Spring never officially started until I got a handshake from Shiloh

This is the only thing I will be posting today, in tribute to a wonderful young man who was tragically taken from the world early this morning. After this, I will be shutting down my devices for the day and avoiding my social media sites. But before I did, I wanted to share my thoughts with you about a young man named Shiloh Sundstrom…

imageThe four years I covered Shiloh Sundstrom during his time as a Mapleton High School athlete remain among my favorites in my 16 years at Siuslaw News.

Not because he was a particularly extraordinary athlete. But because he was most definitely an extraordinary person.

The kind that makes you feel good just to be near him because he not only carried positive energy and warmth with him, but shared it with everyone he came into contact with.

Even after Shiloh graduated and moved on to Oregon State University, his seasonal returns to Bowerman Field to assist his dad, longtime Sailors’ track coach Johnny Sundstrom, remained something I looked forward to. It was my opportunity to be in his energetic and positive presence while catching up on what he’d been doing. I discovered early on that, much like talking with his father, it was impossible not to smile while talking with this young man. 

In his eyes was a genuine enthusiasm and warmth that was infectious in the same way a favorite song makes you want to sing along; it’s something that makes you feel good in your soul.

As a father, it was easy to see the pride reflected on Johnny’s face for his son — and another highlight of each spring for me. Talking with them together, Johnny beneath his white cowboy hat and Shiloh usually behind a scruffy beard, are some of my favorite conversations.

Again, not because they were particularly heady or introspective discussions, but because talking with them together on a sunny afternoon with spring in the air always left me feeling appreciative — for what I get to do, and the people who make it special.

My father always told me you can tell just about everything you need to know about a man from his handshake, unless it’s from a politician.

Every conversation with Shiloh always began and ended with a strong, eager handshake; the kind of handshake that told me all I needed to know about him.

It’s a handshake I will deeply miss come spring.

And a handshake I’ll always remember…

(Early this morning, I got word that this extraordinary young man was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while taking a leasurely walk down a country road near his small town. He was just 33.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

51 thoughts on “Spring never officially started until I got a handshake from Shiloh”

  1. Reblogged this on createdbyrcw and commented:
    Every once in a while, an extraordinary person enters your life, someone who somehow manages to touch a spot in your soul and who simply by existing, makes you want to be a better person.
    My friend, Ned Hickson, just lost such a special person—the victim of a hit-and-run—and is feeling the loss quite heavily.
    To the outside world, Shiloh was just a kid who Ned knew, someone from his town. No one special. Not part of Ned’s family.
    And yet to hear Ned speak of this fellow is to understand both the impact this young man had on Ned’s world and the anguish Ned feels in the sudden tragic loss. If you have a moment, read Ned’s words and learn about Shiloh.
    And whether you have a moment or not, make one today, reclaim some time in your day to think about the Shiloh’s you have met in your life. If you still know them, contact them and say hello…that’s all.
    And if they are no longer around, for whatever reason, think on how they impacted your life and see if there isn’t someway that you can’t become a Shiloh to others.
    We need all the Shiloh’s we can get.

  2. Oh Ned, that’s so sad.
    Anyone cut down in their prime, anyone who didn’t get to fulfill their potential or even just ‘live’ seems such a senseless waste.

    I have just lost my wonderful father to a thankfully short bout with cancer. He was 84. It felt too soon to me to lose him but he lived long enough to have a great life.

    33 is no age to end your life, and in such a meaningless way.

    Next spring will be poignant for you.

    1. I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. There is no “right” age to lose someone. Thankyou for the kind words — and yes, spring will be a tough one. But I do know, after talking with Shiloh’s dad this morning, it will start with a handshake for Shiloh…

  3. My heart goes out to you, Ned, and to Shiloh’s family and loved ones for such a sudden and deep loss. My prayers are added to all the other’s who wish only for comfort for everyone. I know that your words will mean so much to his family, I know they will always appreciate knowing how much of difference he made to people. I am so sorry you all have to go through this.

    1. Thank you, Robyn. His family is devistated, but very close and supportive — exactly why Shiloh was the way he was. I spoke with his father this morning. A tough conversation…

      1. whats sad is that we know we’ll never experience a moment with them again, that is not a memory. only their body leaves us. how they made us feel, stays with us forever. it should act as a catalyst to be closer to the type of person they were, to share with other people. to be the one who makes a difference, brings a smile. inspires a happy memory. life is fragile but the human heart is not. we can experience such great love, such brutal sorrow. we recover, move forward. love and hurt time and again because we are resilient and strong by nature and with support we can endure and accomplish so much more than we can by being alone. it’s why friendships matter. why relationships mean so much. they are the hands that hold us when we fall and forget to have faith.

        1. So very true, RM.
          I will likely compare everyone’s handshake to Shiloh’s for the rest of my life. That alone is a constant reminder of his goodness, and how his spirit continues on.

  4. Thank you Ned.
    I should’ve realized you knew Shiloh.
    If I looked a little rough tonight at parent teacher conferences, this was why.
    I’m glad I got to shake your hand.
    Thank you for your work and for this beautiful tribute. You’re a good guy.

  5. Oh Ned, this is just tragic. There are some people we meet who we just know are special, leaving such an impact on us. It sounds like Shiloh was one of these people. Sending you hugs my friend.

  6. A meaningful post that will provide solace and comfort to Shiloh’s family, I’m sure. I lose faith in humanity when I hear of these senseless incidents. However I regain so much of it back when I read the beautiful words of a caring soul like you. Thanks for being part of the remedy.

  7. From what you’ve said here, I believe that although the world lost a piece of light with Shiloh being gone from this world, his influence will continue. Goodness and kindness are the best kind of legacy. There are good and kind souls like yours, his father’s, and the others inspired to do the same because of Shiloh’s bright nature to carry his memory long into the future.

    1. Thank you, Melanie. Without question, Shiloh’s influence will continue on in the lives of the many people he befriended around the world — yours truly included 😉

  8. Oh Ned… I am so so sorry! What a horrible tragedy that such a young life was snuffed out. I’m sure he was a very special young man from the way you spoke about him. My heart goes out to his family and to you and the community effected by his passing. Live strong for his memory! Blessings… KimT~

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