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Hans Wolf, our founder, mentor and friend, passed away on January 27th, 2018.

Everyone deals with the loss of a loved one in a different way. It surprised me, as the one year anniversary approached, how often I would feel ‘one year ago today’.

As the date neared I felt myself going into yet another phase of grief; minor acceptance. This phase brings with it guilt (am I less sad? am I forgetting?), relief (hmmm, did that just hurt a little bit less?), back to guilt at feeling the relief and then finally onto confusion and worry (oh great, what phase is next or will I catapult backward yet again into grief or denial and have to do this all over again?).

I am so thankful to be surrounded by Hans’ family and a company filled with people who also knew and loved Hans. There is no shortage of an office or a chair you can go to and share a story that popped into your head or simply burst into tears.

I am amazed how shocked I still am at times that he is gone. Shouldn’t I know that by now? I do… and I don’t.

The walk down ‘one year ago’ memory lane really kicked in during November. I believe the approaching holidays, planning annual customer luncheons Hans did for years and gathering numbers for year-end goals all had something to do with it.

As the weeks ticked by the memories got more specific.

December 2017

One year ago today we were picking up a carload of German food for our 9th (maybe 10th?) annual luncheon at a large customer.

We did our regular jokes of smelling like sauerkraut or something dumping all over your car. We have our menu down to a science after years of running out of rolls or german potato salad and having 50 too many German hot dogs. We finally remembered to take a few pictures this year. One of my favorites is you, me and Fred.

January 2018

We have many meetings wrapping up 2017 and getting ready for 2018. The annual argument about this year’s goals, pay, etc. comes and goes.

You have a hip replacement scheduled and anyone who knows you realizes this is a big deal for you. You want to play basketball again and be active more than you want to avoid the doctor. We all have high hopes for this early February surgery.

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Brian and Shane from a long-time vendor come into town and take us to lunch. It is a lunch full of laughs and history.

At one point you mention that someone asked you recently where you’d like to be in 20 years and your first thought was regarding where the business would be and then you realized… you’d be in your 90’s. We had yet another laugh of our long standing joke that you can retire when you are 80. You are 71 today, just over a week shy of 72.

After lunch, on a whim, you ask me to take a picture of you with them. I believe it is the last picture taken of you.

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Tina, Marc and I sit in your office, as we have thousands of times, and rehash the week. You are in a good mood and it’s a meeting filled with laughs. I have absolutely no idea it will be my last time sitting with you in your office.

Later that afternoon I see you come back from a customer visit and head back out a few minutes later with Tina. I figure you are heading out for your daily Starbucks stop. I don’t realize at the time that it wouldn’t make sense because you had just driven by one on your way back from your customer.

This is the last time I see you and it is one of those very specific moments that I have analyzed over and over this past year.

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

I see a missed call from Tina and my heart drops. Tina and I text on the weekend, she called. She didn’t leave a message. I try to calm down and I call her. While I am thinking it’s bad I have absolutely no clue what I am about to be told. I can tell that Tina still can’t believe what she is telling me.

I can’t believe the words I hear. I don’t know if I start crying, denying or go into shock first. I know it can’t be right, you were fine yesterday. We just talked so this must be wrong. But I end up offering to make calls as well.

I need to make six calls; I get a hold of four on the first try but two I get voicemail. A kind of weird shock is settling over me. I know when these two see a missed call from me they will know something happened. I talk to one of them pretty soon after I left the message, the other one takes a while. He knows it’s bad and doesn’t want to call me. He finally does and while he knows something has happened, he has no idea it is this. I will never forget the gut wrenching screams I hear and I thank God to this day that his wife was home when I talked to him.

He and I end up talking later that day again for hours. I’ve never realized how quickly you can go from telling a story and laughing to sobbing uncontrollably when you realize again what has happened.

Today I somehow find myself in January of 2019. I can’t believe it’s been one year since I’ve talked to you. One year since I was able to run in your office with some crazy idea that you will always listen to and 95% of the time tell me to go ahead with. I can’t believe we hit our milestone month and you weren’t here. I can’t believe we’ll never take the company trip to Germany.  I can’t believe I’ll never see ,,, in an email from you again. I can’t believe I’ll never have to attempt to type a German email for you again. I can’t believe it’s been one year since I’ve heard your humor. I can’t believe it’s been one year.

Each of us has our own memories of those final months, weeks, days, hours, seconds. Some have been replayed in our minds a few times, others hundreds of thousands of times.

Hans loved life. Part of the pain is feeling he wasn’t ready, he had so much left to do and enjoy. Having had a year to process everything I realize that what really hurts so much is that WE weren’t ready. We still aren’t.

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