Dear Grandpa Ferd,
It’s been awhile. Last time I was here, I was about to go on my first tour of Augustana College in South Dakota. Mom and I invited Grandma Lavon and Aunt Carol to join us on the road trip to Sioux Falls because, as you know, Grandma loves to travel—but more importantly, she wanted to see you.
That was four years ago and now I am a senior at Augustana University, visiting you again. I think this might be the only time in my life that we have been alone together. When you were alive, I was no older than two so I’m sure Mom wasn’t more than ten feet away from me at all times—she definitely inherited Grandma’s “worry” gene. Now Mom and Grandma are back home in Minnesota and you and I are alone together for the first time in the state where you were born.
I have lived in both Minnesota and South Dakota, just like you. Grandma originally wanted you to be buried here in the family cemetery of St. Joseph Catholic Church, but others wanted to keep you close. The living need the dead to preserve their past loved ones in their memories, as if a gravestone could possibly sum up someone’s identity. Nevertheless, ten years ago the family built up enough emotional stamina to move your remains back where they belong. All of us returned to the land that shaped you into the son, husband, father, and grandfather you eventually became. The act of moving remains is not a service for the deceased but a comfort for the living; the dead no longer need to be comforted. Our family chose to return you to South Dakota in order to honor the place where you were created and let go of our fear of being separated from you, again.
We forget that you are everywhere. You are with us, always. And whether we like it or not, your body is supposed to be here in South Dakota. The land is welcoming you home. Everywhere I look, I see nature embracing you. Dead grass lays across your name like a blanket, trying to keep you warm. Ants and beetles scurry across the letters of your name, making you a part of their daily commute. The wind gives life to the air as it swirls around, surrounding us. A small spider landed on my arm, then jumped towards your gravestone—I wonder if that was you. Or maybe you were the fly that landed on my notebook, watching me write. Did you like to write too?
Sitting here next to your grave, I feel tied to this spot even though I have the freedom to go elsewhere. You were called back to this land because it is where you were created; therefore, South Dakota holds the key to my creation too. I too feel at home here and it is because of your name that I belong. Your legacy has anchored me here and I feel as though I’m not supposed to leave. South Dakota is my home now too so I promise I’ll see you again.
And because I was never old enough to say it back: I love you too.
My name is Lauren Sim and I am from Maple Plain, Minnesota. I am currently a senior at Augustana University majoring in English and Religion/Philosophy with a minor in Classics. I’ve had the pleasure of working on this project as Ann Pederson’s Teaching Assistant and hope to incorporate collaborative projects of this nature into my future work as an English professor.