Honoring Ryan’s Death, Makes Me Appreciate Life

The truth is life is full of joy and full of great sorrow, but you can’t have one without the other.  ~Andre Dubus III

Ryan E. Piper

September 24, 1977 – October 23, 2001

Nicole and Ryan Dec 1979 Aunt Heather PiperI love this time of the year, always have and probably always will.   The crisp evenings, the bright foliage, the shorter days and the smell of winter around the corner make for a comforting time of year, mysterious and romantic.  Coming off the heels of a hot humid summer I feel alive, ironically, since autumn is a prelude to winter, which usually symbolizes death and old age.

How can I love this time of year when my heart continues to break?  Simply, I don’t associate the fall season with death or loosing Ryan.  Sure, I can’t escape October 23rd, the day that began my lifelong sadness, the day my body began to ache from the pain of loss and my breathing became shallow with every memory of Ryan.  I choose to honor Ryan’s death and proclaim his life.

Today, I want to celebrate Ryan’s life and his eternal happiness in heaven. After all, Ryan has no stress or suffering and is at home with our Father. I believe he’s doing all right. Yes, that’s something to celebrate, even though I miss him terribly and I can’t wait to hang out with him again.

October also contains good memories. Ryan was buried on a Saturday and the following day, Kyle was baptized at three months old.  Sometimes this season introduces snow, which incidentally we had our first flurries during Ryan’s burial procession all those years ago.  How do I remember that?  How can I not? I can still recall riding in the car behind the hearse, my sister at the wheel (Kyle was with a babysitter) and large white snowflakes dropped from the sky. At that moment, I accepted the fact that my life was now drastically different, but I would get through it, not easily but I would. The snowflakes felt like a gift from Ryan and he was trying to sooth my pain. I always enjoyed snow and so did Ryan.

Believe it or not Ryan’s funeral procession reminded me of my Pappy’s. During Ryan’s ride to the cemetery, I had major déjà vu, although, Pappy passed away in the spring. However, it was the same view behind the hearse, the same car ride, the same cemetery, the same sadness and the same loss of a genuinely good-hearted person. It shouldn’t surprise me since Ryan and Pap were really close. Maybe that feeling wasn’t déjà vu but them being reunited.

There’s no secret to me moving on without Ryan. At that time, it came in the form of a little baby boy. Now that child is nearly an adult. Kyle was always a blessing and continues to be one. It does sadden me that Kyle would never benefit from personally knowing his Dad. He would have been ten times the person he is today with Ryan guiding him in life, and Kyle’s a pretty great kid already. Ryan loved him so very much, even before Kyle was born.  He would be proud of the young man he is today.

God blesses us all every day. Sometimes we don’t agree or see the bigger picture, but I guess that’s why we keep the faith and continue to share the love.

I miss you Ryan. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think of you. Make sure you save me a seat.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,News,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Honoring a Fallen Friend With Music – Please Donate

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.  ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

kyle-kiski-marching-band-2016-nemesis-aunt-heather-piper

Kyle & his fellow sousaphone members performing Nemesis 2016

I’ve talked about Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band and being a band chaperone.  I truly love being apart of this organization, not only for Kyle’s sake but for all the students who work so very hard.  They’re a great group of students, staff and parents.

A few months ago, I was asked to take over the Kiski Bands social media.  Did I accept?  Of course.  I was honored to use my marketing experience and skills to help promote this talented and dedicated group.  Even though I’m still in the process of systematizing their online efforts, I was able to finalize a press release, one that needs to be shared far and wide.

kiski-area-marching-band-nemesis-2016

Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

This past June, I addressed Dealing With Loss, the tragic accident that claimed the life of Nicholas Ursiny, a member of the Kiski Area Bands and a friend of Kyle’s.  I’m no stranger to tragedy, loss or grief, and I know nothing can truly ease the sadness when dealing with this emotionally powerful trio, but there are numerous ways to work through the heartache.  Many times God presents opportunities to help us heal and cope, and this one comes in the form of music.

The band directors and the student leadership collaborated to present a unique and truly inspirational opportunity for everyone to be involved and honor a young man, taken too soon.  How?  Through music of course.  The Kiski Area Bands is in the process of collecting monetary contributions to commission an original piece of music to honor Nick.  Once the music is completed, the bands will present this tribute in concert, open to the public for all to hear and enjoy.

This memorial will last a lifetime and beyond, and could touch the lives of countless souls, even those unaware of its origins.

Please help the Kiski Area Bands fulfill their mission of honoring one of their own through music.  All donations, made in any increment, may be made to:

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
c/o Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

I hope the next time I talk about this personal tribute, it will be while listening to the piece of music written specifically for Nick.  This gesture, however original and appropriate, won’t heal the hearts of those effected by Nick’s death, but it does give the students, teachers, staff and parents a goal to work towards and night of celebrating Nick’s life for all to hear.

Below is the original press release.  Please contact me at Heather@AuntHeather.com with any questions, suggestions or inquires.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to hear this story.

Kiski Band Raising Money for Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission

Nick Ursiny, a Kiski Band Member Passed Away In a Tragic Accident

December 14, 2016 – The Kiski Area Bands from Vandergrift, Pa. need help to complete their goal of raising $5,000 to commission a new piece of music composition in memory of Nicholas Ursiny, a Kiski Area Band student who tragically passed away in June. Thanks to generous donations, the Kiski Area Bands have raised approximately $3,500 and is asking to help close the gap for this unique memorial. Donations may be issued to KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters) www.kiskibands.org/contact.

Nicholas Ursiny, a student at the Kiski Area High School, was going into his sophomore year. He was a member of the horn/mellophone section in the Kiski Area Bands and played French horn in the concert bands before a tragic accident claimed his life this past June. To keep the spirit of Nicholas alive, the Kiski Marching Band student leadership worked with directors, Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk, to develop the idea of honoring Nicholas through a piece of commissioned music.

“This project is simple and heartfelt, offering the opportunity for all who were shocked by this tragedy to create a lasting memorial through music to a life lost too soon.” said Robert Traugh, Band Director of the Kiski Area Bands. “Nick was a valuable part of our organization and was truly missed this past season.”

Donations from friends, family, students and faculty have been gratefully received. Neighboring bands, Norwin, Gateway, Connellsville, Highlands and Mars, have paid their respects and generously donated to the Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission.

“The band is a close-knit community of passionate and talented individuals. While we compete against each other; we’re all family and we fully support each other.” Traugh replied. “We’ve been blessed with many donations and we hope to begin the process for this musical tribute and engage a composer soon.”

Information on the commissioned composer will be available as soon as the completed funds are available. Members of the Kiski Area Bands will premiere the piece of music in concert, open to the public.

For more information on the Kiski Area Bands including a list of events, concerts and competitions visit www.kiskibands.org.

About Kiski Area Bands

Kiski Area Bands, apart of the Kiski Area School District is from Vandergrift, Pa., about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. Kiski Area Bands is a student organization lead by Band Directors Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk and is comprised of students from grades five through twelve. The Kiski Area Marching Band is a division of the Kiski Area Bands consisting of students from grades ninth through twelfth.

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

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posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Patience and have No Comments

15 Years of Missing Ryan, Another Year Closer to Him

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.   ~Katharine Weber

September 24,  1977 – October 23, 2001

ryan-with-jim-confirmation-c-1990-aunt-heather-piper

Ryan’s confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica with his godfather, our cousin Jim Olczak. c. 1990

Every year it’s the same pattern of celebrating Kyle’s birthday in July, then observing Ryan’s birthday in September, then the reminder of Ryan’s death in October.  Not that I think of the later during Kyle’s month long birthday celebration, but I do reflect on it this time of year.

Kyle’s fifteen years old, the same number of years we’ve been trudging through life without Ryan.  The two will forever correlate, which I guess it’s fitting for Kyle to be tied to his Dad in an unconventional way.

Sometimes I wonder how Ryan would have adapted to the present world.  A lot has changed in fifteen years.  Ryan used a computer, only when needed, but would he have a smart phone?  Would he be in business for himself?  Would he be bald at the age of thirty-nine?  (My own little joke.  I always teased Ryan about going bald.  Not that I cared, but he did.)  Those are the thoughts that will never be turned into reality, merely kept as thoughts.  Although, I do know for certain, Ryan’s world would have revolved around Kyle, and Kyle would have greatly benefited from being raised by Ryan.

Recently, I had to give cliff notes of our family situation.  While chaperoning the band for the Latrobe football game at Latrobe, it wasn’t making sense to the band parents how Kyle and I knew the area so well.  Kyle actually told a few parents he lives in Latrobe, which he always did halftime.  It’s been a while since I had to give the family tree of how Kyle’s my nephew.  Sadly, yet proudly, I always state Kyle’s my brother’s kid.  Then, after a quizzical stare, I have to slightly elaborate that my brother passed away and my family is from Latrobe.  Do I mind?  Not really, I’d rather people know the truth.  Not that it changes anything, but it fills in the gaps for others and it shows just how important Kyle is to me.  Only if asked do I get into details, which again I don’t mind because fact is fact and it’s the way it is.

Sometimes I find peace thinking about the “What Ifs” and writing about Ryan and remembering my only brother, yet, sometimes it’s extremely difficult.  Which is it this time?  It’s a well guarded secret, but every day is a day I miss Ryan, and some are still harder than others.  Admittedly, it was difficult getting out of bed today.

I sit here wishing Kyle would call me to spend the day together, but I know he had a busy weekend of band, and I’m sure he’s tired and wants to loaf around.  Kyle has always been the one constant that eases my grief, even when he’s not in close proximity.  Although, today I’m missing Ryan AND Kyle.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Still Adjusting to the Loss of Ryan, 14 Years Later

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster  ~Elizabeth Bishop

September 24, 1977 – October 23, 2001

St. Vincent -Confirmation Piper Family Aunt Heather Piper 1990

Mom, me (8th grade), Dad, Ryan (6th grade) & Gram at my Confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica. Ryan served mass 1990

Years after loosing Ryan, I know I retreated in many ways.  I think I was trying to … actually, I have no idea what I was trying to do.  I don’t truthfully know why I distanced myself in many ways, for it wasn’t a conscience decision, it just happened.  Most would say I was dealing with my loss.  True.  I also focused all of my energies on Kyle.  True.  But really, I’ve seen other people deal with loss and travel down different paths.  I guess this is the road I was chosen to trek.

Ryan’s death affected everyone differently.  It’s definitely, not just about my family and myself.  Nope, his loss included distant family, friends of the family, Ryan’s friends, my friends, and unbeknownst to him, Ryan’s son Kyle, among others near and far.

As the years tally up, and I leave my personal cocoon, I run into signs of the pain as a result of Ryan’s death, even after all this time.  Some are literal signs.  Example, Ryan’s one friend Jacob (or his brother Luke) has a tattoo on his leg marking Ryan’s date he departed us.  Another friend of mine and Ryan’s, Danielle, named her daughter after Ryan.  This is a common theme, for I’ve ran into a few people who did just that, including Ryan’s friend Travis (I think it was him).  It’s a very sweet and heartwarming gesture.  I hope Kyle realizes just how much his dad meant to everyone, enough to name their offspring after my brother.

Recently, I’ve been missing Ryan.  Yes, that’s not a new concept and always an underlying truth, but I miss Ryan for Kyle, and I wish he would’ve know his father.  Presently, I feel like Kyle needs his dad, especially with the major issues we’ve been having with Kyle, mostly his attitude.  I don’t know how the present would appear if Ryan was still with us, but I do know for certain, Ryan wouldn’t have allowed any of it to happen, or put a mad stop to it immediately.  I get it, Kyle’s a teenager, but disrespect should never be permitted, let alone displayed, no matter the age.

Kyle isn’t a bad kid, really he’s not.  He’s a pretty good young man, but we’ve hit a rough patch.  I pray Kyle understands that I try and make decisions based on what his dad would say or do, or how he felt about certain topics.  Loss is never easy, for anyone involved, not even one who was three months old when Kyle experienced his first loss.

Words cannot express how much I miss you Ryan.  Truly.  I know you chose me as Kyle’s godmother for a reason, and you always knew I’d put Kyle first and I’d do right by him.  I’m sincerely trying my best.  Honestly, you’d be proud of Kyle.  He’s a very talented and intelligent young man and his future is promising.  He’s already shown to be a success as a person.

The introduction quote is actually a snippet from a poem.  It’s really a lovely piece, and very appropriate for this blog post.  Ever since loosing Ryan, I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I put things into perspective, especially when it comes to materialism, which I’m not a big fan of and never have been, similar to Ryan.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is as important as human life and doing the right thing.

Like Elizabeth Bishop, I too try and accept loss and loosing someone.  But I’ve never completely come to terms with Ryan’s death.  I’m sure he’ll always weigh heavy on my heart, some days are easier than others.

Below is the poem in it’s entirety.  Take a moment and try it out for yourself.

One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.  ~J.K. Rowling

Ryan's-Birthday-9-24-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan’s 3rd birthday party. Upfront: Nicole’s big head, then cousins: Tim, Chad, Jeremy & the birthday boy, Ryan. 9/24/80

Ryan would have been celebrating his 37th birthday today!  He would have loved waking up to his son, Kyle, who is now thirteen and probably went to work, stopping for a beer on the way home, never thinking much of the day.  Like me, Ryan never cared much for birthdays.  Unlike Kyle, who takes the entire month of July to celebrate his.  Granted, Kyle’s a kid, but regardless, Ryan and I still weren’t that interested in our birthdays, except to get our driver’s license and to legally drink.  Although, I was pretty stoked to vote.

Now that my company Thrill of the Hunt is really starting to make some traction, I wonder what Ryan would be doing?

You know, I truly believe Ryan would have started a company too.  He moved on before he had the chance, but Ryan would have been a great businessman!  How do I know?  Easy, Ryan possessed all the qualities of a great entrepreneur, the passion, the ideas, the know how, leadership and most of all the ability to work hard and stick it out, no matter what.  Ryan was never a quitter and there is no one that can say he wasn’t a hard worker.  No one!

Granted, Ryan’s interests in business were very different from mine, but still the same concept regardless.  Early on, Ryan showed an interest in starting a deer butchering business.  Dad told me once, Ryan really considered doing this as a seasonal job.  It’s true, Ryan and dad, heck the rest of the family are very experienced in gutting and butchering deer, plus other game and farm animals.  Yes, we do it all ourselves, every year, even the wrapping and preparing of the deer meat for the freezer, canning it, or making Bologna and/or deer jerky, usually all of the above.  And yes, we have all the equipment to cut up the deer, make ground meat etc.  I believe I knew of Ryan’s idea, but during high school, yes Ryan was in high school and wanted to start the business, I was so involved in my own activities I probably didn’t care much.

Piper-Cousins-around-Pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We always hung on pap. Left: Nicole, me, Ryan (sucking his finger but trying to hide it), cousins Jeremy & Chad. c. 1980

Why didn’t he do it?  Easy, dad talked him out of it.  Not because dad didn’t think he couldn’t handle the work or make the business a success, nope not at all!  It was quite the opposite.  Dad knew Ryan would have made it into a flourishing business and he would have enjoyed it too.  Yet, dad was being realistic and pointed out that if Ryan was butchering other people’s deer, when would he have time to hunt himself?  Very valid point dad!  You can’t let a deer hang around too long, especially if it’s not gutted and skinned.  Dad’s theory the sooner the better for both.  The butchering and packaging can wait a few days if needed, as long as it’s cold out (our deer hang in the garage).  But sooner or later this needs to be done, and it couldn’t be done with Ryan in the woods hunting, not to mention he was still in high school.

In a way, I wished Ryan would have started the business. I would have most certainly helped!  Actually, at the time I stopped hunting myself and I could have picked up the slack, when it worked with my band and Winterguard schedules.  Ok, perhaps dad was right!

Ryan’s ideas and drive didn’t stop there.  For years, in high school and out, Ryan mowed lawns when he worked for Lester.  In fact, just the other day, dad pointed out Lester’s place as we passed.  I totally forgot Ryan worked for him!  When Ryan lost his driver’s license (a whole separate story) I had to drive him to and from work.  One time, I even gave his dog Jake (he was a beagle that I always fought with) a ride when picking Ryan up.  Anyway, years after Ryan passed, mom said she ran into Lester.  You know what he said about Ryan?  He said that if Ryan would still be living, and decided to start his own lawn business, he would have put Lester out of work.  Seriously, what a compliment!  You know, Lester’s one hundred percent right!  Like I said, Ryan was made to be an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, I think having the ability to start a business is in the DNA.  Ryan was so much like my pappy in many ways.  He was a good person, a truly warm soul with a big heart with drive and a solid work ethic, much like my pappy who started his own business,  a sawmill, Walter Piper & Sons Lumber.  Pappy started the business on a fifth grade education!  Yep!  Basically, pappy knew the timber industry and practically lived in the woods his whole life, but he also would pay attention and made most of the business decisions purely off of gut instincts.  He was even big into marketing, before he knew what marketing was.  Granted, that’s a tough industry and it lasted for years, even after my pappy’s death, but it did eventually come to an end.  Like Ryan, pappy had the entrepreneur spirit in him and he also possessed all the same qualities.  I couldn’t imagine how successful pap would have been, if he had an opportunity to finish high school, let alone further his education.

Would Ryan have paired up with Nicole and myself for Thrill of the Hunt?  Probably not, for it wasn’t really his gig.  But I would have loved to work with Ryan!  There is no doubt he would have helped out if needed.

Ryan never got the opportunity like I did, to start a company.  When he passed away, he worked at a Aggressive Grinding Machine Shop, furthering his career in his trade.  Just like my grandpap Chester, Ryan was a machinist, and from what I was told a very good one.  No matter what, Ryan always did the best he could and took pride in his work.  We all missed out by Ryan’s passing and he is still missed by many, very much!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Truly Understanding A Family’s Pain

Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.  ~Ben Jonson

Kyle-fishing-with-Aunt-Nikki-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2005

Kyle fishing wearing his Penn State shirt (courtesy of Aunt Nikki) with his pappy, me, Aunt Nikki & Gigi (took the picture) 7/2005

This past weekend dad and I were in New York setting up a tree stand and getting ready for deer season.  As I’ve mentioned before, the New York season starts a week or two before ours in Pennsylvania, so we always get our tags and head up to hunt.  On our way back from Cortland, dad got a call from a guy he works with, informing dad of some horrible news.  Dad’s good friend Mike, another one of dad’s co-workers and a guy I’ve hunted on his property, lost his son Friday night in a car accident.  What?

Yes.  It was one of those moments when the past came rushing back and instantly depression fell over both of us.  For a brief moment, it wasn’t about Mike and his family, it was our family that was reliving a tragedy that happened nearly 13 years ago this October.  It was the phone call that changed everything, it was dad traveling to get back home after hearing the news, it was shock and a devastation that took us all off guard and permanently changed our lives.

Then, to find out Mike’s son had a little boy too.  Seriously?  Yes.  I’m not sure of the age of the child but that poor little munchkin will be following in Kyle’s footsteps of loosing his dad too early in life and only knowing him through stories.  That breaks my heart more than you can imagine.

There are no words that can be said to ease the family’s pain and help lesson the blow and gradually move them into reality.  None.  I know personally.  What they need are prayers, a lot of prayers, and support when asked.  Sometimes the best way to help, at least from my experience, was to keep a distance and being there when called upon, for they will reach out.  It may take them a while and it may be in a way that is unconventional, but it will happen.

They first need to get used to the new direction of their life and deal with the stress, the sadness, the confusion, the anger and everything in between on their own.  Then, their next obstacle will be dealing with the holidays and memories and accepting life as it is.  That is until they get to a point of possibly addressing the deceased belongings and such.  Believe it or not, another horrible pain, all a reminder of what used to be and what will never be again.

Is this immediate?  No, the emotional roller-coaster ride will go on for years, I still deal with it presently.  Like it or not the holidays arrive and leave.  Sometimes I slept through them and sometimes I dealt with them by visiting Ryan in the cemetery.  Naturally having Kyle helped ease some pain and almost made these celebrated seasons enjoyable.  As for the belongings, it took me a few years before I really went through Ryan’s stuff and organized it and made sense of it all.  I never got rid of anything of Ryan’s, in fact I boxed it up waiting till the time was right to give it to Kyle, if he wanted anything.  Of course, we didn’t even really need to do this, but we wanted to turn Ryan’s old room into Kyle’s, resulting in the need to make room for Kyle’s “stuff”.  And let me tell you, there’s a lot of “stuff”.  It seems like every year he accumulates more, even though every year we give a ton to St. Vincent de Paul.

I know others may have it worse, but this one is a little too close to home for my liking.  I always said, I never wished anyone to go through what we did.  At least, I’ve always had my family for support.  From the beginning, my family has been tight and held together through the entire tragedy of loosing Ryan, barely but we did it.  I pray Mike and his family remain as such and reach out to other friends and family for support when it’s right for them.  As time passes, it will never be easy, NEVER, but life will become manageable, at least in short segments at first.  Ryan, We Miss You!

I chose not to use full names or even mention names out of respect for the family.  I didn’t want to bother them with asking permission to write this blog and I didn’t want to bring additional attention to their situation.  I do however want to flood them with prayers and well wishes.  I want them to have some peace, the next week is going to get even worse before the healing begins.

Please everyone say a pray for this family and the newly deceased.  God speed.

I would also like to send thoughts and prayers to my cousin Roxanne who just lost her mom.  It was a long battle with cancer, which Roxanne sat by her side and took care of her mother until the very end.  My heart is broken for my sincere and wonderful cousin who only a few short years ago lost her dad too.  She’s been through enough.  Also please pray for her and her family’s peace.  God speed.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Uncle Ray – Passing of a Piper Legend

Whether you like it or not, you’re forced to come to the realization that death is out there. But I don’t fear death, I’m a fatalist. I believe when it’s your time, that’s it. It’s the hand you’re dealt.  ~Clint Eastwood

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Uncle Ray & Kyle. We stopped in for a visit… glad Kyle got to know his great Uncle Ray! c. 7/2011

Today is  bittersweet.  As we move from one year to the next, God has brought home another one of His blessed sons.  It saddens me to talk about the passing of my Uncle Ray and yet I am very proud of the man I knew and shared the surname Piper.  I am also very happy he is no longer suffering and reunited with my Aunt Clemmie.  I bet Ryan is showing him around!

My heart goes out to my cousins who lost their grandpap, great grandpap and father.  Also to all of my cousins, family and friends of the family everywhere, may you be comforted to have simply known Uncle Ray and the truly upstanding man he was.  Stories of Uncle Ray will be told for years to come, for he was one of the good ones who lived a very full life.

Naturally, everyone on Facebook is sending their thoughts and prayers to the family.  My cousin Brook, one of Uncle Ray’s grand kids commented on Facebook that Uncle Ray was shot in the chest at age 19 in France while fighting with Patton’s 3rd Army.  What?  Really?  Wow!  I had no idea!  I’m sure over the years, I’ll probably learn more about Uncle Ray then I could ever have guessed, certainly more than my little world ever knew.  So let the stories begin!  Uncle Ray has earned center stage!

Uncle Ray was my pap’s brother on my dad’s side.  Yep, Uncle Ray was a Piper through and through.  Of course, I cannot speak of Uncle Ray and exclude his late wife, my Aunt Clemmie.  They were two peas in a pod, and admittedly a couple of my favorites.

It’s funny, but most of my memories of Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie included Halloween.  No joke!  My family grew up on a ridge, not the one Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie lived, but a connecting one.  It’s great living away from town except for the fact there are no walkable neighborhoods to trick-or-treat during Halloween.  Minor downside.  Mom would always take care of that situation by driving all of us ghosts and ghouls around to collect our share of sweet treats.  In addition to acquiring more candy (because you know there is never enough) and extending the Halloween fun, trick-or-treating the Piper ridge was a great excuse to see family, aside from the Piper Reunion in July.  Me, Ryan, Nicole, Casey, Joel, and Elizabeth, and later Mikey would pile in the car.  Usually mom took us because Karen had Marla and later Stacey.  We would make our pit stops all along the ridge, hitting up family and friends of the family.

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My cousin Sonny (Ray), his dad my Uncle Ray & dad at the Piper Reunion 2012

Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s stop was a favorite, also one of the last ones.  I loved going back to their house.  It was always so creepy in the darkness and among the trees.  Perfect for Halloween, loved it!  Uncle Ray always made us homemade potato chips in the barn.  To this day, I can still smell the grease and taste the crunchy starchy goodness of the chips.  Growing up, mom and dad never kept junk food among the cupboards, so the homemade potato chips were a real treat!

As a kid, I hated to wait for chips to finish bathing in the oil, and let’s not discuss the patience I had to demonstrate while they cooled.  (I was never very patient)  When Uncle Ray added the salt, I knew it wasn’t long before I would get a taste!  Looking back on it now, how many kids were blessed with freshly made potato chips made from a real cowboy?

Throughout the summer, me, Ryan and Nicole would take turns spending a week with my gram and pap on the ridge.  Ryan was lucky, he usually got to go to the sawmill with pap, while I was stuck with gram.  Nicole never did mind laying around grams house, which I still don’t get to this day.  Although, to break up the time, gram would drag me around to visit local family.  Usually, it was uneventful, except when I would hang with my Uncle Ralph and of course, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie.  My days were spent in the barn or in his fields.  Uncle Ray would help entertain me by letting me help him with small chores.  Seriously the best!  I loved helping out around the house and spending time with Uncle Ray.  He always wore that cowboy hat!  I used to think he was so goofy.  Naturally, I would tell him so and he would always pick back.  Loved him!

One more quick story.  Periodically, throughout the winter, my parents would fire up the snowmobiles and take us for rides back through the woods.  Those trips were a blast!  You see back then, winter really was winter.  Snow laid on the ground from about November or December till about March or April.  It was great!  There wasn’t just a dusting either, there was consistently piles and piles of snow all winter long!  So going through the woods was a non-issue, especially when you’re racing above the ground with a feet of snow between.  The ridge my parents live on connects to the Piper ridge, via the Butina ridge (these are most certainly not technical names but it was how I was grown up to refer to such places and most people understand these directions).

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Aunt Clemmie at the Piper Reunion 2002. Totally miss her!

Mom would ride with Nicole and dad would take me and Ryan.  (Ryan always got to ride upfront and steer while I was stuck behind dad.  Just like Kyle, always a stinker.)  Mom would call a few relatives to let them know we were heading up, to be ready for us.  Sometimes mom and dad’s neighbors, the Davis’ and the Ferry’s would fire up their snowmobiles and ride along.  We always left when it was dark, adding to the excitement!  In my mind, it was midnight, when in reality it was probably around 6:00 pm or so.

By the time we got to Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s, which was always a stop, Aunt Clemmie would have hot chocolate ready to bring me back from my frozen state.  I always got really cold, even when I ate ice-cream, so riding in the cold wind didn’t do me justice, even though I loved every minute of it.  We always hung out at Uncle Ray’s, shooting the breeze and gold old fashion visiting, before calling it a night and making our departure back down the ridge.

I can still see Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s faces.   They never seemed bothered by us kids running around and always welcomed us!  I think Aunt Clemmie loved being my hot chocolate savior!

I am truly grateful that Kyle got to meet and hang out with Uncle Ray.  Even though the meetings were short and didn’t mean much to my little man at the time, I am certain over the years he will learn more about his family and appreciate them as much as I have come to.

Rest-in-Peace Uncle Ray and God Speed!

This video cracks me up.  How many conversations are going on all at once?  This is what it’s like when you get a room full of Piper’s together. c.7/2011

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Family Traditions of Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.  ~Susan Lieberman

Yes another Christmas!

Kyle with his Lego Deathstar Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle all smiles with his Lego Death Star (courtesy of Aunt Nikki) 12/24/11

In the Piper household, Christmas is simply a time to come together, eat and sit on the couch and watch movies, like most families.  We were always, and have always been comfortable just being around one another, no expectations, just being.  And this year was no exception.

Everyone has their own family traditions, or at least I hope so.  I know a friend of mine, MarthaaaFish has a tamale tradition, which really intrigues me and one day I want to partake.  Of course we have food traditions that have remained constant over the years, but I guess as a kid that never really resonated with me as much as… yep you guessed it, gifts.  When I was really little mom always gave us a gift from her and dad on Christmas Eve, which happened to be new pajamas.  Probably so we would look presentable for Christmas morning pictures.  Santa’s gifts came in the morning.  Then after church we would go to my grandparents house.  It was really a great childhood memory that I think of every now and again.  There always seem to be snow on the ground, and by the time we’d make it to my grandparents house on the ridge, there were heaping piles of white fluffy snow all over the place.  It was truly magical!

Since my grandfathers passing things changed.  We started to go to church on Christmas eve and it became the day to celebrate and Christmas day became a relaxing time of people coming and going.  Nothing was etched in stone, ate whenever you felt like it, people came over periodically and we each made our own agenda, that is until Kyle.

Now coming around to the present, we’ve started a new tradition while adapting an old.  Christmas was always great in the Piper household, but having a child to share the Christmas spirit made it more enjoyable and exciting, and still does.  Especially from the time Kyle was old enough to appreciate the old traditions and somehow partake in the new ones forming and crystallizing over the years.  Now-a-days, we start Christmas Eve morning off, usually at 5ish in the morning with opening of a single gift.  Our thinking was to let Kyle enjoy one gift before moving to the next, spending the entire day in a gift opening and playing pattern.  This year maintained the same tradition, but instead of Kyle going home for Christmas, he spent the night with me and my family.  He even crawled in bed with me to retire for the night.  Although I couldn’t get his chatter to go on lunch break, but I didn’t mind.  It was fun waking up to Kyle and wishing him a Merry Christmas at 5:30ish in the morning.  Not to mention him waking up to his new itouch I got him this year.

Kyle in cemetery visiting his dad - Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping to decorate Ryan's headstone. 12/23/11

One tradition that came into being started 10 years ago.  We stop by the cemetery and decorate Ryan’s plot with a wreath and visit his burial site, if only for a few minutes.  It sounds sad and depressing, but on the contrary it’s very soothing and helps to make the holidays more complete.  This year, we stopped by on Friday, two days before Christmas.  The action of going to the cemetery has become the tradition but the day various every year.  Some years, the great ones with snow, we can’t get to his headstone and get there well in advance.  This year there was no fear that, since it has been raining all week, very bittersweet.

There is so much more to our Christmas traditions, old and new, but maybe I’ll touch on that later.  Merry Christmas!!

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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