This post by Gayle M. Irwin
We received the news as we traveled back to town from our cabin: a friend had tragically died in a motorcycle accident. He was 51 years old. My husband had known Brian Scott Gamroth for nearly two decades. The Casper community had woken up to the sound of his voice on the radio for about that same length of time. All of Wyoming benefited from his presence not only on the air, but also through his charity work. Brian cared about Casper, he cared about Wyoming, and he cared about people. He was a philanthropic individual, a family man, a friend to many, from cowboys to senators, and he was passionate about many things. The radio station, our community, the state, and certainly Brian’s friends and family members, have big holes in their hearts with the sudden and unexpected passing of Brian Scott. So do Greg and I.
Ironically, Brian died not far from where my parents live in Montana, along a highway I often travel when I visit. Even more ironic, my parents were with Greg and I when the news about Brian’s death came via another friend’s text. I’m still sorting out the potential meaning of those ironies; perhaps to be more vigilant as I drive, especially on that roadway; or perhaps to live a generous, passionate, and compassionate life as Brian did. I will likely reflect on these things when I attend his public memorial service tomorrow (sadly, Greg is out of town for work on Monday and not able to attend, but he did create a short video in honor of Brian that will likely be shown during the memorial).
A few days after the stunning news about Brian’s death, I learned that Neva Bodin’s sister had passed. I also learned a friend is experiencing an uncertain health situation (she’s had several rough health goes the past few years), as well as heard about the passing of another’s friend’s 19-year-old cat – the kitty had been part of her life since a young kitten. Other friends are going through financial hardships, as are many in my community and state due to the downturn in the energy sector. Like dark thunderstorm clouds, sadness hangs heavily over hearts and communities I care about; and over mine as well.
With the bad and the ugly of this past week, however, have been incredible blessings. Autumn arrived and the leaves of bushes and trees in and around Casper are in full fall glory. Casper Mountain, upon which my cabin resides, has exploded with shades of gold, red, and orange. Greg and I took my parents to Rocky Mountain National Park to experience the eons-old mating ritual of Rocky Mountain elk – the bulls (males) bugling, challenging one another for the company of cows (females), gathering harems of those girls and preparing to add to the population of this majestic species.
I traveled to the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming on Friday in order to attend a day-long writer’s workshop sponsored by a Wyoming writers’ group known as the Bearlodge Writers, named in honor of the Native American name for Devil’s Tower. Again, autumn was in full regalia, with coulees ablaze with crimson, buttermilk, ginger, carrot, lemon, and russet. Mule deer, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys meandered the landscape — and the highway (thankfully, no car-animal collisions occurred!) I interacted with writers during the workshop that I had not seen in years and met new creative friends, and I learned from a woman who not only studied the craft of writing in college, but who has experienced success as a novel writer. I don’t consider myself a novel writer, but it’s an itching I’ve experienced during the past few years that I’ll likely scratch a bit more in the coming months and years – especially after finding precious nuggets of information and encouragement from this workshop and from other writers closest to me.
Within the past weeks of stress and distress I’ve experienced some positives. Mourning loss is necessary, but as I write in my book for owners of blind dogs, “don’t get stuck there.” Depression and discouragement, anger and grief can hammer-lock on us if we allow. Don’t allow! Find the good within the bad and the ugly, whether it be the beauty of nature around you or the encouragement of fellow writers regarding your creativity. We all travel choppy waves in this ocean of life – most of us don’t have smooth sailing across the glassy sea. Sometimes in fact, we experience tidal waves from which we’re sure we’ll drown. My prayer, my hope, my wish, is that each of us, when faced with loss such as unexpected deaths or job layoffs, even rejection of our writing, will do what we must – grieve – but not get stuck there. Instead, find beauty in the ashes, find good among the bad and the ugly, for it is there: we just need to re-discover it, hold fast to it, remember and treasure it.
Gayle M. Irwin is a Wyoming author, writer, and speaker. She composes inspirational pet stories for children and adults, including a guidebook for owners of blind dogs. In addition to her own books, her stories been featured in six Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as Sundown Press’ summer release Pawprints on My Heart. Gayle is currently working on three more books, including a children’s cat story, a rescue dog story, and a devotional-style book called Seasons of Life, Seasons of Nature. Learn more about Gayle and her writing at www.gaylemirwin.com.