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Five Years Ago

This is what my children looked like five years ago.

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This was June.
How were we to know that Dave would be gone two months later?
How could we have imagined such a thing?
Sure, he'd been sick.
But he'd been sick before.
I could not imagine that he would die.
Somehow I still can't.

In that five years.....

So much has happened.

We got a dog.
puppy 040

And then another.
Koda 5 weeks

Kenny played football.
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Zach played football.
Kate danced.

Kenny skied.

Zach played basketball.

So did Kate.

Kenny ran track.

Zach caught baseball.

Kate played volleyball.

Kenny graduated and won the Lou Jacky award.

Zach graduated and was speaker at baccalaureate.
Zach graduation podium

President Kate left middle school.

We hosted Japanese students and had barbeques. We went camping and to a million tournaments. Homework and dinner. School and the field. We drove in the car (a lot) and bought groceries (also a lot). Birthdays and anniversaries. Christmas and Easter. Hotels and church. Some everyday events. Some life-changing events.

New friendships were forged, while some old were lost.
We were tested in ways we could not have imagined.
We found strengths we didn't know we possessed.
We found weaknesses that were hidden, too.

We wavered. Often.
Like a newborn foal on wobbly legs.
But some things cannot be shaken.
And to these things we hold fast.

In February of 2005, when Dave did not say,
"We'll beat it."
And my heart knew.
The first thing I thought was that Kenny would be playing football at WaHi in six short months.
Dave HAD to be there. He just had to.
I could NOT imagine his boy on the field, playing the game he loved, without Dave there.
It seemed impossible.

And yet, six months later, I was placing pads and boiling mouth guards and lacing things through my tears. And Kenny was out on the field. And Dave wasn't there.

And a year later, it happened again. Zach, tearing up the field, his intense determination driving him, making big plays, arms in the air, triumphant. And Dave...not there.


Kate, dancing across the stage, gliding, graceful...remembering the last time she danced while Dave was alive...he was in the hospital and couldn't come to the recital. Remembering how he always laughed at how "that girl has music in her head that no-one else can hear."


And now, five years's still unbelievable to me. Part of my heart still does not believe it. I still look for him when those moments happen. I still think of how excited he will be to hear about this or that.

And all the things I never imagined....

How Kenny would be embraced by the students and staff at WaHi.
How Zach would grow into an honest man of such faith and integrity.
How Kate would understand what someone who is dying needs to hear.
How Kenny would be one to tell the complete unvarnished truth.
How Zach would be so loyal, dependable and strong.
How Kate would be the one to reach out to a friend in need.
How Kenny would be such a devoted fan.
How Zach would be such a hard worker.
How Kate would be such a deep thinker.

And so much more.
I am proud beyond words of each of them.
They have faced much, and endured much.
But they have grown to be compassionate, faithful, strong, intelligent and kind.

I also could not imagine how I would survive.
But I did.
Impossible. Unimaginable.

But I did. I am.

Tonight we went to church.
It still hurts to be there.
But Robin, our pastor, is sick.
And Robin has been there for us in a million ways.
He knew Dave as a boy.
He officiated at our wedding.
He helped us bury Kyle.
He baptized our children...and me.
He gave the sermon at Dave's service.
And he's leaving tomorrow for treatment.
For cancer.
For three months.

It never ends.
Sometimes that's hopeful.
Sometimes it's heavy.

I sat on the back porch tonight.
Thinking of the night five years ago.
After Kate finally fell asleep.
The late August days in Walla Walla are hot.
Oppressive heat, heavy heat.
Air that's hard to breathe midday.

But as the sun goes down,
there is a hint of autumn in the air.
It's still hot.
But the breeze has a cool edge.
Just enough so you know.

Something will leave.
And something else will come.
To everything there is a season.

For those who believe,
no proof is needed.
For those who do not believe,
no proof is possible. ~ Stuart Chance

And so I choose to believe.
In the impossible.
Even the unimaginable.


  1. How truly beautiful Michelle. I always believed in you. Although I knew you five years ago it was nothing as deep as it is today. As you well know I hae no lived through something unbelievable and it was you that was there to give m strength when I thought I had none. It was you I could sit around a table with and share experiences for hours and think it was a minute, you Michelle have grown as well and shared and opened your wings as hurt as they were to comfort me and so many others. Your children are beautiful and have grown through an experience they never should have had too but they have survived and helped others. I love you with all my heart . . . .I understand and your doing great. Love, Sue

  2. Dear Michelle,
    I was drawn here for the first time after I saw the address in your parents' email signature. I feel grateful to receive your words and to see the amazing images of your children, reflecting their amazing accomplishments. Your children (although certainly not children any more :-) are brilliantly beautiful beings, my goodness!

    I am reminded of the admiration I held for you when we were younger, kind of a distant sense of your knowledge and strength.

    My admiration amplified, I send you my love, my love and appreciation for sharing your truth. You teach me again.

    Thank you Michelle,
    Shannon Hallberg (Bierly)


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