In memory of Julie Wilson
Every so often there is an event that stops us in our tracks, takes our breath away and leaves us no choice but to ponder the beauty, tragedy and fragility of our humanity. Such moment came for me and many in this community earlier this month. A dear friend phoned me with news that struck me with a sickening thud and took my breath away. She explained that a family with whom we were mutual friends lost their baby girl, a brave and vivacious little 4-year-old named Julie, in a terrible and unforeseeable accident with her Daddy’s commercial truck. As I played my small part in the phone tree, sweat poured from my brow as imagined what Julie’s family must be feeling, and what it would be like to lose any of the children who bring so much happiness to my life.
I had never been to a memorial service for a child before, and I was dreading it as I drove there with my brother. I shouldn’t have. I should have known that what I was about to experience would be a celebration of life, and a demonstration of strength and selflessness. Julie’s family, the Wilsons and the Riders are tough. They are no strangers to pain, and more importantly, they are no strangers to love. Nor are they shy about sharing its power with anyone who is receptive. Julie’s mom Sharla and Grandma Linda have given thousands of hours tirelessly to the youth in this community, including to my brothers and me. Much of this is through the 4-H program. That program that provides guidance, leadership and community to many Kootenai County youths.
Even in this time of anguish, they were gracious with each of the several hundred guests who came to celebrate Julie’s short but poignant contribution to this world. The entire family smiled and hugged each person who came to offer condolences. As I talked with Linda, I said that I was sure the offers to help were well into the hundreds, but of course, she should let me know if there was anything I could do. Her response was that she tried hard to find something for each person to feel like they were making a contribution. She, like her whole family, would never take an excuse to put herself above others. Julie’s aunt Cece told me: “We will get through this because our family is amazing.” I wholeheartedly agree.
They will also get through because the love they have shared will come back to them from those in the community they have given to. And because of those who have gone before. The Wilson/Rider family is not the first family in the 4-H community to lose a child. Among the hundreds present at the memorial were two families, the Becks and the Cederbloms, who have also tragically lost young members of their families. They offered not only condolences, but a stunning image of strength and community.
I have no children, but those that I am close to, like my little cousin Kassy and my nephew George, give me a renewed sense of purpose each time I am around them. The Rider/Wilson Family, the Becks and the Cederblooms haven’t lost any purpose with their tragedy, they keep doing what they do and give back to the community. Their sense of purpose has grown to have an impact on hundreds of lives throughout the community, partly through memorial funds.
Please seriously consider giving back to the community the way these families have given so much. Call Mountain West Bank at (208) 765-0284, stop by a branch, or mail a check to: The Julie Wilson Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1059, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816.
Luke Malek is home-grown Kootenai County boy currently in a voluntary exile in pursuit of a law degree that he hopes will empower him to battle objectionable compliance with the status quo.