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Hull: What will your legacy be?

I was going to write on an entirely different subject until I saw the Survey posted on the front page of The Press recently.

The questions and answers posted were quite illuminating and inspired me to share some insights, which I have learned just recently. I don’t profess to have all of the answers. But as I tell my kids, challenging experiences can either propel us forward or provide an environment for bitterness and anger.

The majority of the people that responded to the survey were in the same vicinity of my age group, which allowed me to relate well to their thoughts and concerns. Please keep in mind as I share my thoughts that I do not stand in judgment but only ask that you take a moment to put on my shoes and allow me to wear yours.

Let’s go back in time for a bit as I unveil myself to you a little more. As I mentioned in my last article, my husband and I owned a construction company for 28 years and, for the most part, it provided an adequate way of life for our family. During that time we were fortunate enough to build our own house on some amazing property out in the “country.” At least from our perspective, it was out of town and allowed us some space to breath. We enjoyed the quiet of the night with the exception of the howling coyotes and snorting of the occasional javelin. We could lie out on the grass and see the vast array of stars away from the glare of the city lights. The sunsets and sunrises were undisturbed by the growing commercial buildings popping up in the city. I have never felt such peace at any other time in my life as it truly was a slice of heaven for us. Unfortunately, there were others who wanted to breathe in our golden sunsets and dark heavenly nights. Consequently, the peace and quiet began to diminish and transform our way of life. You can’t blame them for wanting to enjoy the same beautiful landscape and slower pace of life, but change is uncomfortable.

With the influx of people came some new comforts for us. We used to drive 30 minutes to the nearest restaurant or home improvement store, which at the time wasn’t really a major inconvenience, but with the rising price of gas, we became more aware of every trip that we took. As more people moved out to our area of town, so did the amenities. We greatly appreciated the opportunity to enjoy time out with our friends at the local eating establishments which were now just around the corner. More people but more friends, more traffic but more things to do in the neighborhood. The yin and yang of life.

I read and have heard from many people around town here that their way of life has been diminished and that they wish that it would go back to the way that it was “before.” Me too! But what does that really mean and what are we to do about it? The day that my 16-year-old son died was a day that I wish would have never happened.

Inconveniences such as traffic, crowded stores and rude people now seem so trivial. I used to get upset about all of those things as well, but my perspective has now changed. I wish that the economy hadn’t crashed and that our business was still thriving. I wish that we had been able to find work in Phoenix, where we could stay around all of my friends and family. I wish, I wish, I wish!

Most people will never have the “opportunity” to experience this level of discernment, nor do I wish it for them. It is excruciating and at the same time very liberating. You see, love and fear are the two most powerful and primal emotions that we possess. When we lose something or someone that we love and cherish, we also relinquish a certain amount of fear that drives us to protect that which we hold close to our heart. Now remember that these are my shoes that you are walking in and I am a woman after God’s heart. Thus, faith has played a huge role in my life.

What does faith look like when times are hard? We all have choices to make when we come face to face with that ugly monster of loss and grief. Maybe it is the losing a rural way of life or losing someone you love, or in my case both. Who are we when our world comes crashing in? It is easy to be giving, kind, thoughtful, happy and many more superlatives when things are going well. But who are we after a tragedy? I believe that our true character is displayed for the whole world to see when we are faced with difficulty and change.

Let me walk in your shoes for a bit to the best of my ability. I will need help with this as these are your shoes. I see this as an opportunity for you to show me what life was like here “before.” You can be sad by a loss but you don’t have to let it make you bitter and angry. Help me to see through your eyes how beautiful this community is and what I can do to share it with you. Tell me all about your ways of farming and quiet rural roads. Take me fishing while we share the stories of our lives. Tip your hat as you introduce yourself to me with all the pleasantries of country folk. I love these things! I want to watch the buffalo, go to a barn dance, eat homemade apple pie, or just sit on the back porch and drink some tea. I want to know who you are! I want you to see me as LeAnn, a mom, wife, grandmother, daughter and friend — not just an inconvenience to your way of life. We must all stop and put a face, name and a story with every person. You and I are not just statistics.

So now what will your legacy be? My story could have ended with the death of Andy, but I didn’t want him or me defined by that. He was more than the end and I am more than a grieving mom. Who are you and who is this town? Let’s redefine it together one story at a time.

Hull is a wife, mother and motivational speaker and writer who, like many others, recently moved to Dickinson because of the energy industry. She writes a recurring column for Our Town and blogs at