A Walk in the Park

Trestle Trail in Menasha, WILast Sunday night I took a walk in the park with my family. No, not just any park. We went to Fritse Park and the Trestle Trail in Menasha very intentionally two weeks after the fatal shootings that have dominated our news ever since. While it was originally going to be a very busy trail night with over a thousand people present for Hands Over the Fox, this event was postponed for 2 weeks due to inclement weather. You and your family can join this event on Sunday, May 31 at 6:30pm.

While I enjoy community events, I’m really more of a solitary trail walking/running kind of girl, so I was actually relieved my little family of five could enjoy a nice, quiet evening walk over the water. We brought some flowers to lie at the memorial site. While it started out a bit sad and solemn as we headed toward the City of Menasha, on the way back, it was light and fun, filled with the sounds of kid chatter about birds, bugs, and lily pads, laughter, and the surroundings alive with the sounds of nature.

I wanted to think about what that night several weeks ago was like. I am sure the same contented feeling, laughter, and lightheartedness dominated that evening as well before the gun shots rang out. I am guessing that the Stoffel family was much like mine. I wondered if their evening walk capped off a weekend full of family fun. Or more like our family, maybe so busy with housework, yardwork, and activities; we just had to take a moment to be together as a family, enjoying the last of the warm sunshine of the weekend before embarking on the hectic week ahead.

I thought this walk would simply be a mix of sad and hopeful. I was wrong. I noticed things I had never noticed before on a trail walk. Completely different phenomenon that wasn’t quite sad and wasn’t quite hopeful. It was a completely different attitude about life. I observed couples holding hands. Not just one or two lovey dovey couples, but every couple. Moms and dads holding the hands of their children, tighter than ever before. People walking on the trail who didn’t really look like the usual trail walkers. People taking their time. Pausing to reflect, taking in all of nature’s beauty and the true meaning of what it is to live life. Smiling and saying hi. While dogs are typical, strollers - maybe not so much - at least not this many! This walk was not colored black and white, good and bad thoughts. It was a colorful picture of life - a mixture of every hue you can imagine. But just when my mind wandered back to that horrific night, my kids drew me back into the present, which was simply beautiful.

Much has been said and written about the tragedy on the bridge. But as we turned around in the city of Menasha and made our way back across the bridge, my thoughts of sadness were gone. It was turning the corner. A walk to remember, but also a walk to replace fear and darkness with light, beauty, and innocence again. To the Stoffel and Bentdahl families, know that these deaths, senseless as they were, were not in vain. It has led to relationships with more depth, more love, and more unity as families and as a community have been forced to look to God for answers, together. It turned an ordinary Sunday walk with my family and other families around us into conversations about the importance of life and relationships, the meaning of death, a “map to heaven,” our God-given purpose in life lived out in the lives of those lost, no longer taking for granted time spent just being together without the rush, knowing that these moments are what makes life truly joyful.

Celebrating life and His light, shining through the darkness,
Jill Murphy
Owner/Physical Therapist
MotionWorks Physical Therapy