THE ROAD HOME

There’s nothing quite like the road that leads to here:

fort snelling cemetary - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2

Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of walking beside a man – and his family – as they traveled that road together. Once it became clear that there was no turning back, once they knew for certain where they were headed – that the COPD had reached its final stage – the entire family gathered round and buckled up.

They had no idea how long this road might be, or how bumpy things might get, but they knew one thing for sure: No one would be left behind.

They would make this journey together.

And so they cried. They laughed. They sipped coffee. They told stories. They ate dinners. They cleaned up. They said goodbyes. They made amends. They teased each other. They hugged each other. They watched movies. They held hands. They sang songs. They laughed some more. They worried. They tried not to worry. They waited. They prayed.

They talked about where this road was leading, as plainly as if this road was leading to the world’s largest ball of twine or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or some other strange place that we’ve all heard of but never seen.

They wondered what it would be like. They hoped the journey would be peaceful, at least at the end. Especially at the end.

And, mercifully, it was.

Even the very last leg of this road, the one that the rest of us were invited to join – with its police escort and winding procession of cars – was blanketed in a peaceful spring snow coming down so heavy and thick that we could barely see the blinking hazard lights of the car ahead. All the world was veiled, and quiet. Surreal. Serene.

The rows of white tombstones disappeared into the weather.

fort snelling cemetary - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3We all stood in the snow, huddled together for warmth and comfort, and said a final goodbye.

fort snelling cemetary - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk4

I’ve had many goodbyes over the past few years. Some harder than others. This one was not easy, for sure. It’s not easy to watch this family walk out such a great loss. It’s not easy to lose a friend who pursued me, and cared about me. Phil left behind so much love, which makes this both more painful and less painful at the same time. But it’s soothing to know that he’s getting what he’s wanted for so long – slow, deep lungfuls of air.

At least we can know that.

We were only at the gravesite long enough for the three rifle volleys, and the folding of the flag, and one last prayer, but by the time we got back into our cars to drive away the snow had already stopped and, within minutes, the sun was peeking through.

The journey is over.

A brave and beautiful soul is finally home.

And the rest of us are left with the memories of an amazing man, and a slightly better sense of how to walk out our own road, wherever it may lead.

xo

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9 Comments

  1. Jane Johnson
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Thanks Julie! NThat was beautiful and true! And the snow was a special gift!!

  2. Brooke
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this beautiful piece Julie! I love it!

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Brooke and Jane, thank you for letting me be a part of this journey with you. You are loved!

  3. Daniel Johnson
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks Julie. I loved it!! Glad you could share in our family’s journey. On a side note, I have been to the worlds biggest ball of twine and it is worth the drive :)

    • Posted March 31, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Dan, much love to you. And you are cracking me up with the ball of twine. Of *course* you’ve been there, lol.

  4. Jolene
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    First I have to start out by saying that my heart is heavy. Phil sure was “One Of A Kind!” He had that way w/people that made you feel so special…. :-) Jane too! :-) I LOVE all of you! I am so sorry. Please know that I am thinking of you! Hugs to everyone!
    Julie… You have a beautiful gift of writing! Loved reading!

    • Posted April 2, 2014 at 12:57 am | Permalink

      Jolene – thank you for the kind words and for sharing your heart. I agree completely – nothing compares to the way Phil could make a person feel seen and cared about. I am feeling the loss as well. Blessings to you!

  5. Kellie
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Cute Girl,
    Oh my… It’s been at least a couple of months since I have read your posts. This one is one of the best essays I have ever read – what a fabulous tribute to a wonderful guy. His family will cherish this. It would be a beautiful photo book that you could create at walgreens or walmart for his wife or daughter. It is precious work and divinely inspired. You are a gift- beautiful inside and out.
    What a blessing this will be to them in the rough days ahead. So sweet.
    Let’s talk soon.
    Hugs to you and those wonderful R-kids!
    Kellie

    • Posted May 2, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Oh Kellie – It is so wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your words – you are always a blessing to me. I miss you!!

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