"No! You're not. Laurie-darlin', don't tell me. No. You don't even know these people!"
That was my brother-in-law's understandable reaction when I told him I was going to travel to River Falls, Wisconsin to stay with Patrick Weiland and his mother to walk with them to help raise awareness on the issue of domestic abuse (and funds for Turning Point Shelter).
Only 47 days prior to my trip, I had no idea who Patrick Weiland was and all he knew about me was that I had written an article long ago that somehow ended up in his hands ten months prior to the day he contacted me to tell me his sister, Sue, had been murdered.
Two or three brief phone conversations and maybe as many e-mailings had passed between us since then, culminating in a quickly jotted note asking if I would be willing to come up and walk with his family for a fundraiser in memory of Sue.
I said yes without any hesitation.
That is one of the remarkable things about this journey for me. The morning Patrick e-mailed me to tell me about Sue's brutal murder by her significant other, my life was changed. I mean changed on a core level. Somewhere a switch was flipped inside me that told me life just simply is not going to be lived by old rules any longer.
When I called Patrick that first morning after receiving his e-mail and introduced myself, he simply began, "so, anyway..." as if we had been talking all along. The circumstances of Sue's death and our paths crossing the way they did simply did away with any need for formality or "getting to know you" time. We were just in it. Together. No joking around. This is not a test. He got what I am about and I got what he is about and we just jumped in with both feet.