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.