I was moments from walking down the aisle to marry my best friend. It was in this moment that I was pulling my veil around my shoulders, adjusting my belt and I caught a glimpse of this bracelet on my wrist. I wanted to wear this bracelet, I had the idea of this bracelet and had a jeweler from Either Ore Jewelers create it from just a conversation that we had. But to be honest, I could not look at it for long on our wedding day. It was enough for me to know that it was there and in this moment, when I caught a glimpse of it on my wrist I thought of you.
Truth is, I still think of you everyday and even though I may not always talk about you I want you to know that you are thought of. This year I have felt deeply about your passing and as this week in November approached me I only became more and more emotional. That best friend of mine, the one I married that day said to me one evening, “a lot of life has happened,” as I was telling him that I did not understand why this time around was harder than the last. He made complete sense and as always I was reminded just how much he understands me. You, Richard…you would have really liked him.
So, a lot of life has happened in six years! It has been six years too long without you and I know that feeling will never go away, but I also believe that somehow you have still been with us. From this side, living physically without you, that can seem far from the truth at times. But as I traced my fingers over the stitches on this bracelet, I would have loved to tell you that I got Dad to agree to give me a HomeRun baseball of yours. I would tell you that I had a jeweler carefully cut this part out of the baseball and make a silver bracelet with it. It soothed me to have a material that once made you smile from ear to ear so close to me on our wedding day.
I would tell you that it calmed me to know that a material that was once flying through the air, over players, past the baseball fence and into the trees was now wrapped around my hand. I wrote to Dad about walking me down the aisle and in that letter I told him that, “we had to hit this one out of the park, because I had a feeling that this was leading us straight for home.” Home, because that is what I found in my soulmate. Just like the same feeling you had running around the bases after hitting one straight out of the park. You know how elated that feeling is, to be heading straight for home.
In six years I have grieved you, missed you, loved you and honored you. I have written about you. I have been mad at you. I have desperately begged for that part of our lives to be different and I use to play it over and over in my head to the point it made me physically ill. Grief is the strangest thing in the world. I have learned and grown and taught to love deeper and bolder. I have learned to live life and make it count. It is no secret that I am a better person because I know loss, and I want to thank you and cry with you about that, simultaneously.
I met my soulmate, since those years and he understands me and my love for you more than anyone had before. (Good thing I married him!) I know without a doubt, that how I have grown and who I chose to marry, we all would have been really good friends, given the chance.
Since my trip to Big Sky in 2014, I have grown to love nature and the mountains. I know that you would have been right there with me hiking. I can see it so clearly, given the chance, we would have been best friends as well as siblings. Knowing this, the friendship we would have had as adults is a whole other form of missing you.
I created a hiking group, Her Hike Collective, in honor of you this past year. I take women, some who have never been to the mountains before, on hikes. I pick different trails and summits but other than that the conversation and experience is left to the women and the elements of nature. It always teaches me something and each hike, on a part of the day I can think of you being there. It is a concept that I can grasp so easily. I often wonder, if this is a hike you had ever been on before.
I want to make a difference in their lives through this hiking group, because from creating this group it has fueled so much life into mine. It has inspired me and opened up other ideas and motivations. Its brought a sense of connection with you and a way to honor you in my own way. We have your foundation, your memorial scholarship and our parents are great advocates for others and raising awareness. But through the years I was searching for my own way to honor you. On your birthday this year, at the summit of Sharp Top Mountain, I found myself exactly in the place that I needed to be. I found what I was searching for, or rather it sort of found me.
In six years we have raised over $100,000 with the Richard Fee Foundation and this year it is officially a 501c3 foundation. It was a long time coming, lots of paperwork with the government and hard work and drive from our parents. When Mom called me to tell me, I hung up the phone and sobbed. They were happy and sad tears for you because out of this tragedy we have worked to create a lot of good. But all of the good does not take away the tragedy.
I want you to know that children got to go to baseball camp while they were also grieving the abrupt loss of their father. They got to get away for the week and be children, where hopefully they had a few hours where thats all that they had to be. I can’t help but think of their mother, and I hope that allowed her to be a wife and gave her a chance to grieve as well. You sent a child to baseball camp who’s mother was deployed who otherwise could not afford it this past summer. Another 30+ children were sent to baseball camp who otherwise would not have been able to afford it. Those smiles and childish laughter was music to my ears as I took photographs at the camps over the summer. That you would have been proud to see.
Days before our wedding day it rained and rained. The sun was nowhere to be found during the day, but the rain had stopped and we were lucky to have all of our friends and family there to celebrate with us. Just as I dreamed of since I was a little girl, Dad walked me down the aisle, all the way to my home, all the way to Cory. I like to think that I had your home-run baseball wrapped around my wrist to help us down the aisle. If I remember correctly I have had signs before that you approved of Cory. From the only black and teal butterfly in the field on our hike, amongst all of the brown and yellow butterflies, landing on his hat and staying with him; to our wedding day where the sun first broke through the clouds as Cory was dancing with his Mom. Our Aunt Neysa gently put my face in the palms of her hands and said, “The sunset… This is Richard, sweet girl.”
Richard, a lot of life has happened in six years and I am thankful that I am still learning ways to honor you and to live with you in mind, even though you are not here. I am thankful that my husband had the words to what I was feeling when I had no idea, because it all made perfect sense. In six years and in all of the years to come, I have and will continue to learn to live life to the fullest. I have and will continue to learn how to honor you by building a platform to help change and affect the world in any capacity that I can. Richard, my life has grown and shaped into something beautiful and much of that is because I have learned so much from this loss and from you as a person. I continue to think of you everyday and I hope you know that I am proud of you.
This year I would love to tell you, Richard, that I am proud to have been your sister. The word proud, through all of life’s messiness, has always stayed with me. To honor you is to live life to the fullest. To know that life can be difficult but to always know that you can make it through is also to remember you. Richard, I am proud to have been your sister and the word ‘proud’ forms a knot in my throat because I can truly see past the faults that we ran into in those last years and I can see you, fully. You are gone but my pride for you grows and grows by all that you are still doing here. The scholarship, the education, helping parents of young adults, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists…. you are teaching so many people and helping and saving others along the way. I wish that you could be here to see it but know that I see it all and you, fully and without bounds. Richard, I am proud to have been your sister. Until we meet again, I will continue to think of your home-runs and you running the bases heading proudly into home plate. I will continue to think of your help with my home-run with Dad on a perfect day in May. Until we meet again, I will love you forever.
If you read all the way through my personal post today I want to ask YOU for a favor! Pay it forward. Whether you hold the door for someone, give someone a compliment, volunteer, or lend a helping hand… pay it forward this week or the next. Like I wrote before we have created a lot of good out of this tragedy which is what Richard would have wanted us to fuel our energy into. I would love to create a pay it forward chain in his memory this week. If you do so please share about it with me and if you share it on social media use the hashtag; #richardfeefoundation. Thank you everyone!
Photographs that I will cherish by Erika Mills Photography.