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A Call to Be Remembered

Christi Koelker

In October 2018, a close friend and I decided to spend our birthdays together. They occur a week apart. We met in my hometown of Albuquerque, and I arrived first. As I drove to the airport to pick up my friend, I had this flash of an idea: We should take a trip to her hometown of Brush, Colorado. She’d hadn’t been back in five decades.

On that trip, we visited important sites from her memory: the farm her parents built, the church where her father was an elder, and her old school. Then we looked for the cemetery where her parents were buried.

When we found it, my friend told a disturbing story about her uncle who’d disappeared from a mental hospital in which he had been kept because of debilitating PTSD from World War ll. There was a marker for him beside her parents’ graves to pay respects, but his body had never been discovered since the day in March 1983 when he walked out of the mental facility.

I was filming my friend as she told the heartbreaking story of her uncle’s fate. As I turned the lens toward his gravestone, I realized with a shock that, as we were standing in the blowing cold listening to the only living person who could remember him, it was his birthday. And not just any birthday: his 100th birthday.

We stood, with our hair flying in the wind trying to process how this event was even possible.

We wished him well wherever his body found its final resting place, and I still marvel that he could have transmitted a message to me, literally out of nowhere, to bring his only niece back to remember him on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

This coincidence is preserved on video.

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