Memorial Shelter for Matt

Building Matt’s shelter

Doug Welker is a notable force in moving The National Scenic North Country Trail forward to completion. He is a dedicated, hard working outdoorsman with a passion for the construction and maintenance of the trail. His contributions to its progress are rooted in his knowledge and love of the land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

I was so touched, moved  by his deep and sensitive response to my book Riding Through Grief. Doug’s following description of his reactions are gratifying. It is my hope that other readers will find similar, meaningful messages.

When winter ends in the Upper Peninsula I will take a number of books to place on a shelf in the shelter we built in memory of Matt. Protected from the elements by a metal box they will be available for hikers and trail workers to read there or to take with them.

“It is unusual for a book to elicit largely emotional responses from me, but Riding through Grief certainly did.

I found myself in four worlds. One was the chronicling of the events. Second was an attempt to ‘get to know’ Matt, even though I never met him. Third was attempting to relate to your emotional crisis. Fourth, and perhaps the most emotional for me, was thinking about cases where I have experienced the deaths of loved ones in my past, and about the frightening reality that what happened to Matt could happen to someone near and dear to me in the future.

Matt was someone I wish I had met. His energy and diverse interests are things I’m sure I could have related to. Of course he shared my love of the outdoors, and my love of food as well. I’m no gourmet cook, but I usually do most of the cooking, which has resulted in a number of surprising successes and, of course, some not-so-surprising failures!

I realize that my next observation is probably only a very small consolation, but I believe that Matt lived more in his short lifetime than a great many people do in their much longer lives.

Manger does a very good job of relating the evolution of her feelings.  I felt, in a way, that I was experiencing a similar evolution in my feelings.

I have never experienced the loss of a child.  I have never had children, and until this past year I have not knowingly lost a good friend of my own generation….

While there is much sadness in Riding Through Grief, and it created sad feelings about the theoretical death of one of my loved ones, it also reaffirmed that when one suffers such a loss, things will eventually get easier to deal with.

I think that a positive, though perhaps not intended, result of the book is that it may make it easier for those who will someday experience a loss similar to Manger’s to deal with that loss. It may also make it easier for me to deal with the loss of loved ones in the future, even though they will not be my children.”

—Doug Welker, North Country Trail worker and supporter, Pelkie, Michigan