Posted on May 14, 2012


Recently, I was simultaneously amidst and reminded of a moment that will forever be with me. It was a moment of connection—the very best kind.

I will never forget my wedding weekend for numerous things (some people have wedding days, but that’s not how we roll), but there was an almost non-related moment from that weekend that stands apart. My mom was busy running around and reveling in her self-appointed florist responsibility, which proved she still has the knack after years away from running “From the Heart.”

I can’t remember the interwoven paths we took, there was just so much going on, but we were getting out of the car together in an unassuming parking lot. The print on her shirt radiated a spectrum of tropical colors in the perfectness of wedding-day sunshine. There was a hitch in her movements I caught out of the corner of my eye, almost as if she was hesitating. I looked at her, quizzically as she turned to me, and I saw here eyes welling up.

“There’s something I want to give you,” she said.

“Mom… what?”

“Yeah, I brought this for you. I know that your grandfather would be so proud of you. He was a great man and you two have so much in common. He loved it out here, and… Well… He always kept this on his desk. He took it with him on all his hunts. He had it when that grizzly bear almost got him. It’s nothing special, but he always thought it brought him good luck. I’ve been saving it to give to you and… well, I just think today is a great day for you to have it.”

She opened her hand. In it was a small, round, token-like object. It’s a worn crème color with darker outside edges. The middle had a circular cut-out with what looked like a gem placed inside. I picked it up; turned it over in my fingers. It was smoothed from wear, from adventures and protection. Maybe it was luck that buffed it smooth, but today the smoothness meant blessing.

“It’s made from an elk antler, I think.”

At once, everything I’ve ever heard about Grandpa Valleskey hit me: the great man he was, how my dad looked up to him as a mentor, his passion to roam the mountains I now call home. I never met him; he died only months before I was born. I guess, in some way, we did meet.

Everyday, as I sit down at my desk, I see Grandpa V’s little token. Mom said that it was “nothing special;” I disagree—it’s one of the most important things I have. Through that, he is with me.


If you follow this blog, you may be familiar with a previous post I wrote about Mariah’s Challenge. I’ve been doing a bit of video and print design work for the organization lately and they asked me to video their annual scholarship award banquet—a year ago I had done the same. Of course I would, which led to the second moment of this tale.

Mariah’s Challenge is a grassroots Montana organization focused on curbing underage drinking and drug use. Unfortunately, the spark to this mission was an unimaginable tragedy; an underage drunk driver struck three girls walking home from a friends house… Mariah, one of the three, died. Among the pain, amidst the hurt, Mariah’s dad gave the eulogy for his daughter that included a challenge to the youth of Butte. That challenge has resonated among a community and culture tolerant of drinking–underage drinking in particular–and they rallied to help change this culture by raising money to reward high school seniors with a scholarship for those graduating without an Minor In Possession (MIP) ticket.

We were getting the equipment setup when, the president of MC, Mr. Kilmer, walked over and handed me a small package. The moment ensued.

I never met Mariah McCarthy. I was teaching in PBurg when she was killed here in Butte, and I faintly remember the story when it happened. But for over this past year, I’ve gotten to know her dad and the other integral individuals. I’ve filmed Mariah’s dad present her story, seen pictures of three distinct dents–one for each girl– on the hood of the truck, and welled up while editing the footage right here at my desk.

This past year, I’ve gotten to know Mariah–what she enjoyed, her demeanor, what was important to her. At times, I felt like I knew her.

Inside the package was a heavy coin. On one side was the Mariah’s Challenge Logo surrounded by the words “Honor, Integrity, Empowerment,” on the other was Mariah. In my hand was that connection; no longer a coin, but Mariah herself. It was Mariah and all of the good that every person fights for in her name.

These two simple coins innocently lie beneath my computer screen. A daily reminder to be great. A daily reminder of greatness. A connection to people who deserve the best from me; from us all.


If you have a moment, below is the video I made from the Mariah’s Challenge Scholarship Banquet. There is still a lot of good in the world.

Posted in: Think, Video