SOL: Life’s Unexpected Turns


I have been away from my blog since the sudden and very unexpected loss of my big brother on May 25. While biking up the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, he suffered an apparent cardiac arrest, and died instantly.

Nothing can prepare you for such a tragedy. The utter shock and sadness in such a sudden, significant loss leaves a gaping hole that just can’t ever be filled in the same way.

But my brother would not want me to go on and on about our family’s sadness. He would not want the focus of his death to be clouded in sorrow. He would instead want us to focus on living life to the fullest – making every moment from each and every day count. This is what my brother did better than anyone else I know.

At his memorial, and even in the days after, I cannot count the number of people who shared how their lives were impacted by my brother. As a hockey referee, he was a calm, professional presence on the ice. He especially loved mentoring young referees as they navigated the often tricky moments of making the necessary calls in a game. Everyone loved when he took the ice, and had enormous respect for him as an official. In his job at Glacier High School, he was remembered for how he brought joy to everyone he encountered, always more interested in what others wanted to share than his own stories. His love of adventure was evident in all that he did; skydiving since the age of 18, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and cycling to name just a few of his passions.

Memories are my greatest source of comfort now as I transition into life without him here. It’s funny how I reflect on them in a different way though. I see the amazing way Don had of appreciating every moment in life that mattered. While my mind was more often focusing on the next thing I needed to do, or the next event that was coming up, his attention always remained right there in the moment. You could see it in his demeanor in the way he would just stop and take in the beauty of what was around him. You could hear it in the simple things he said about whatever we were doing together. And you could feel it just being with him; he had such a unique way of exuding a genuine satisfaction and happiness in every moment that he lived.

I sense his presence with me so much in these days since he died, gently helping me refocus my gaze in a different way, allowing me to capture moments in a deeper, more meaningful way. I want to keep this perspective and awareness always.

My greatest desires now are to see the world around me through my brother’s eyes, to connect with others around me with my brother’s heart, and to live each day to the fullest, chasing my dreams the way he did, and finding joy in all that I do until I see him again.

While it is impossible to fully represent the amazing life my brother lived, I share this slideshow with you as a glimpse of the big brother I was blessed to have. It encapsulates the highlights of a life lived to the fullest, of dreams sought and found, and reveals a man who was the greatest husband, father, brother, son, and friend to so many who count themselves fortunate to have known him. You can view it here.

The view from what will forever be known as Don Graham’s site, located just past the Weeping Wall & Big Bend on Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park.




14 thoughts on “SOL: Life’s Unexpected Turns

  1. margaretsmn says:

    A beautiful tribute to Don! You have been an example of strength to me. I can’t imagine your loss, but I am so inspired by how you have turned to Don’s joy of living each moment to its fullest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. carwilc says:

    Dani, you have written such a beautiful tribute to your brother. The video is beautiful too. I have been estranged from my sisters for the past two years, and you make me think that I need to get in touch. I don’t want to lose them without having resolved our issues. Thank you. Wishing you peace and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a difficult situation to be dealing with. I hope you and your sisters find a way back into relationship with each other. This unexpected loss certainly solidified for me just how short life is and the importance of family relationships. Thinking of you!


  3. Moll Miske says:

    Pausing, to be sad with you and those who loved your brother. Also, refreshed and encouraged with you and those who loved your brother as you remember and celebrate his life. Thank you for sharing yourself and your brother with us. Admire your decision to keep writing through this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dani, I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know. This post is an amazing tribute to a man who embodied the mantra of living life in the present with vigor. His memory will live forever in your heart and in all that you do. The video was touching. May your family be full of the spirit of joyful life like your brother would want..

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s