July 23, 1989 – June 22, 2019
The month of November has become a time of reflection and thankfulness for many people, including myself. Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful when it seems that you can’t focus on anything but the blinding rainstorm that is swirling around you. But, if you look hard enough, you should be able to find a brilliant and hopeful rainbow that follows life’s storms.
For the past four months, I have struggled, really, really struggled. The death of a friend or family member is hard to comprehend, especially when it is a younger person. Unfortunately, over the years I have had quite a few friends/family members who have left this earth far too soon: Ed, my childhood friend; my niece Jennifer, my brother Jack, Mike, Beth, Ashley, Jason, Eric, Clayton and now Ian.
When I learned of Ian’s death in an automobile accident this past June, I was shocked and stunned. Ian was my mail carrier and to say that he rocked his job would be an understatement. The dude was awesome. He delivered the mail way beyond the expected time frame. He had to stop at my house – a lot – because of the number of packages and mail that I receive. He would always pull in the driveway and give a toot-toot on his minivan’s horn (I told him to do this so it would save him time from having to walk up the sidewalk to the house) and I would try to meet him in the driveway. Ian took great pride in his job and it showed. He had complex diagrams written down every day, showing which houses got what mail and packages. My mail route is (I believe) the biggest one in our area and his vehicle was always filled to the brim with parcels. I never understood how he got everything packed in that minivan, but he did so with such precision.
He ALWAYS had a smile on his face, it didn’t matter if it were pouring rain, 6 inches of snow coming down or 88º outdoors. I never saw him without that charming smile of his. He would always greet me, and we would exchange some chit-chat. I had known about Ian for several years before he became my mail carrier. He went to school with my son (a grade behind my son) and when my son was in middle school, he would come home laughing about how Ian kept everyone entertained on the bus with his wit and personality. Years later, I would totally understand what my son meant about Ian – the dude is 6’6” tall and he had a laugh that just worked its way out, and being that Ian was so tall, it took a while for that laugh to finally be over. His wit? Razor sharp. I like to bust people’s balls – and people know it – but with Ian, he busted your balls with a smile on his face and you were like, “Wait? What? Did you just bust my balls??” And soon, you were laughing with him because he busted your balls in such a funny way and without malice.
Ian was always performing kind acts – he bought an insane, and I do mean insane amount of diapers and wipes for his friends when they had their first baby. It was like a mountain of diapers!
For the past four years, I looked forward to my daily interactions with Ian. He usually was popping in my driveway at least 4 out of the 6 days. He listened to my tirades about computers, deadlines and anything else I liked to complain about. In return, he told me about his awesome fiancée, Erika, who would become his wife in August of 2016, his love of softball and Lincoln, Chance and Dixon, the beloved dogs that he and Erika added to their family over the years. In our daily snippets of conversation, he filled me in on the status of the home that he and Erika built. He talked glowingly of how proud he was of his wife and the marathons that she runs. I comforted him when their first puppy Lincoln died and then, just a few months later, he comforted me when Gunny and then Precious died.
We shared a love of cupcakes, cookies, and candy. I would leave treats for him in the mailbox. We liked to yell, “Pineapple” randomly at each other. He soon discovered, and I think it shocked him at first, that this little old grandma has a foul mouth and is prone to saying inappropriate things (#no filter). The first time this happened, Ian backed up and said, “Whoa, Grandma! Just whoa!” And then he laughed.
Once I texted my frustration to him about “where the $*^@!% is my computer shipment?!” He texted back, “You sound hangry, Grandma…”. And then he delivered my mail an hour later and handed me a Snickers bar.
I will admit it, I cried nonstop for three days when I learned that Ian had died. I kept apologizing to my husband because I just could not stop crying. Steve said to me, “Don’t apologize, Ian was your friend, of course you are very sad and upset.”
And that’s when it hit me, Ian had, over the course of four years, become my friend. We weren’t besties, we didn’t hang out other than when I photographed him and Erika and their dogs Chance and Dixon last fall, and I am 28 years older than him - but we were friends.
Our last conversation and the last time I saw Ian was two days before he died. He brought me some big boxes, which contained fruit snacks, among other stuff. I offered him some fruit snacks, but he said no. He asked if there was any candy in that box, there wasn’t. As I said earlier, we liked to tease and torment each other. He started down my walkway and I yelled at him, “If you were a woman, your name would be Isabella.” He spun around and without missing a beat, scoffed and said “Oh no! I would be Tatiana!” I laughed so hard that I had tears coming down my face. I continued up to my porch with my boxes and then I heard that familiar tap, tap of Ian leaning out the window of his minivan and hitting the side of his door. “You have yourself a nice day,” he said. This was his “trademark” goodbye to me. “You, too, Tatiana! You, too” I yelled back.
Thousands of people attended Ian’s funeral, he had that much of an impact on so many people’s lives. He was known to many as “EZ”, a nickname that a friend’s Dad gave him when he played softball in middle school. His post office workers called him “Yeti”, because of his height. I called him Sparky because I am just weird and like to give people dumb nicknames.
Ian’s wife Erika has been dealt the most unfair blow in life but in her own words, “I chose strength, I will not drown.” Erika donated Ian’s eyes and because of his corneas, a 3 month old baby boy and a 2 year old girl now have the gift of sight. “Even when he’s not here, he continues to do good,” said Erika.
Erika also established The Ian EZ Life Campbell Foundation, a nonprofit organization. This Foundation is designed to support and raise proceeds to make a donation in Ian’s name to a widow or a widower. The goal is to provide financial assistance to someone who lost their spouse with contributions raised during The Ian EZ LIFE Campbell Foundation fundraisers. A widow or widower will be chosen in Ian’s honor so that the legacy of his love and devotion to support and take care of his wife and family can be carried on. By supporting this foundation, Ian’s name can continue to be carried on honorably for always being a loving and supporting husband. The foundation strives to make a difference and positively impact someone needing the support of the EZ LIFE.
The Ian EZ Life Campbell Foundation has already hosted a Softball Tournament and a Volleyball Tournament to raise funds for the foundation. A check was presented last week to a young family who lost their husband and father to pancreatic cancer earlier this spring. It was my honor to attend the softball tournament and take photos. This was a 14 hour event. It was almost 10 pm during the final game between the last two teams. There had been a rainstorm earlier in the evening, it was chilly out and tempers started to flare a little between the players on the two teams. And then I heard a lady’s voice call out, “Hey! Stop! Remember why we are here! This is for EZ, we are doing this in his honor. He wouldn’t want us to be fighting, let’s just calm down and play and be friends.” And that’s just what they did.
Another November is here and another month of reflection and thankfulness… Thank you, Ian. Thank you for being my friend.
If you would like to learn more about The Ian EZ Life Campbell Foundation, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/The-Ian-EZ-LIFE-Campbell-… You can also email them at: [email protected]