A Tribute to the “Pioneers” – Dan Paulus and Amy Rupiper Taggart
As I sit here and write this, I look out my window on this sunny day appreciating all of God’s wonders. It is a quiet day for me. I have the day off of work and my children are at school. I have the opportunity to not only get “caught up” on all of my daily tasks, but I also am able to reflect on where I am today. Not “today” as in this 24 hour period, but “today” as in the big picture. And I feel blessed. Three wonderful, healthy children. A career that I love. A husband that I adore.
Now I reflect back to August, 1995. I was part of CVV 1. It was very exciting to be part of that first year! “The Pioneers” included myself, Missy, Kieu, Chris, Mary, Mark, Barb, Daniel, Stacy, Colleen, Dan, and Amy. We hailed from all over the country – and we knew we were part of something amazing that was just forming.
We helped Bill and Mary Frances put their Colorado Vincentian Volunteers dream into reality. Within the first month, Daniel had left. A few months later, Barb choose to leave. Our group of 12 was now down to 10. These were losses. We were fearful. Would this first year of CVV continue to fragment?
Luckily, these losses didn’t define our group and we grew together. As all groups do, we relied on each other. We formed amazing relationships. That first year of CVV has been one of the most influential years of my life and shaped me into the person I am today. I am forever grateful to be part of the Pioneer group of CVV.
Most relationships I have kept up over the years. Some I see on a regular basis. Some relationships, as unfortunately does happen with the passing of time, have slipped away. (Remember that these were the years before Facebook and Instagram!) But the memories certainly have not.
Left to right: Colleen, Chris, Kieu, Mark, Missy, Amy, Dan, Tara, Stacy, Mary
Now fast forward to 2017 – 22 years later. Our original group has now dwindled to eight. Dan Paulus was killed in a tragic car accident in February, 2015. Amy Rupiper Taggart died in June of this year of breast cancer. As I write these words and look at these pictures of our young 20-something selves, it hits me hard. Especially because I see that I am standing next to Amy and Dan is right in front of me. How is it that I am sitting here on a beautiful day reflecting on this CVV year whereas they did not have this opportunity? How did I get so fortunate?
Dan’s death came as a shock. I can remember what I was doing when I heard the news. It was in the middle of my teaching day when I checked my email. When my students came in, I spent the first part of class talking about my memories of Dan and how people should live as fully as he did – unabashed, no regrets, and fun-loving.
Even though Amy had been sick for several years with various forms of cancer, Amy’s death was still a shock. A fellow CVVer informed me of the news. Missy called me and said, “Have you read Amy’s CaringBridge site?” I felt like I had been punched in the gut with that one question, because I knew what was next. I sat there stunned. She was my first friend to die of cancer. Sure, I had known others with cancer – but not like I had known Amy. She was a force to be reckoned with. Amy would walk in a room and not only would she brighten it with her smile, things were going to get done! She was a doer and a woman of action. She was an inspiration. I think what hit me the hardest was that our lives were somewhat parallel in that our children were the same ages, we both lived in the midwest, and we were passionate about our careers in education. How could someone so determined and strong be gone?
I think about Amy and Dan often. With my work schedule, business, volunteer activities, and three children, I often feel overwhelmed. How are there enough minutes in the day? When my youngest asks me to have a drawing contest with her…when my son asks me to play football with him…when my oldest asks me to take her Homecoming dress shopping…my initial thought process is – “Oh boy – one more thing that I need to do….” And then I think of Amy and realize what a blessing it is that I have these opportunities to spend with my children. What Amy and her family would have given to draw, play football, and prepare for Homecoming – not to mention attending their various sporting events, concerts, parent-teaching conferences, and hanging out on long summer days.
So what do I do with this now? Do I continue to feel guilty that I am here and Amy and Dan are not? Or should I just feel grateful for my health? How do I live each day to its fullest – as Dan lived his life? How can I be a “doer” and a person who inspired others – as Amy lived her life? If they were here in front of me, what would our conversation be like and how would they want me to live?
I have thought of these questions on so many occasions. In the midst of running my kids here and there and feeling as if I have no time, I pray that I will appreciate these moments. My kids are growing so fast and you never know what God has in store for our future. When I am going on a walk with my husband, I pray I will be grateful for the time we have together and the health we both have at this time. When I am feeling stressed at work because my day isn’t going like I had planned, I pray I will take a deep breath and think of Dan – knowing he would be joking about the situation. When I feel overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities, I will pray that I will stop and think of Amy to give me the strength to get it done – and with a smile on my face.
Losing people you were once close to is not easy. It brings up many memories and “what if’s”. For me, it has also helped me to focus on my blessings and how I want to live my life on this planet for the short time that God has given me. I pray I will carry on the legacy of those CVV “Pioneers” who did not have as much time on this planet as I did. Amy and Dan – you will never be forgotten and I am so grateful that our lives crossed.
Thank you for the people you have placed in my life so that I can become a better person,
Help me appreciate the big and small moments I spend with my family,
Remind me to take a deep breath and “enjoy the ride” when life becomes busy,
Help me live up to the legacy of the Pioneers who have gone before me, showing me how to live fully without fear – leaving the world a better place.