Life Calls, Listen Up.

Laura Mather. She is mother to my brother and I's oldest friends on the planet. I was lucky to grow up next door to the Mather clan in Lily Lake, Wisconsin. My big brother, Tyler, and Laura's oldest son, Graham, were inseparable friends as little boys, so naturally when both families each had another son around the same time the two new baby boys would also become fast friends. Adam and I were buddies before we were potty trained, and his mom and dad, Laura and Ron, were like another set of parents to me and my brother and our's to Graham and Adam. We had amazing childhoods blessed in the rural settings of southeast Wisconsin. We grew up. Adam made Laura a grandma. She beamed in her grand daughter, Jade's, presence. Laura's memory beams in my heart. Laura passed away recently. Cancer finally took her from us after Laura had beaten it twice before. Life didn't give the Mather's the best hand as we grew up with a tragic car accident, cancer bouts, and the like, but the perseverance of the whole family was always something I have admired. No matter what came their way they always stuck together and fought through with the tenacity that only those who know the family well may really understand. The boys have lost their mother, and Ron his girl, but once again this clan will circle the wagons and take on life head long with this one tear in their eye, a fist of fight, and hearts full of love.     

^Ron and Laura. I am not even sure Laura would have wanted me to write about her. She didn't want a traditional wake and funeral and all of that. She wanted a celebration thrown in her honor at our local Lily Lake Resort. The only tavern, and business for that matter, in our little lake community. People came out in droves to celebrate her life. The boys that grew up on this lake came from near and far. We were all fortunate to grow up in a place like Lily Lake and it does not fall short on any of us anymore. It is said to lose one of our elders, especially Laura. While all of us wild boys tore shit up Laura was always there to keep us real. She was the "yeah right" to our loud mouth proclamations and the "man up" to our weaker moments. I worry about my old friend and his family. I could see the hurt in him across my parents kitchen counter, but there was nothing I could do to take it from him. I can only help him wear it, and reassure him that as lonely as this may feel he is far from alone. 

^All I could tell him was that he will be okay. I wish I could be as certain about such things as I once was, but these days I can only bet on the character of someone's heart and I know where Adam's is.

^Lily Lake boys. The tightest group a boy could ever ask for growing up. The kind of fellas I'd take with me into any dark alley and feel pretty damn good about. We may not win, but we will fight to the death of each one of us before a single one gives up the fight.  

^On a brighter note, coming home to celebrate Laura also gave me the chance to meet my big brother's new baby boy, Cole. Cole was born after my son Amos had already gotten really sick from Leukemia. It was heart breaking for me not to be there for my big brother when his son was born. Cole was growing up before my eyes on iPhone pictures and videos and it was eating me up. Laura brought me home, and I think she'd be pleased to be able to help me meet Cole for the first time and squeeze him tight like I'd been yearning to do so much.

^Then before I knew it, the time had come to leave. The weekend went by so fast as I shuffled around the corner of the state to see my family, celebrate Laura, meet my nephew, and wish happy birthday to another matriarch of the Lily Lake boys, Jayne Schmaling. Jayne turned 65 and celebrated five years cancer free. Ryan and I go back about a year shy of Adam and I. All these Lily Lake boys go back like that. The kind of friends that a day or a year apart makes no difference when the clan comes together it is just like some kind of time warp thrust us all back to little kids on the beach chasing girls and adventures, although now with simply more weathered grins from life coming at us as we grew. Pictured above is a local breakfast cafe sign from a greasy spoon just across the border. As I met my big brother, his beautiful wife, and their bouncing baby boy for breakfast just before my flight back to Utah I was reminded once again at the caliber of people that I grew up with. When I walked in I immediately saw my good buddy's wife, Katie Tobin, who had recently sent us a care package with an adorable little Superman hat in it for Amos. I was so pleased to be able to show her an equally adorable picture of Amos in the hat and give her a big hug. Then as we finished our breakfast and awaited a check from our waitress, one of the beautiful local Pfenninger girls, she approached us and told me that she was buying our breakfast because she had heard about Amos and wanted me to know that she wanted to give him some love and that she is rooting for him everyday. As she walked away I tried my best not to let her see me cry. With that I gathered myself, finished my coffee, and then we left after hugs with her and Katie and well wishes to all the girls working the cafe breakfast rush. I talked to my nephew about him and his cousin, Amos, as his momma tucked him snug into his car seat in the parking lot and I hugged her and my big brother before climbing into the car to drive south the the airport. I cried as I drove away. I cried for Laura, I cried for my boy Amos, I cried for no real reason at all, and as I regained my composure on the country road I realized that I also cried out of joy because even amidst all of this life coming at me at full speed I was still so blessed to have so many good people in my life. None of us are getting out of this alive so you better live it like you are dying… because you are.    

^Lastly, I want to conclude with a little story. I know I get a little hippy dippy and emotional at times, but I believe the divine energy is at work. My son Amos is doing better right now as displayed in this recent silly picture above, but when Amos was in the midst of the deepest disparities of his cancer fight Adam texted me that Laura had finally succumb to her cancer and had passed. I left the hospital room to go try to get some perspective in my car. I got in, turned the key, and on the radio played, "Hallelujah". I sobbed uncontrollably for a moment and as the song ended a sudden calm came over me, and I knew it was Laura. I could feel it. I could hear her. In that moment of unexplainable sudden calm she whispered into my heart, "I played you this song to have a good cry for me and I know how much you love me. I played it to give you a minute to do that. Now that minute is over, and I am here to be Amos' latest angel guiding him through his war. So now you've said your peace to me, get your shit together, get your head back in this fight, and man up to get your ass back upstairs because we have got work to do!" Right then I knew that is was definitely Laura and that I had to wipe my face and get back up to the hospital room with my boy because when Laura called you out… you listened.