It was late last week when i was informed via a text to my phone that the mother of Erin, Gunnar’s wife, had passed away. Erin was also notified and was in PA at the time attending yet another funeral for a fellow fallen soldier from Gunnar’s unit, who recently died in Afghanistan. I didn’t know Erin’s mom but i did know that during the ride, she was quite sick and that while Erin had returned to Illinois to participate in the event, she was pre-occupied with her mom who I trust she spent considerable time with in the days she was here. Her mom had died of cancer and as the sickness enveloped and ultimately consumed her life, Erin was faced w/yet another devestating loss. Gunnar of course, was killed in Afghanistan this past June and now her mom’s passing. I was grateful for the time that Erin did spend at the venue knowing all along that her mom was sick but she still found the time to be at the venue over the last day or so and of course the unforgettable 200 hour mark and our finish. I’ve got pics in a scrapbook that reflect a very happy and smiling woman who is the mother to 3 great kids, who I’ve come to know quite well over the last 2 months or so, ever since the 60 hour ride at the Egg.
In my career I’ve witnessed many a widow of an agent, cop and now a soldier deal with the loss of a loved one under often very traumatic circumstances. While I dont pretend to know how they feel, their strength during such adversity always amazes me. In alot of cases, they remain strong and resilient and still carry on as the good mom they always were despite their loss.
Last evening, I attended the wake for Erin’s mom over at Calvary church. I normally dont attend such things, especially when i had no contact with the deceased. I felt however that I should go and pay my respects to Erin and her sister and other members of her family who were gathered there. It just felt like the right thing to do especially in light of her having been at my events as often as she was and sharing countless messages with me back and forth over the phone as I pushed my way thru the event. Her support was just overwhelming and was just what I needed to feel on so many different occasions during the ride. Going last night was the least I could do and i’m glad that I went.
I stood at the back of the chapel for several minutes before even venturing into the place but when I did make my way down the aisle I was greeted by Tristan and Taylor, two of Erin’s children. Tristan gave me his familiar hug and loudly said “hi George!” At that moment, many in the chapel turned and looked to see me on one knee chatting w/the kids and recalling their time at the ride. I, for one,will never forget Tristan’s hug and our emotional goodbye as I sat in the truck when I left the venue at the end of the ride. To recall briefly at the chapel last evening, our time at the ride gave me the confidence I needed to approach the front of the church and greet Erin’s dad, Erin’s sister and of course Erin. She was in great spirits and as i hugged her, I felt once again, her strength and courage at dealing with now the loss of two people very close to her in her own life. While it sounds like a cliche at times when i hear that Erin has had a rough year, I’d like to think that Erin will have a great year, whenever that moment is, in that she will have survived and lives now to celebrate the great lives that she shared with her mom and Gunnar.
Erin is a remarkable young woman who I simply admire for her courage and ability to accept and deal with losses that might otherwise be so very devestating to the rest of us. They say that behind every great cop, soldier or Marine is a great wife, a great mom or dad, or some other special person very close to those who put their lives on the line or who otherwise might succumb to an untimely death. Last evening I was convinced that Erin was indeed the great wife and daughter that her recent losses represent.
It was great to see Erin last evening as well as the other members of her family including the kids. I felt better after seeing her and feeling the strength that she displays so very well. I cant and wont pretend to know what you really think Erin or how you must feel or how the words of your mom’s passing and that of Gunnar must’ve rocked your very soul. I commend you for being the strong woman that you are. You’ve been thru alot and I’m just glad that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing you as I have and that my contribution to the fund that now honors Gunnar was indeed a privelage I will forever be grateful for. I wish you the best in your upcoming move and adjustment to a new home but yet one in familiar surroundings, closer to family and friends. To that end, i’m proud to be your friend and look forward to another visit when your smile and that of your kids makes me smile and for a brief moment makes me realize that I should indeed be thankful for what I have and that I really dont have it as bad as some others. Please know that I’m sorry for the untimely loss of your mom and Gunnar. I’m grateful I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you and the kids at such a difficult time. Thanks for being part of my life and for connecting with me at my ride and for supporting me as i only hope now I can do for you. Seeing you last evening was a small part of what I knew I had to do in light of the wonderful person and supporter you were to me. Be safe in your travels and I’ll be seeing you all again soon……G