Kristen Bell and I met in the fourth grade. She was a friendly face at a new school, and we bonded quickly. Through tea parties and Barbies, sleepovers and proms, we remained close and our friendship grew. As young adulthood set in, we each moved away from our childhood homes; however, our deep connection remained. That deep connection continues to be a source of strength for both of us.
To the Brownies in her Girl Scout troop, the children in her Sunday School class, and the people in her community, she was known as Gail Schutz. To me, she was just Mom. She made the greatest peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the world; always complete with the perfect ratio of jelly to peanut butter. She saw the best in people and expected people’s best in return. She worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others, a true public servant. When she passed away suddenly in February of 2012, the entire North Greene Community felt the loss.
That same sense of loss was felt when David Bell passed away unexpectedly in July of 2013. Kristen’s dad was a farmer, a man of deep faith, and most importantly, a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He organized and ran the North Greene Youth Baseball and Basketball leagues, and served as a high school girls’ softball coach and a boys’ basketball coach for many years. David had a quiet demeanor, but a keen sense of humor. And he always ensured that there were Casey’s Donuts at the Bell House on Sunday mornings. I liked that about him.
I recently read a quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that, for me, most accurately describes the grief process. “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
Last summer, Kristen and I had an overseas vacation planned. With David’s death occurring just one week before the scheduled trip, we decided to postpone for a time when we were ready to see the good in life again. This summer, that time came.
For 12 amazing days, the two of us relished in the astonishing country of Greece. We allowed our minds the freedom to think about nothing as we sunbathed on the beaches of Mykonos. We commented on how my mother would love the brilliant blue roofs of Santorini, and we noted trinkets that David would enjoy from the markets of Athens. We expressed our joy just to be alive as we saw the most gorgeous sunsets from the village of Oios, and we ate our weight in hummus, tabouli and baklava. We shouted “Opa” more times than I can count, and we threw plates with the best of ‘em. We giggled and screamed as we rode donkeys up the side of a cliff with tour guides shouting commands at us in Greek, a language that is simple, well, Greek to us! And we cried as we shared our fondest memories of our beloved parents, who are no longer physically with us in this world.
Greece was beautiful, the country and our experience there. It offered time to let our broken hearts do a little bit more healing, and tranquility to recognize that the goodness on Earth far outweighs the bad. It made us grateful for the memories we have, and provided us with new ones of which to be thankful. We experienced life, and it is so sweet!
We will grieve the loss of our parents forever, but there is good is grief. We found it in Greece.
Photo/Courtesy of Kelsey Schutz
Kristen Bell, left, and Kelsey Schutz pose with one of the mules they rode up in Fira, Santorini, Greece.
Photo/Courtesy of Kelsey Schutz
Kristen Bell, left, and Kelsey Schutz enjoying the view of the sunset in Santorini, Greece.