I left Florida around 3pm Friday afternoon and rolled (literally) into Iowa around 1:30pm the next day. Last night was Russ’ niece’s graduation. Today, I went with his siblings and other family to visit their parents’ graves. Then they drove me past their childhood home, and we stopped to get pictures. Well, the owner was not only home, but happened to be looking out the window, saw us, recognized the sisters, and invited us inside! So not only did I get to see where my Viking grew up, I literally got to walk in and visualize the stories he’d told me. I felt like he was there with us in spirit.

A yard and trees with a field behind it.
The view from a young Viking’s backyard.

Before we left I walked to the back of the yard and just sat there for a few minutes staring out over the fields and cried and talked to Russ. It’s not fair he’s not here, but in my ear I kept hearing him tell me he was sorry, and that he was still with me and wouldn’t leave me, and that I now at least I have his family.

Later, I went with the sister I’m staying with and her husband to visit friends of hers. We just happened to mention I’m looking for Iowa State shirts and stuff (this is Hawkeye territory though LOL) and she said, “Oh! I have some things you can have!” And she gave me a Tervis tumbler and several t-shirts and some decals she had.

Ooooh, yes. My Viking was absolutely there with us in spirit. Because when they offered for me to go with them, I almost thought no, but in my ear heard Russ saying, “GO. You need to meet people.” And I’m so glad I did. They were as amazing as everyone else has been, and while they didn’t know him, they’d lost loved ones, and were just the sweetest, most loving and welcoming people.

Iowa Nice is most definitely a thing that should be exported all over the world, because it’s true. And it’s no surprise to me now why Russ was such an amazing man–because he came from an amazing family from an amazing place.

When I arrived here Saturday and spent time talking with his sister and her husband, I was clarifying some stuff with her about things he’d told her about his job and work. That’s when she told me: He was head-hunted a lot. One time, he was offered a job in Las Vegas for a lot of money, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to take it. When I asked him what he’d gain by moving, or what he’d lose by moving, what was keeping him in the Tampa area, he thought about it. “I don’t want to leave Les.” I told him, well, there’s your answer. Is the money worth leaving her? And he said no. And that’s because he was happy with you.

Well, dear reader, yes, I was pretty much snot-sobbing at that. Because I knew about another job in Texas he turned down early on in our relationship, but to know he talked about me to his sister like that pretty much finished me (in good ways). She told me, “He loved you so much, and you made him so happy.”

I am so blessed. I know how much he loved me. I never doubted that. But to hear how he talked about me to his loved ones blows me away. He was so loved and cherished, and to be embraced by his family is so overwhelming (in good ways).

I’m going to be here until probably Sunday before I drive back to Florida. But this will not be my last trip to Iowa. I can see I’ll be coming here a lot in the future for visits with my new family. And I am so very, very blessed.

Blessings beyond measure.
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