Elements of a Story


Enter, Fritz Herman Suedbeck (what a name, right?). He’s my grandpa and at 91 years old, he was hard to miss when entering a room: cowboy hat, cowboy boots, cowboy shirt (if that exists, he wore it) and of course, Levis. He was a farmer and cattle buyer, known for his ability to guess the weight of a calf within a pound or two. Apparently, in that industry, that’s something to brag about. He was a man of few words with rough hands and a soft heart. He’d probably also like for me to mention that he was 100% German; definitely not to be mistaken for a Norwegian.

My grandpa always knew how to connect – with family, friends or strangers. He knew just the perfect moment to deliver one of his jokes or dish out a prank or two. Brene Brown talks about how we’re wired for connection. She’s not the first, nor will she be the last to talk about this clear, human fact. We are wired to connect with others. We are wired to connect with God.

This past week, my family said goodbye to my grandpa. We were told at his funeral, that he was pulling pranks with the nursing staff all the way up until three days before he passed away. The poor staff fell for one of my grandpa’s best pranks: Place some [very realistic-looking] fake dog poop indoors, draw attention to the “no dogs allowed” policy, bring the nurses close by to examine it, and then in the perfect moment, he reaches down to pick it up as the staff hollers and squeals in disgust. Works every time.

This ability to make light of his health or living situation, was exactly my grandpa’s style. He was a man who lived a long, heart-focused life that centered on God, family and friends. It wasn’t just one of those things he pursued wholeheartedly – it was all three; together. He knew they were connected and he knew the importance of keeping his roots firmly planted in all three.

God, family and friends contribute to our life story. These elements are grounding, sustaining and eternal. They feed us and nurture us. The poet, Mary Oliver writes, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” I’m proud of my grandpa for not having simply “visited” but instead, choose to make himself at home; unpack, kick back, have some good laughs and be grateful to God for every given day.

So I ask you all: what’s your story today? What will you write tomorrow or the next day? How will you connect? What are your grounding elements and how are you embracing and enjoying them? They are what matter.