outside her comfort is her zone


On the 7 year anniversary of Tyler’s passing here is her sister Blair’s eulogy in memory of her big sister:

Being up here, talking about my wonderful sister is the easy part of this day. Talking about how incredible she was and the way she lived her life is effortless. And much of what I am saying is a compilation of the beautiful words and thoughts that many of you have shared with me over the past week.

Tyler and I are 21 months apart. She was one class above me so much of our life was shared- friends, books, cars, clothes, bedrooms, and thus later separate closet doors with padlocks on them. As many sisters do, we had our fair share of fights. There was the one fight about Zac Hansen vs Taylor Hansen that resulted in a busted chin. The first time our new neighbors ever saw us, we were in our driveway going to school- Tyler was sprawled out on the hood of my moving car screaming at me to take off her jeans. Our relationship wasn’t always the stereotypical big sister-little sister dynamic. I mean heck I was the one who told her the truth about Santa.

Tyler would want everyone in here to be smiling, so I want to share a few of my favorite Tylerisms. She was a brilliant straight A student, but she had a blonde moment a time or two, which we referred to as Tylerisms. On my wedding day, she looked so beautiful, but the poor thing had put her bridesmaids dress on backwards and had no idea. And my grandfather will never forget her worst Tylerism- when she voted for Obama.

If you knew Tyler, you knew she was fearless. Who goes snorkeling with a torn ACL? Tyler. Who goes hiking on crutches? Tyler. Who dives off a moving boat because she saw dolphins and wanted to swim with them? Tyler. Who spends an hour hiking up a mountain with her dog Milly, just for the thrill of a 30 second ski ride down? Tyler. I swear sometimes I wonder if one of us was adopted.

She lived her life like a wild adventure, often reminding me of the book and movie “Wild.” But she would be so mad if she heard me compare her to that “gaper movie” because I watched it with her and she was muttering under her breath the whole time about how Reese Witherspoon didn’t have her pack on right or wasn’t pitching the tent the right way. But the fact that Tyler spent 3 days in the Maob desert of Utah camping and hiking with only her dog Milly, is put quite simply, Wild.

To be honest, I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped out and a light inside of me has died. But Tyler would be so disappointed to be the reason for anyone’s tears or heartache. Tyler loved to make people laugh, smile, feel inspired, be outrageous with her. Nothing made her feel awkward or uncomfortable. We ourselves have to find the strength inside of us that she had every single day, use that strength to honor her memory, remember the wonderful times and do something with our own lives. Go after our own dreams. Do what makes us happy, just like she did.  I hope everyone can feel peace in their heart knowing that when Tyler passed, she was the happiest she had ever been in her life. She told us constantly, almost daily, “I love where I live”, “I love my life” and “I love yall.” One week before she left us, she had just finished a rock climbing hike and her exact words were “I’ll die happy after that climb.” She wasn’t done yet. She was planning to get her master’s degree in social work so she could continue helping others in need the way she did with the boys at C V Ranch. And she still hadn’t married Andy Roddick. But in 28 years she lived 10 lifetimes more than many of us. She did not waste one second of her beautiful life, so I urge all of you to do the same. She was truly one of a kind and I am so so proud of you Ty.

I want to close with a poem that I wrote for Tyler for her 10th birthday. Because what 10 year old doesn’t want a poem from their little sister as a birthday present? But I can’t believe what I wrote 20 years ago still resonates so deeply in my heart.

I have my own kind of hero, but she’s not a worthless zero.

She’s my role model- pushing me to the top. She’s always there giving me all she’s got.

She’s my hero everything I hope to be. She’s my big sister, she means so much to me.

She’s always there, even when I’m down. Her special smile wipes away my worst frown.

She is athletic and courageous, very caring. She is responsible and respectful, very sharing.

She’s smart and dependable, a good example to me. For every locked door, she is my golden key.

She is loyal, friendly and nice. She’s a great friend of mine. I’ll always watch her, I’ll be right behind.

I’ll always watch her, to see where I need to go. I watch her face, her step, her turn- they all help me know.

So remember now sister, I’ll always watch you. Never forget either, that you’re my hero too.

Leave a comment

6 Years ago today

It was just 6 years ago today that our lives and and the lives of so many friends changed with Tyler’s passing. Often times our minds want to play the “what if” game. It won’t bring her back but I guess it is just a natural tendency. God bless you Tyler. Never, ever forget how loved you were and will be forever. We miss you terribly and you are forever in our hearts.


Not Such a Great Day

Yesterday I was at the NC State Vet Clinic for 8 freaking hours. First they stuck this sharp thing in me and the next thing I knew I was sound asleep. Then I finally woke up only to see they had given me a terrible haircut. Looks like somebody shaved both of my dang shoulders! What in the world? I hope you all had a good day and I am hoping for a better day today! Wuf Wuf!

Leave a comment

Friends visit the Ranch in Wyoming where Tyler worked

Comments from a friend who is vacationing in Wyoming and visited the ranch where Tyler and Catherine worked: Tyler’s school seems to be doing fine ! Met Samantha the Finance Manager and a guy named Steve who knew Tyler and remembers the day it happened and the shock that the entire school was in ! Steve remembered both of them and said the entire Faculty loved and revered them to this day ! The playground gets plenty of use and is a Godsend to several of the children there ! They recently sold Tyler’s vehicle to either a faculty members daughter or a friend of one of the faculty members ! A 16 year old girl will be driving it and starting out her life with the vehicle and the proceeds going towards the school ! We saw some of the students and faculty interact and I can only say that Tyler was a special person having joined this wonderful effort !


5 Year Anniversary

In some ways it seems like so long ago.  In other ways it seems like it was only yesterday. 

In remembrance of the life she lived, a eulogy:

On behalf of our family we thank you for your thoughts, kind words, and your prayers. The enormous love we are receiving from all of you will help us through this.

From the minute Beth and I laid eyes on our first baby girl, we thought Tyler was the most beautiful baby in the world, as all parents do. As a toddler and then as she grew to a beautiful young lady, she became even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside.

Tyler was an honor student, a member of Chi Omega sorority and a Carolina graduate with a Psychology degree. She put her knowledge to work in Jackson WY working with developmentally disabled kids. She loved those kids, she loved what she was doing and those kids loved her. She made a difference in those young people’s lives and they will miss her dearly. One of Tyler’s hobbies was knitting, such things as toboggans, gloves, scarves, blankets and sweaters. And she was really good. One year for Christmas she knitted a toboggan for every one of those kids she counseled, many whom had never received a Christmas gift.

Upon learning of Tyler’s untimely death, in a very emotional conversation with the director there at the ranch, she said “we will never ever have another counselor at our school like your lovely daughter Tyler. She had such heart, such love and such care for these kids at our school who had never, not ever had love in their lives.”

Like most kids and parents we had some tough times along the way. And Tyler was the hardest of all on herself. As a young girl, she thought she had to be perfect. Everything she did and everything about her just had to be perfect in her mind. Consequently, although Tyler had a deep love for others, at that time she just couldn’t allow herself to love her whole self. These were some hard times for our family and especially hard for sweet Tyler. But you know what? Our daughter found an inner strength and a strong will and the ability to overcome. Tyler opened up her heart and she found the lord and let God come fully into her life. She journaled, she prayed and with God’s help, Tyler learned to love herself and to accept herself for the wonderful, loving, and caring person that she truly was.

Okay though, for as bright as she was, she could also be a little quirky at times. As a family, we called these Tylerisms and boy did she keep us laughing.

Once upon a time she was feeling sick on her way to school. She made it to the Academy parking lot, jumped out of her car, and got sick. Three hours later a classmate meets her in the hall and says “Tyler not sure why your car was running in the parking lot but here’re your keys”. Tyler’s response “oh yeah, I knew I forgot to do something today”.

At the young age of 16, Beth was away for dinner so she left a casserole with instructions with Tyler for our dinner. With casserole on the counter covered with foil I asked “Tyler how do we cook it?” Tyler’s response “dad you put it in the oven”. “alright how long? “Well dad mom just puts it in the oven and when it beeps, its ready!” The blind were definitely leading the blind that night.

When Tyler moved to Jackson Wyoming after college it was then and there that she developed a tremendous love for the outdoors. She loved biking, hiking, running (including marathons) and rafting the Snake River with friends. Tyler was a good snow skier before moving to Jackson but in a fairly short time she became an expert snow skier. With friends she would hike the mountain for hours at a time and ski down in waste deep powder. And she always had with her one of the greatest loves of her life: her faithful dog Milly. Tyler adopted the absolute perfect rescue dog and together they built a relationship far beyond any normal human dog relationship. Tyler and Milly were inseparable and at a level of true love and adoration for one another none of her friends, family or anyone else had ever seen before.

Tyler visited her family and friends in North Carolina as often as she could. Fortunately she had just visited and was able to be with those she loved in Raleigh, Rocky Mount and on the outer banks. When it was time to go, most always, Tyler wanted to extend her trip and of course she mentioned the H word “homesick”. But everytime she and Milly finally boarded the plane and were pointed west, Tyler knew she was going home. Tyler and Milly had made their home in Jackson.

When we arrived at Tyler’s house on Sunday night, we had an opportunity to grieve with Wyoming friends and her roommates while about one hundred Jackson locals gathered on Snow King mountain to show their love and respects for Tyler and Catherine. One of her roommates, Glenn said to us “Mr. Strandberg I just want you to know those 3 girls are experienced climbers. They did it often and knew what they were doing. This was an accident. A freak and tragic accident. Nothing more, nothing less.” Glen delivered these words with a gentle calmness and clarity that helped bring in a sense a bit of closure to questions that were tormenting me. I shared Glenn’s words with Catherine’s father, Peter, on Monday and he was thankful and he said it helped answer some of his questions also. Our hope in sharing this with you is to do the same.

We were able to spend time with Tyler at the funeral home in Jackson on Monday. I held her hand and I kissed her face and we prayed. Looking down upon our daughter’s beautiful face there appeared a small smile. It warmed my heart and we took a moment to give thanks and praise to God that Tyler was in peace.

She’s in heaven now and she’s there with a grandfather, granddaddy Stran, whom until now, she never got the chance to love and vice versa. Granddaddy Stran is now with the grandchild he never got the chance to be with. Together now they will love and comfort one another from this day forward.

Friends, our hearts are torn as we grieve this tragedy and loss of such a special loving person. Will we miss her? Of course, we will. We will think about her? Of course, we will. Everyday. Is it easy? No, it’s hard and its painful. Tyler’s laugh was constant and contagious and she was able to laugh with friends and more importantly laugh at herself. Here’s that contagious laugh with her youngest sister Josie when she was here on her last visit.

Jackson was her home. Tyler was happy and she had built an absolutely wonderful and fulfilling life for herself there. She was doing what she loved doing and she was doing it to the fullest all the while touching others and making their lives happier and more fulfilling too. Tyler’s moto may very well have been, and listen closely now, it may very well have been “Outside my comfort, is my zone. Let me repeat that: Outside my comfort, is my zone”. Tyler’s wish for all of us would be to have goals and set those goals high. She believed there was nothing in life that you cannot achieve with strong will and determination. And she was living proof.

Just the other day a picture was posted on Facebook of ravens perched on the summit of Teewinot at 12,000 feet. This was the mountain Rebecca, Catherine and Tyler were climbing. It’s known that mountain people believe that when a climber passes away on the mountain, their souls go into ravens, so that they may fly above these mountains for eternity. On Sunday when these climbers reached the summit, there were two ravens perched there at the top.

We will survive and will do so knowing Tyler is in a better place, a place without pain, and a place where she is at peace while all in the presence of our savior Jesus Christ the lord.

Please bow our heads to pray:

Elizabeth Tyler Strandberg may God bless you and make his light shine upon you. Rest sweet Tyler knowing how loved you are and how much love you gave. Rest knowing your mother, your father and your sisters miss you and will always love you. Amen.

Leave a comment

Finally A Sign

My good friend Kip was kind enough to take me to the Masters golf tournament a number of times. Great memories over many years.

I picked up a couple of visors from the 2013 and the 2016 tournaments and most recently have kept them on the floorboard in the front seat of my truck. A week ago when I went for my run over on the path along the beach road in Nags Head, I parked in the public access near Jennette’s Pier which I generally do. I remember distinctly trying to decide which visor to wear. Khaki or blue. BIG DECISION. I chose the blue one, locked the truck, put the keys in the gas cap, like I normally do, and took off for a run. 30 minutes later when I returned to the truck I noticed the khaki visor was missing. I looked all over the floor board, under the seats, in the backseat: no visor. I couldn’t believe someone could have come along in such a short time and somehow made off with my khaki visor. Nothing else was disturbed. Oh well, lesson learned. The keys are now no longer in the gas cap, but instead they’re in my pocket for my run.

Yesterday for some reason during my run I started having some very strong emotions and thoughts about Tyler. Possibly caused by some of the songs that were coming up on my spotify. Not sure why.  She hasn’t connected with me in a while now so I said to her “Tyler send me a sign. I need a sign right now just to know you’re close by. Anything: a butterfly, a cardinal, hell how about a deer? I got nothing. I finished my run knowing that you just can’t create a miracle on the spot when you might need it.

So today I go back for my run, park the truck, and as I go to grab my blue visor, just as clear as day comes the message: “dad your khaki visor is on the boat. You didn’t leave it in the truck. You put it on the boat.”

Of course, I didn’t remember putting it on the boat and haven’t been on the boat in weeks.  Weather hasn’t cooperated.   But right then I knew that is where it was.   I took my run, finishing as fast as I could in anticipation of getting home knowing I was going to find the missing visor in the overhead box on the boat. Sure enough that’s where it was.

Thank you Tyler. Thank you for answering.  Its ok that it took 24 hours.  I will wait forever.  I just need to know you are still close by. Now I do.