Travel Stories

“Jerry Joe Dodson”

"Jerry Joe Dodson"


“We may not know what each day has in store for us…
Any minute could truly be our goodbye. But we do have this moment.
This time. Today. Right now.”

Grace Gealey

Life throws us all detours. No one is immune. As we travel, we often feel isolated due to the remote nature of our campsites, no phone service, no demands on our time and admittedly, little desire to follow the headlines of the day. However, life does continue outside our “bubble”. An unfortunate incident happened, and we were forced to take a detour. Nick’s father, Jerry, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly following an unfortunate accident.

I met Jerry for the first time while he was living near Seattle. It was very important to Nick that I meet his father, so shortly after we moved to the west coast, we traveled to visit Jerry. I remember Jerry being so excited to share his “world” with us that weekend. His apartment was virtually bare except for his recliner and a computer desk. We brought our camping air mattress to sleep on the floor. Jerry had little need for “things”, for his “world” was outside his apartment with nature and with people. His life was filled with sailing trips, century bike rides, and meals and companionship with friends.

On our first morning visiting, Jerry had met with his friends for an early morning bike ride and was already back home and in the kitchen when I woke up. From our air mattress, I saw Jerry making tuna fish sandwiches with a hefty helping of mayo.

“Morning Jerry. What are you doing in the kitchen?” I asked.

“I thought we would go for a hike at Mount Rainier today. I am packing us a picnic,” he said as he placed the sandwiches in a brown paper bag along with cartons of yogurt and a few spoons. He placed the lunch bag in his backpack, put on his shoes and headed for the door.

“When are we going to eat the picnic?” I asked as thoughts of warm fish and sour yogurt swirled in my head.

“Oh, a few hours from now after our hike.” said Jerry. Nature was calling. There was much he wanted to share, and he was ready to go.

To Jerry, warm fish and yogurt sitting in his hot backpack for a few hours would not even have been worth a slight questionable thought. Jerry loved food and had a stomach of steel. Off we went to Mount Rainier with our lunch slowly cooking in his backpack.

Over the course of the weekend, we had dinner high up in the Space Needle, saw the salmon fish ladder and the Ballard Locks, enjoyed a ferry ride, went to Pike’s Place Market to see the fishmongers at work, and most importantly, we talked. I got to know my future father-in-law. His big gentle heart shone immediately, and his warm smile welcomed me to the family.

Following a death, we all look at our own lives. We examine the fragility of life and contemplate our temporary existence. Naturally, we all respond by approaching life with a bit more compassion and kindness towards others while realizing that somethings we think matter, truly do not. My family is thankful that prior to Jerry’s death, we were in the midwest and had a chance to spend time with him. Our travel plans could easily have taken a different direction. Things happen for a reason, and at times we are all pushed in a certain direction without knowing exactly why. Perhaps we are not always meant to know.

Road Rule #24: Trust your heart and let it be your guide.

Your heart holds the answers.

Death forces us all to take either a temporary or permanent detour of some type - either a change in our daily routine, a change in our thoughts or a change in our actions. It is hoped that the compassion for others that is shared after death is not a temporary detour, but instead becomes a new permanent well traveled road.

My father-in-law’s death reminds us all to enjoy each day, grab hold of all life has to offer, find your true authentic self and at the same time exercise less judgement and instead more kindness towards others. It is a big reminder, but it is the true message that death brings. That is why my family’s journey will continue. We have more to experience, more people to meet and more memories to make.

May the seas swift breezes guide Jerry’s sails as he soars onward, and may his gentle, kind spirit reside in all our hearts.