Last Saturday was a day of celebration and remembering for my family.

We gathered in West Terre Haute, Indiana for a community walk commemorating the life of Emily Herrington, my mother-in-law, who passed away last October. A large group of friends, extended family, and community leaders joined us for the event, which benefitted causes close to Emily’s heart, including the Audobon Society and the Wabashiki Trail, a nature walk that winds along the wetlands beside the Wabash River.

Our walk traversed the West Terre Haute levee, an engineering necessity that prevents the town from being swallowed up by the wetlands, and one of many civic projects spearheaded by my father-in-law, Randy Herrington, who died in 2003. The trail is an easy, gentle gravel pathway atop the levee, and on Saturday, under a leaden sky, I looked to my right and watched four or five hawks circling, riding a unseen breeze in the chilly air above partially submerged trees that were just revealing new pale green foliage. To my left, fenced lots held the homes and outbuildings where West Terre Haute residents lived and worked and laughed and played and raised children and rested and ultimately died. And though their basements might still get damp now and then, the grass was green and firm, thanks to the levee.

I thought about Randy and Emily, and how this levee so perfectly captured the yin and yang of their relationship. Emily saw it as a pathway to well-being, for exercise and spiritual renewal communing with nature. Randy saw it as a way to keep the basements dry and the foundations stable. We need both, just as they needed each other, and just as their lives made today’s walk possible and meaningful. Everyone there felt their presence, and I’m sure felt as I did—how lucky we were to have known them.

4 Comments

  1. Chris on April 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    You did it again. Capturing in words the emotions and comings and goings of two lives that mattered so very much to me. They were always doing for their kids, their family, their community. They didn’t take much time for reflection, nor did we. Your words have helped us look back and see just how remarkable and special they were and how lucky were we.

    • Robert Schwab on April 28, 2016 at 7:25 am

      Chris, I am finally home and in a position to respond to your kind comment. I know all three of you are very proud of your parents, justifiably so, and I hope you find a window in your grief to take enormous pride and pleasure in what you accomplished last weekend. It was as miraculous as the life your parents forged out of what could have been tragic. Everyone at the walk was touched by the love and honor that drove its creation, and the purpose that enabled its execution. No one who participated could fail to have been touched by Emily’s spirit, which was the point, of course. I wish you well going forward, where there will be many more difficult days, but your path to healing will stretch out before you like the soft gravel atop the levee. Congratulations on a job masterfully done. Randy and Emily are smiling. Bob

  2. Lori Hamline on April 26, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    I love your prose- forever a fan. Beautifully said. LB

    • Robert Schwab on April 28, 2016 at 7:19 am

      Thanks so much, LB. It was kind and generous of you to comment, just as it was for you to attend the walk. Your presence meant a lot to us, especially Cathy. Good friends are one of the best balms for grief, and you helped more than you know. Hope to see you again soon. Bob

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