Since we’ve been in the storytelling mode on this blog for a little while now, I’m going to share with you a very personal story. It’s a story about what brought me to Granville. It’s a story that has very much shaped the person that I am today. It is not a short story though, so maybe save this post for when you’ve got a moment.
I grew up in one of those really lucky situations. I had parents that loved each other and adored my brother and I. I spent most of my youth in a small town just outside of Pittsburgh. I had the kind of childhood that people wish for, full of backyard birthday parties and camping trips, sledding and firefly catching, and laughter and love.
When I was 13 years old, my dad had a “mid-life crisis” and decided that he was being called to the ministry. We left our home in Greensburg, PA, where both he and my mother grew up, and he started seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. This was actually the ideal situation for a girl about to go into 8th grade. We were 45 minutes from NYC. We were 45 minutes from the beach. We were 45 minutes from THE ENTIRE WORLD.
So, when upon his graduation he received his first call to First Presbyterian Church in Granville, Ohio, I was absolutely positively not moving. We had come to a meet and greet at the church, and the church had gathered a great group of youth (some of my very best friends to this day). These youth informed my brother and I that for fun they “sat on the benches” in downtown Granville. As an incoming junior in high School this did NOT sound like fun. I cried the entire way back to New Jersey.
Also starting around the time of his graduation, my dad started to have some stomach issues. For a guy that was never sick, this was mildly concerning. He was checked out by doctors in NJ and told that there was nothing major happening.
Spoiler alert: despite my crying, my family was not swayed and we did in fact move to Ohio at the end of July. My dad continued to have stomach issues and was admitted to a world class hospital in Pittsburgh. They again found nothing major and sent him on his way.
Dad began preaching at the First Presbyterian Church in Granville as the associate pastor. Turns out, he was absolutely called to this position. My father was an INCREDIBLE preacher (I’m probably a tad biased on this fact, but humor me anyway).
In early August, members from the church helped us get admitted to Ohio State Medical Center where they performed exploratory surgery on dad. By the end of August, our worst fears came true and my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. By the time they figured out that it was cancer, it was on every single organ in his body, and the closest that they could come to an official diagnosis was Metastasized Melanoma.
With chemo started, Dad continued to get officially ordained, installed, and preach in the church. He preached a total of 6 sermons, and was able to provide pastoral care for a few months.
It turns out also that despite my fears, Granville, Ohio absolutely became home. It’s the place that welcomed my family in the hardest of times. I built the most lasting and most intense friendships here. We absolutely moved to the right place. Unfortunately, the chemo did not work, and my dad was admitted into Hospice care in November.
Dad knew that we would have a really tough time if he died at home, and so he opted to go into Hospice care unit at Licking Memorial Hospital. The week he moved into the unit was also Thanksgiving week. I will forever be grateful for the incredible Hospice staff that made the absolute worst moment of our lives a little more bearable.
We had use of a kitchen in the hospital, and we had a very weird Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital that year. We were able to sleep there as much or little as we needed. Almost ALL of our very extended family came to visit during that week. The hospice nurses were incredibly kind and overwhelmingly hospitable. They helped us have one last perfect evening with dad, he came out of his “fog” and had perfectly normal conversations with each of us. The nurses even arranged for us to all go outside so he could smoke his beloved pipe one last time (disclaimer: I’m pretty sure that they didn’t know he was going to smoke). They literally did anything and everything that they could to help us ease dad from this world into his next great adventure.
On November 30th 2002, the Reverend Craig Marshall Sell passed away surrounded by family in the Hospice ward at LMH. I was 17 years old, and I made a promise that someday I would figure out how to give back to Hospice.
Well guys, I finally figured it out. Next week, September 5th, is my 34th birthday. It’s a “milestone” year in terms of grief… because this year will be 17 years since my father passed away. I’ll officially start living more of my life without him than I had with him, which feels very unreal. On my birthday we’re also hosting a Trek Together for Hospice at Trek. We’ll be donating $1 from every pint that we sell back to Hospice so that they can continue their important work in our community.
Please come and celebrate on September 5th with me, and raise a toast to my dad. We’re going to have pizzas in house, or bring your own food. I’ll love getting to spend my birthday with you all, and I think Dad would be proud to see us doing something to give back.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a milestone year than by giving back to an organization that had such a huge impact on my life. Please help us make this the best Trek Together that we’ve ever hosted at Trek. Invite everyone you know to help us change the world for the better, one beer at a time. We’ll see you here. It’s worth the Trek.