Today is the 6th of April, but many people in Montana celebrate it as 406 day.
406 is the Montana area code making Montana one of about a dozen states to have a single state-wide code. While this seems like an odd day to celebrate, for me, it is a day to focus on the positives and unique elements that make this 4th largest state my home. It is important to note, many people call Montana home even though through choice or circumstance they now physically reside in other places.
When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to graduate and move away. I wanted to discover new places and people. I thought if I lived somewhere else, my story would be more exciting. Now, twenty years since my high school graduation, I have never once lived outside of Montana’s borders. I have traveled and experienced other states and countries, but at the end of the trip, I am always happy to return home. I married a man who is the epitome of a Montana boy. Through his influence, my appreciation of Montana has only continued to grow and mature.
John Steinbeck in Travels with Charlie penned “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana, it is love. And it is difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” And while elements of Steinbeck’s facts have been disputed, this statement remains a truth for me.
Montana is known for its big sky, mountain waters, breathtaking sunsets, and open plains. Another aspect of Montana is our ability to make our big state into a small town. It is this small-town support which provides our ability to rally together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart. My love for Montana is not only for its beauty, but also the people who call it home.
One foundation that fully embraces this state-level community of support is the Ramsey Keller Memorial. Those of us who have had to say goodbye to our children too soon understand both the heart ache and the financial stressors of this kind of loss. The memorial is committed to supporting baby loss families in the state by paying funeral costs for our children under the age of one. Last year, the Ramsey Keller memorial was able to donate $99,000 to Montana families. As I have referenced in earlier posts (Courageous Vulnerability, Moving Forward, and #whywerun), the RKM Run for Heaven’s Sake is one of the ways we honor Josh’s life.
In a way, a terminal diagnosis when he was only six months old allowed us to prepare for Josh’s death. I remember reading most children with Josh’s diagnosis pass away before the age of two. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. But, it was our reality.
To help with the medical costs a family member set up an account for donations. For the next year, this account funded through the love and support of our community helped ease the financial stressors. This account slowly transformed from a medical expense account to an end of life expense account. When we met with the funeral director and he began to break down the expenses, it gave us comfort to be able to not worry about the cost of honoring our son with a headstone and service. We purchased three plots on the cemetery hill and selected the middle plot so Josh could rest between us when our time comes. While I am at peace knowing only his body rests here, my heart is buried in this Montana soil.
In a little over a month, our community will rally together to raise funds for RKM at the 10th annual Run for Heaven’s Sake. Last year, the race was virtual and we had support from all 50 states and all 56 counties. This year, along with the virtual run there is a 5K, 10K and the Joshua Tyree Half Marathon.
Each year, I witness how heartache and loss have brought our families, communities, and state together. It is a love like no other, but as Steinbeck writes “it is difficult to analyze when you are in it.”