Monday, May 27, 2013

Greetings from 27th Street

Sometimes when you help others rebuild their lives you rebuild your own in the process.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be spending this Memorial Day in Kearney,  (pron.: /ˈkɑrni/) Nebraska.  Until two months ago, I had never heard of the place.  Yet, here I am.

For you history, geography and number junkies here are a few background facts about Kearney that you may find fascinating.  Kearney is the county seat of Buffalo County, Nebraska, Strategically located on I-80. with convenient access to major markets like Omaha-Lincoln, Denver, Kansas City, Des Moines, Wichita and Cheyenne,  Kearney is at the center of a 7-state region of 20 million people.  The city's longitudinal and latitudinal position is 40°42′3″N 99°4′52″W (40.700731, -99.081150).

While you may not have heard of Kearney, if you live in the US you've are probably familiar Interstate 80 (I-80), the transcontinental limited-access highway that runs from downtown San Francisco, California to Teaneck, New Jersey in the New York City Metropolitan Area.  I-80 is second-longest Interstate Highway in the United States (after Interstate 90) and is the Interstate Highway that most closely approximates the route of the historic Lincoln Highway, the first road across America. The highway roughly traces other historically significant travel routes in the Western United States: the Oregon Trail across Wyoming and Nebraska, the California Trail across most of Nevada and California, and, except in the Great Salt Lake area, the entire route of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

But none of this is what brought me to Kearney.  I came to Kearney, at the invitation of a new friend, seeking solace and a place to catch my breath and regroup. This is exactly what I have found. 

Thomas “Brick” Murray and Grete Sandberg have not only welcomed me into their home but into their hearts and their family.  This couple and their family are well acquainted with grief and loss themselves, having lost almost all of their possessions and more importantly a daughter to a devastating fire last year.   As one family member said to me, or awhile we were homeless. Therefore, they could empathize with this weary, grieving traveler.  

Our stories of loss, while different in origin, are very similar.  It is the story shared by everyone who suddenly loses everything that once made a place, home.  Whether the loss is the result of a natural disaster or financial setback the narrative themes are the same.  It’s the story of: lost photos and irreplaceable keepsakes; family recipes written in notebooks and clipped from magazines; gardening tools and holiday decorations that will have to be replaced; looking in a closet and knowing that your old work shirts, favorite jeans, the perfect white blouse, the little simple black dress that fit just right, the hats, boots and even perfumes that reflect your personal style, aren’t there.  All of those tangible things that held a lifetime of memories are gone and most can never be replaced. More importantly, it’s a story of no longer seeing the face or hearing the familiar voice of someone you love.  It’s about waking up one morning so grateful for being alive and waking up the next wondering how you are going to be able to go on. 

Grete and Brick are in the process of rebuilding their lives and their previous home and I have been given the privilege of being a part of their process while I am trying to rebuild my own life.  For the next few months, I will not only be documenting the rebuilding of the their home but I am actually participating in the rebuilding.  In fact, I’ve spent the last three weeks sanding wood and helping to rip up old flooring.  It was physically exhausting work that left my muscles aching but my spirit feeling good.  It’s just what I need right now.

In fact, for now this place in America’s heartland, called Kearney, feels like just where I need to be.

  The healing process has begun for all of us. 

To view the entire photo album of the restoration on the house visit:

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