Living the List

It seemed so daunting to consider doing it without him but I knew it was my only choice. From the beyond I could feel his approval as I picked up the pen and started to write our List.

Mitch had the heart of an explorer. My late husband loved the mountains and the ocean, and wanted to leave no stone unturned across the globe.

1231482_303463523129254_570255106_nIn our 9 years of marriage and 15 years together we had climbed many mountains, swam in many oceans, and lived life fully – now I would have to do it without him.  I didn’t ask for this new reality but it was mine just the same.

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Two weeks after I’d said goodbye to the man I planned to grow old with – I wrote every adventure I could think of and vowed that I would Live his List.

I called his parents and told them of my plans and through tears they gave me their full support and approval. It’s not the same to consider doing it without him but from the depths of my soul I believed it was important to his family, his kids, and to me.

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The list included, but was not limited to; climbing all the 14,000 ft. mountains in Colorado, diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize, hiking the Grand Canyon, taking our kids white water rafting through the Grand Canyon, and traveling through Alaska.

How?

Was I crazy to think I could do this without him and in his honor?

I don’t back down from challenges easily and once my mind was made up I knew I had to complete as much of the list as possible.

The first TEAM MITCH Adventure (that’s the name I gave our list) was in June 2010 when a group of us ran the San Diego Marathon and started the Mitchel Steinke Endowment for the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association). After that first event I decided the anniversary of his death was the PERFECT day to dedicate to our escapades.

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To take a tragic day and live it to the fullest, to explore, to live in the moment – nothing could honor him more.

In the coming years we hiked the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, kayaked the same coast, hiked Mt. Sneffles in Colorado, Mt. Humprey’s in AZ, Havasupai Falls at the Grand Canyon, and most recently took the kids through Alaska.

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At first these trips were extremely emotional for me, filled with both happiness and sadness, and each occurrence seemed accomplished exclusively for Mitch. As the years passed the sentiments turned to pride and happiness and I’ve started to feel a shift within.

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These experiences are not just for Mitch – they are for me and for our kids. Living HIS List has turned into Living OUR List as we literally and figuratively moved forward into our bright future all while honoring the man Mitch was. I soon realized that each adventure checked off the list was significant because it implied not only survival but also our desire to thrive with the time we have left. Six years later, my list has turn to a combined list that I now accomplish with my husband Keith who gracefully and lovingly accepted my live in the moment mentality.

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I’ve seen how inspiring and beneficial this concept of moving forward has been not only for my family but the countless people who follow my blog. From very early on I knew I wanted to share the idea of living the list with others, not only to teach, but to help it come to life on a grand scale for widowed families who could use a positive road forward.

I wanted to scale this for others but had no clue how to make it happen – I was feeling overwhelmed and daunted by the road ahead.

Enter a defining day in 2013 when we planned to hike Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon on the anniversary of Mitch’s passing as our annual Team Mitch adventure. We trained, planned, and drove to the canyon prepared to take on the 46-mile hike. I always joke that Rim-to-Rim would be in Mitch’s honor but that’s where he would have called it good. He would have stopped after crossing the canyon, never thinking to go back across again, he would have grabbed a beer and waited for a helicopter to take him back across the canyon. 46 miles, in Mitch’s eyes would have been a JOKE. However, my soon to be husband Keith, who has stood by me so diligently wanted to add the hike back across and because he helps me honor Mitch I wanted to honor Keith by doing that extra leg of the trip.

Talk about growing in intention and love. Love expands the heart. Once you’ve had great love you hope to experience that again.

We went to bed that night – excited for the day ahead.

It wasn’t meant to be

That was the morning of the government shutdown and the canyon closed as we took to the trail. I couldn’t believe it was happening – I couldn’t believe that of all the days we could have planned this trip – we planned it when the government shut down. What were the odds?

I was heartbroken

After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself we devised a new plan and hit the road to Ouray, Colorado and our first 14er.

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We weren’t prepared to hike to the top of a 14, 000 ft. mountain, after all, our trip was supposed to be to a desert floor. We didn’t let it stop us and the next day we hiked Mt. Sneffles.

Tears, so many tears.

I believe sometimes when things don’t go our way it’s for a reason and deep down I know why our plans changed.

For nearly 4 years I knew I wanted to spread my love of living Mitch’s list to others and for 4 years I had been lost and consumed with gray as to how we’d make it happen. As we drove between Arizona and Colorado I found myself lost in the view and deeply reflective during the quiet drive. Suddenly, out of the silence I heard the words, Live the List and I felt like I had been handed a gift. I said the name out loud and my eyes filled with tears. When the time was right the name came and the clouds surrounding my dreams started to lift.

We would help other wid1369075_10200710077294358_1168934895_nowed people Live their List.

The details took another 2 years to figure out but here we are today as a nonprofit whose sole goal is to help the bereaved move forward boldly with their life while honoring those they lost.

Today, it is with intense pride, utter humility, and total joy that I introduce to you all our nonprofit as we re-launch with the sole focus on Live the List.

Our intention is to help fund the list of others, however big or small, because everyone involved with our nonprofit understands just how important it is to take steps forward to ultimately live a beautiful and inspired life after loss.

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We are currently taking applications for Live the List – your dream does not have to look like mine and include hiking the Grand Canyon or kayaking a dramatic coastline – we each have unique and powerful dreams to fulfill.

Your dream is your dream.

It could be running a race, taking the kids on a family trip, family photos, skiing for the first time, or the chance to learn a musical instrument.

You see, as a widow I know what saved me post loss.Laura B

My kids, my friends and family, exercise, and Living our List. I know that those steps forward made all the difference and helped me get to a place of beauty and light all these years later.

We hope to help others find those small steps forward to living their best life. Our nonprofit wants to offer HOPE to those who just need a break and a chance to smile once again.

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On our nonprofit Facebook page we just announced our 2 most recently sponsored widows who will be Living the List in the coming months thanks to the support and help of so many of you. You can also check They Lived the List here on our website to see how our program has helped others. Every dollar donated helps and every like comment, and share of this post will help spread the word of our dream to help as many widow and widowers Live the List as possible.

I have big dreams for our nonprofit. Stay with us and enjoy the ride!

If you are a widow or widower who would like to apply for Live the List please do so on this website. If you know a widow or widower who could benefit please share our link!

Over 300,000 people follow the One Fit Widow page on Facebook – if everyone gave just a dollar, think of the good we could do for those who have lost so much.

Thank you from the bottom of my soul for the years of support, the patience, and the loyalty. Together we are going to do great things.

We are ready to help others live life.

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With so much love tonight,

Michelle

The Live the List Nonprofit (formally the One Fit Widow nonprofit) is a 501c3 organization dedicated to helping widows and widowers live well after loss.

To donate go to:Live the List Donations

To apply for a wish to be granted go to: Live the List Application

If you have questions you can email info@livethelistnonprofit.org

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