Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Precious Memorial

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The Christmas holiday brought a bundle of family events which required that we do a lot of driving. For three days in a row, we drove the over two-hour-long round trip distance, twice a day on two of those. It was all worth it, but when yesterday arrived with no agenda requiring we leave our home, the exhaustion hit and we luxuriated in the gift of staying put.

IMG_4211eIn the afterglow of the Christmas eve and Christmas day events, Friday the 26th became an additional day of precious activities with Cyndie’s family. We started in the morning by gathering at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, where we visited the graves of some of their relatives, including Cyndie’s sister, Michelle, who died at the age of 4 in 1967 as a result of leukemia.

It took some hunting to locate the grave sites, but with the benefit of the lack of snow cover, it didn’t take long to find the markers. Some flowers were laid and then a few members of the family read portions of a memorial prayer that second brother, Barry, had composed.

IMG_4209eThis is the first time the entire family has visited the graves together, which made this a particularly special occasion. Michelle’s death occurred on December 14th, so the Christmas season for Cyndie and her parents and siblings has a way of bringing with it memories of that time in 1967.

As the middle of the day approached, we headed across the city to take a tour of the new auditorium under construction at the Masonic Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota. The family connection to the U of M is strong, but the connection to the Children’s Hospital is especially poignant.

IMG_4217eThe Friswold family has adopted a room in memory of Michelle. We were able to visit a similar adjacent room which was vacant, to see the special features available to children and their families as a result the financial contributions.

A significant effort is made to give the kids being treated as much control over their environment as possible. A touch-screen monitor is suspended on an arm that, among other things, allows the child to remotely control the window shades and alter the color of the room lighting. Of course, I only remember those features because they are the ones our group played with while exploring the room.

To top the day off, we finished with a special private dinner event at the U of M McNamara Alumni Center UofMAlumniCenteralong with the family of Fred Friswold’s frat brother from the class of ’58, Larry Laukka. The Friswold and Laukka families have been getting together regularly at Christmastime the last few years, and this year the two patriarchs took it up a notch, bringing us on campus to share the full story of their incredible persistence as the volunteers who dreamed up and pulled off the incredible accomplishment of this world-class building.

It was a spectacular way to conclude the flurry of holiday family gatherings. Cyndie’s family is very precious, indeed, and I am a lucky man to be included as one of their own.

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