If only you were here...

(A letter to my big brother)

Dear Travis,

Do you remember the last time we spoke? I do! It was in the big, yellow 1970’s model Ford van that served as our family "bus". Oh how I hated that van...and yet, that is where I have many, funny memories with you!

 

 



Like the time you were getting gas and you smashed the side view mirror (driver’s side) by running into a post. How about the high school cross country practices and everyone wanting to ride with us — out to road 100 in the van!! We could pile the whole varsity squad in that thing! In those moments, it was a cool car.

I remember you had a special parking place at Richland High School — just for that silly van. Every time I drive by the school, I can still see it parked there… Do you remember all the family vacations that we took in that thing? What a riot! And with nine people packed in there (throw in a few friends every now and again) we shared some wild road trips! The last one of course was our trip to Wyoming for the 4th of July in 1988. You died on that vacation and the trip home was rather quiet and not at all the same. I wonder if you ever wonder what happened to that big, yellow van… Just so you know, Dad sold it quite a few years back and I kept a copy of the key. Every now and again I pull it out and remember some very good times…

So becoming the oldest kid in our family was quite a shock for me. I was used to being your little sister and just following in your footsteps (and I was happy to do so). Remember my first day at Cross Country practice? I was still in middle school and they didn’t have a cross country program there so I was allowed to walk over to the high school and practice with ‘the big guns’! I was in the 8th grade and that was a scary day for me. You were one of the top runners for the cross country team and everybody loved you! I was so happy to become ‘Little Lich’. And one of my very favorite memories from my years as a member of the Richland High School Cross Country team, was when you and I were both the number one runners! Remember that? It said Lichfield and Lichfield across the board! That was something special — always will be!

Just so you know, your senior year (when you didn’t come back) we all ran in black socks (like you did) to serve as a reminder that you would not be forgotten.

In addition, Coach Mike Mills (he’s retired now), created the Travis Lichfield award and even until his very last season of coaching, one lucky runner was given that coveted award.

And your graduating class of 1989 had one of your running shoes bronzed and it remains in the Richland High School trophy display case to this day. Remember all the running records you held? Sorry to tell you, they have all been broken. The times just get faster and faster with each new generation.

Back to being the oldest — I want you to know that I’ve tried my very best to be a good big sister for Amy, Katie, Jennie, Robby and Erica. (You’d be so proud of our sisters and brother — they are amazing!) They are all married now and on special occasions when we get together (we had our first ever Lichfield family reunion in August of this year) you are not forgotten. We talk about you and the funny things we remember like playing UNO until midnight on Christmas Eve because we couldn’t wait for Santa and his surprises, or how your shoe fell out of the car one Saturday night and you drove over it (somewhere) and when it was time for church on Sunday you couldn’t find the other one! We laugh about your passion for fishing and how you were grounded one day and you thought you were being  sneaky and you tried to sneak out with the fishing pole and the entire family watched your attempt to ‘escape’ via your bedroom window. Yeah, Mom stood her ground and made you come back in. I think you must have spent most of your waking hours running or fishing. Mom and Dad still get cards and letters on the day you died from people who want to just let them know that they remember you. They love that. Mom and Dad are doing well. Dad ties his own flies and fishes every moment he can and I know that he takes you with him…Especially on those trips to Wyoming on The Snake River.

I married a guy you know (you played soccer together when you were young — you always liked him). We have 3 children now, two boys and a girl. I talk about you all the time to them. And our second son’s middle name is Travis — after you. Just so you know, I love you and I want you to know that you will never be forgotten. I hope that someday, we’ll meet again and I’ll get to tell you all of this in person. And give you a ‘master hugger’ hug! (I know how to do that now) … I can hardly wait to hear about what you’ve been doing and get a hug back!

P.S. — Grandpa Lichfield passed away a couple of years ago and his funeral was held in Wyoming. I was able to make that long journey back (no way would I miss it). And I had a chance to stop at your grave (It had been over 10 years since I’d been back to visit).

You are buried exactly where you would have wanted to be — right at the base of the mountains in Wyoming, with the Snake River in the distance.  And Grandpa is not too far away. I hope the two of you have had a chance to fish again together.

Thanks for being my big brother and an inspiration to many.

I love you,

Wendy
AKA "Little LICH"

"KDSOF" I still don’t know what that means … Remember how you would always say that? It bugged me that you would never tell me what it stood for. I’m still trying to figure it out!

OH, the cemetery pond still has a swan and we go and feed it quite often… There are also some huge catfish in there. I think they got their start there from you throwing a few in one hot afternoon in August…Maybe? I like to think so.

And just so you know, I inherited two things that were yours…(There really isn’t a lot to divvy up when you’re 17). OK…here’s what I got your denim Levi Jean jacket (I was with you when you bought that). And a running medal (I was there with you when you got that too!) And just like the key (to the big yellow van), they serve as powerful reminders of moments I will cherish forever.

September 2006
Written by Wendy Lichfield Christensen