It’s Saturday night, March 28th 2009. We just got back home from Evart, MI. This past week has been surreal. On Wed morning, I got a call from Andy that one of my dearest friends, Dr. Jerry Vonderhaar had committed suicide. The next two days were a flurry of emotions for me. Yesterday, we drove up and went right to the pub where there was a wake of sorts. Leanna (his wife, and also our dear friend) was in the midst of all these people. It was good to just be with her finally. I got to meet a lot of family members that I’d only heard about for years through Jer and Leanna. Anyway, Mel and I took their two kids Emily and Ian with us last night and let them play in our room with Molly (Emmy’s best friend too).
For nearly an hour, I got the pleasure of being Ian’s own punching bag/jungle gym/wrestling buddy. I haven’t known what it was like to have a boy around too much, and it was a joy. We awoke, grabbed the complimentary “continental” (which is a pretty shady term for assorted cereal and pre-wrapped muffins) breakfast then headed over to our friends the Kricks. All their kids, and the three with us played wildly while we four adults caught up over some AMAZING coffee that Mike brought back from Geuatemala. Then, after a quick lunch, we made our way to the church for the memorial service. It was pretty packed with family, friends and patients of Jer (he was an amazing Chiroprater and health specialist) including his many Amish family patients.
The service was kind of ‘ok.’ It was held at a church that Jer and Leanna had stopped attending awhile ago, and led by the pastor who was the primary reason they left for. Honestly, it didn’t seem to be at all what Jer would have wanted…in fact, I know it wasn’t what Jer really wanted as he told me numerous times that he wanted a celebration of life and a party…but, in the end, it’s what Leanna agreed to so it’s whatever she wants of course.
Then, the family and us headed back to the house to snack and talk. Andy and Chandra were there (which was so great) and Andy and I were able to drink a Guinness and smoke a cigar in Jer’s honor out back around a campfire – Jer’s fav. thing to do out back – which was pretty perfect. Then, a bunch of us walked back to the place in the woods where Jer took his life. While kind of strange, it really helped me to be able to say “goodbye” in a way. There was no trace of the event, only bleached bark on some trees where the med team had cleaned up. Again, kind of morbid but in a way it was some kind of closure as there was no casket at the service.
Anyway, I just wanted to say once again a big “Thank You” to all who’ve prayed, and sent notes for encouragement. I’ll probably be ready to re-engage with real life on monday or tuesday and will make a concerted effort to write each of you back.