Thursday, August 4, 2016

because it's the Cup

I awoke last Friday with a prayer of gratitude uttered from my sleepy self,  Thank you, God.   The big day is here!  And you've given us this beautiful, sunny, summer day at it's finest, to celebrate.

I could hardly wait!  We'd been happily consumed for weeks with executing the little details for Rick's role in the Celebration of the Stanley Cup with Matt and Bridget Cullen.  But first, it was time for the arrival of the Cup!  

It's 6:15pm when we arrive at the Barn at Five Lakes Resort.  

I simply brought my cell phone to shoot a few photos, wanting to just soak in the moments with all the friends we knew we would spend our time with.  

We knew we were in for something special... we had NO idea just how special!! 

But it's 6:30 when Rick and I discover we each have a voicemail message from Rick's Dad, Jim.  "Please call as soon as you hear this."  

We step out to the back of the barn, Rick ahead of me on the phone already.

 I have visions of Crosby having a seizure, or something to do with one of the boys.  Nolan, our new driver?  Colton?  My heart thumped wildly.  Jim wouldn't call if it weren't something we needed to know right away.

It's moments later that Rick appears, his eyes glistening.  

It's my cousin, Randy Gerdon.  Randy died unexpectedly at home- sometime during the night.

I'm instantly in shock- I couldn't have possibly heard that right?

What?  What just happened?  Not Randy.  He is young, 45, the father of 4 kids, husband of beautiful Sara.  NO, how can this be?  

We take a few moments to gather ourselves. Heartbroken. Few words to say to one another.  The knowing etched into our faces, with a shroud of shock all around. 

We slowly work our way back to the party, numb.

 We hear the whispers of the Cup arriving soon.  And we decide we have to stay in this moment.  We have to push the loss of our cousin off to the side tonight, for now.  Because if you knew Randy?  He'd completely agree.  Often the "life of the party," kind of guy that he was, he'd tell us to celebrate. 

Rick and I, having lived with the unknowing, uncertainty of the day to day with surviving cancer, we have learned to compartmentalize.  We've learned to shelve things, labeling the book, and only pulling it out when we need to. How else would we get through it all? 

So, somehow, we slowly stepped back into the warmth around us, the beauty of the landscape, the laughter of friends, and a once in a lifetime kind of weekend just beginning to unfold.  

Just moments before, I was giddy when I saw Ria, who would be shooting photos for the night.  My excitement mounted as I fully know the talent and vision of Ria will capture the purely "magical," feel that enveloped me as I approached the event.  For a true taste of the stunning shots that Ria took of the event, you would not be disappointed by a visit to her Facebook page here: rialeephotography. 

And who is the second person I run into?  Bridget Cullen.  We try to move out of the sun for a quick photo, because Matt and the Stanley Cup are arriving soon and she is on her way up the hill.  And yet, she doesn't hesitate to embrace me first, and linger for a quick photo.  

The crowd gathers.

Bridget, with Matt's mom, Nancy, who will go and greet Matt and the Cup when it arrives...

Matt and the Cup have arrived! 

After a few photos outside with the cup,  Bridget and Matt spent a few minutes shooting photos upstairs, and then the rest of us find our way up to see where the cup will reside the rest of the night.

My first time photo with the cup.  Matt won it with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and with the Pittsburgh Penguins 10 years later in 2016.  It just doesn't get any better than this.

Moments later Matt embraces me and I tell him I'm choking back tears- because if I start, I may never stop.  So Bridget joins us and we're honored and humbled to be amongst such generous and giving people.  I'm sensing the ripple effects already beginning to flow out from all the blessings that abound.

Rick and I then move back outside as dinner is ready.  But first I grab our friend Julie for a photo.  The bracelet on my arm says, "I am blessed."  And the bracelet on Julie's arm?  Is the pink one made from skate laces by our friend Pam in my honor, over 5 years ago- and Julie has never strayed from wearing it.  She is the epitome of generous, thoughtful, and beautiful.  I'm not just wearing "blessed," I'm feeling it.

We then gather outside and feast on the smoked pork, and salads, and tasty food.

I can't even say the last time I have seen Jen, so its a treat to catch up with her- we pick up right where we left off.  

Everywhere you turn is a beautiful area to see and explore.

My sweet friend Nikki - it isn't often we both have a free night- but I'm grateful every time we do.  

I couldn't get enough of the golden sunshine,  mingled with laughter and celebration around every corner.

The sun went down and we gathered inside.  The champaign bottles were open and the Cup was filled.    And we watched as family members drank, and Cully's Kids Foundation members drank.  It's truly the dream of anyone who knows the reverance and prestige associated with Lord Stanley's Cup - to simply be close to it.  

But the Cup will leave at midnight for that night, and its close to that.  I've held back from drinking, but Matt smiles and gestures to me once more, and this time I will.  The Cup weighs 35 lbs., and so Matt and his brother Joe, along with his brother Mark looking on,  help tip the cup as I lower myself to drink.  Oh the sweet taste of victory.  

Walt, the keeper of the cup, has come along for this trip.  He shares with me that so many of the NHL players choose to celebrate the cup with a few family members and friends.  But Matt and Bridget's generous spirits humble me so, they desire to share the cup with as many as they can.  

Rick and I leave shortly after the Cup does, we have an hour drive back home and yet another big day ahead of us.

But look what is waiting in my messages when I arrive home?  A beautiful photo from Ria- a shot of the barn in all its glory, with a Superman standing next to me.  I'm overflowing with gratitude as my head hits the pillow this night.

The next day, was the day the Cup got to come to Moorhead, to the Youth Rink and every Moorhead hockey player was invited to come and have a photo taken with Matt and the Cup.  But first, Rick took one group photo of all the kids with Matt and his 3 boys in the center!  

I had forgotten my own phone and camera that day.  So Rick set up a chair for me and I sat and watched as Matt smiled and posed, for just over 1200 photos in 4 and 1/2 hours.   Our boys were the very last ones to go.  Matt's smile was every bit as genuine and sincere as it had been for the very first shot. 

(This will be the look of the photo that each Moorhead hockey player will receive. ) 

One of my favorites. Matt has a genuine gift of meeting you, right where you are.

 And he never stopped.  He did not take a break, ask for anything, or say no to anyone.  He brings professionalism to a whole new level.  Because I'm not kidding.  He took a half hour break to eat, and then went outside and brought the Cup to another huge crowd.  

Just look at all the people- the line was all the way around the building!  And Matt gave even more of himself as he took photos until 8:30 that night, for a Sanford sponsored event.  

A few of us, went off to a local restaurant to gather for dinner, and await Matt and the Cup.

Nolan was excited to see Ben, Matt's cousin.  Ben and Nolan are high school rivals on the ice, but friends the second they get off.   We're so excited to have the chance to watch them continue to play in the years ahead. 

This guy was all about the Cup.  He threw his arm around it and admits he kissed it. He posed for all kinds of photos with the Cup.  That grin is coming from the sweetest spot within that boy.

And this guy too.  No shortage of smiles this day. He is so 16 and I was not going to know all that he was thinking, but that smile spread across his face all day long too.  

Colton shows me where Matt's name is from 2006.  Soon, his name will be added for another time.

In so many ways, even though Walt was officially keeping tabs on the Cup, it felt like Matt was the keeper of the Cup in a way that weekend.  He lifted it, he tipped it, he offered it, thousands of times, to whoever stepped forward to partake. Matt has a way of staying present, and entering the moment with who ever is in front of him.  That ripple effect, of Matt and Bridget, giving so selflessly from such an authentic place, just keeps rippling away.  They're more than leaving their legacy, they are living their legacy, moment by moment, showing us all how we can too. 

It's Thursday now... 

Rest in peace, Randy Gerdon.  It was standing room only both, for your prayer service, and in the church yesterday at your memorial service.  We wore our Husker Red for you, and read all the scriptures you had highlighted in the bible, and laughed as much as we cried.  Clearly, you were living your moments full, too!  I have no doubt your joy-filled legacy and that hearty laugh will go on in all of us always.  GBR! 


  1. OH Vicky... happy for your moments well lived, so sad for your loss - may he rest in peace <3

    1. Thank you- I struggled to convey them both- I had to intertwine the two somehow to truly express the realness of it. I hope I used the right email addy for you- I just wanted to thank you for the new look!!

  2. What a magical evening! I can feel the pride and excitement coming through your words and pictures, and I am glad to get a small taste of how much this sport means to you. I am so sorry for the loss of family. What a tragedy; I know you are such a comfort to them.

    1. Thank you, Melissa- those two people were the whole reason I got to meet YOU! I thought of all the places they've taken us and all the people we met through Matt and Bridget and I'm so glad you're one of them! Thank you for your sweet words about our loss- we pray we can continue to support and be there for them.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post and viewing the beautiful pictures. You are magical; you never look as though you are going through a rough time in your life. So sorry about your loss.

    1. Thank you Francis- I feel so fortunate to be feeling well. And these types of events, truly do more to uplift than I can say. Thank you for sharing in this with me- your precious words mean so much!

  4. Thank you for your loving support as we said "See ya later" to my little brother Randy. One of my fondest memories of Randy in his true 'Randy' form was the night sitting around and watching him give Superman a hard time about his 'Blue Prius' - laughing so hard my face hurt...
    He is now bringing laughter to the Angels... Rest Easy little brother ~ GoBigRed

    1. Yes- Brenda- me too-face hurt from laughing and Randy and at his finest. Your description of that night is exactly how it was and we will treasure that forever. We're just going to keep lifting you in prayer, day by day, and hour by hour on some days. Love you~

  5. Oh Vicky.
    What a roller coaster of emotions I experienced as I read every word, holding my breath...smiling as you described the prayer you gave as you woke up on Friday and barely breathing with your phone call from Rick's Dad. I am so, so sad to hear of Randy's death. That picture of him on the motorcycle is priceless. His energy and love of life just pours out of his smile and countenance.

    And the Stanley Cup...what an education for us non-hockey folks about something that means so much to all of you who live, eat and breathe hockey. It makes my heart swell to think of folks like Matt and Bridget and Matt's selflessness as he was there for all of those pictures! Keeper photos for everyone who admires his heart for people and love of sport.

    And you, my dear friend, looking "cute as a bug" as my Grandma used to say. Like Matt Cullen, you are living your legacy of cherishing each day!! I am just thrilled that you were there watching your precious boys (ah hem..."young men") take this all in!

    Love you to the moon and back, soul sis! Always!

    1. Linda- I always read, and then re-read your words and smile all they way through. You just have a way with words- "cute as a bug," oh my that takes me back too! I prepared myself for weeks for that one night. A friend helped me shop for clothes, something I've not done for a very long time. I got a pedi with another friend as a treat- and so many other little things that just helped me step back into what feels like "normal." Love you right back, soul sis- to the moon and all the way back!

  6. what a taste of hockey and Minnesotan culture you provided me today! i had no idea!

    the loss of Randy hit you hard, i'm sure. our days are numbered before one of them comes to be, and i'm glad you and Rick and all those who love him do not grieve as those who have no hope. what a gift he left for everyone with his Bible with his favorite verses highlighted.

    1. Thanks Jenn- yes the loss is hitting hard, for so many. After those days of services and gatherings, we all go back to our every day lives, but as the family of Randy, "everyday" takes on a whole new meaning. I pray we can all help them find a new every day that provides some peace for them. xoxo

  7. A mix of thoughts but mostly gratitude for you. Peace and love to you dear friend. You are in my heart. I'm sad with you on your loss.

    1. Thank you, Roxane. I was trying to separate the two events and perhaps do two different posts, but I couldn't separate my own feelings in that way. You are in my heart as well.

  8. What a wonderful post. However, I'm so sorry for your loss. It was so neat to see how a player celebrates with Lord Stanley's Cup. Matt Cullen was so generous to share his day/weekend with everyone. I teared up when I read he posed for over 1200 photos. That is amazing and he's a true champion. I think of you whenever we see him play. I've only had one opportunity to be near the Stanley Cup. It was Chris Chelios' day many years ago and he brought it to Wrigley Field and I was an arm's length from it. Nothing compared to your wonderful experience! :) Could Colton's smile get any bigger??? Thank you for sharing this post. I'm blurry eyed with tears. PS: My grandson, Jakob, just turned 2 and his Dad (my son) ran out an bought him a hockey stick and puck. Jakob loves it, though the stick is miles too big. His hair is a little long in back and he calls it his hockey hair. Kristi :)

    1. Hi Kristi, so fun to read about your Jakob and how your son, got him a stick! They treasure those things for years to come! We started with plastic sticks and balls so they could play knee hockey in the house- but it doesn't take long before they want the real stuff! So cute about his hair too!!

  9. Sooooo much heart and love and hope in this post, Vicky. I always say this, but I'm covered in holy goosebumps. You always do that to me. :)

    Thrilled about The Cup! And how like life (and God) to mix sweetness with the sorrow.

    1. Yes- Julie- I think that is so true- its very God like and Life like to intermix sorrow amongst the sweetness of life. I'll always think of holy goosebumps when I think of you :) xoxo

  10. What a night in so very many ways. Can't imagine juggling all those emotions at once but you have to be the queen of compartmentalizing. As you say, how else would you get through all you've faced?

    I'm so sorry for your loss. We don't expect to suddenly lose those in the prime of life. How could we? And then to juxtapose it against such a joyful event is surreal. And it did look joyful. What an incredible person to give so tirelessly of himself to those that would be deeply inspired not just in hockey, but in what kind of a person does all this. I admire that so deeply.

    Love you, Honey. You looked lovely and I'm always so grateful that you have some of the best friends and such a beautiful family.

    1. Thank goodness for therapy groups that continue to support whatever means we use in a healthy way to keep getting through all the stuff we face! And I'm grateful to have this place in blog land where I can "store" some of these moments in time- because we all know they're snippets of reality, and the bulk of our day to day life is filled with mess and dirt and chaos... Love you friend!

  11. I am beyond happy for you and your family as you experienced the arrival of the Stanley Cup! What a momentous occasion for you all.
    Matt is truly a so many ways. He was gracious and patient and kind....everything one would want in a champion.
    Your family is beautiful. I mean that. I love each one of you.
    I miss your Mama and Daddy more than I can express. I never met them personally, but I love them dearly.
    I extend my sincerest condolences on the unexpected passing of Randy.
    I pray for your family and his as you face these days ahead without him.
    I love you, Vicky.


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