need to be involved in my life as much as I am in theirs. That’s been an adjustment for all five of us and it’s a work in progress. But forward progress nonetheless.
I have tried to be more involved. Put my life on the back burner and involve myself more in their comings and goings. Those of you that are close to me know that I spent hours in the car this summer, driving them to the train, to their training, here there and everywhere. And in those hours spent in the car, we learned a lot. We argued. We laughed and got to know each other. We raged. We stewed in silence (mostly me and CJ). I am getting more of that with my Jax this year than in years past and that has been a gift. I regularly FaceTime the other two and Rob and I divide and conquer a lot. So I spread myself pretty thin but being there - it matters.
Nurture your relationships
I have learned that my children are my life but that they can’t be my WHOLE life. And that Rob and I need to feed our relationship, work on our friendship. I think with Lexi moving away to college and CJ becoming more and more independent and Jax changing and not being so dependent it hit me like a brick wall that my time with them is finite. A few more years and it’s going to be me and Coach Schu rattling around this big house with 50 dogs saying, “Now what?” So we have taken more time this past year to reconnect. To date. To laugh, be silly, be us. And that has been a learning experience for sure and exciting and annoying and a gift.
Remembering Colton - My world
I went home on the Monday after Colton died to be with my family. I had to fly back on Thursday morning so I was only able to be with my family for two days. While I was there, my sister and brother-in-law asked if I would write Colton’s eulogy. I readily agreed although I hadn’t ever written one, it was so personal and to capture someone’s life in a way that honors them, mourns them, celebrates them - how? It was the hardest and probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever written. And I am grateful and honored and humbled that they allowed me that gift.
Happy birthday to you
What happened after that is it lit a fire within me with my writing. Allowed me to grow as a writer and use my nephew, his eulogy, as inspiration. I write these posts with the hope that if I can just touch one person, uplift one heart, cause one mind to stop and pause, to clean their lens and maybe take steps towards a positive change in their life - than Colton’s loss was not in vain.
I am due to fly home in December as I do every year and see my family. I have never visited the site of the accident and I’ll admit, I’m scared. But I feel such a need to go and see it, to sit and cry and say my own good-bye. To leave a picture of his cousins, to talk to him and tell him how much he is missed and loved and how he is still such a part of our lives. I don’t know if I’ll be able to. I truly don’t. But I am hopeful that I will know if the time is right for me to go or if it’s just too soon.
Tell your children each and every night "I love you". Laugh with your spouse, be a good friend and be true to yourself always. Argue, hold hands, make the phone call, be kind to your body. Dare to be great. Cry when you need to. Hug your mom and dad. Open up your arms and embrace life. Smile more. Each and every day, realize that this day, right now, is a gift.
Happy birthday dear, Colton. Happy birthday to you.