Olivia’s Graduation


Hi Friends,

Been quite awhile-and this probably won’t mark a resumption of posts–but I did want to commemorate Olivia’s graduation from Dos Pueblos High this past week.  Certainly significant all on its own, but specifically in our case.  Shortly after Trish’s ALS diagnosis, she came across a statistic that average life expectancy was 30 months.  Counting ahead on the calendar, 30 months landed right on June 2020, so that became a target, or at least a hopeful goal of sorts.  She really wanted to make it to Olivia’s graduation.  She loved the boys’ Senior years with all their traditions and celebrations, and as much as she accepted how much of life she was going to miss, she really wanted to be there for this.

Her medical team appreciated her articulating such a milestone.  While there was counsel about not setting unrealistic goals (ie, “we’re gonna beat this”), the doctor said it could be very helpful in guiding some of the decisions we might make about interventions, etc.  This seemed reasonable and attainable.  After all, it was the average and we like to think of ourselves as “above average”.   

At an appointment a year ago, Trish reminded the doctor of this goal.  I got a sick feeling:  she’s not going to make it.  The decline was too fast.  Even if it were possible to survive a whole year, it was unimaginable how much the disease could rob her in that much time.  Despite our doc being a composed professional, I noticed the slightest sighing hesitation, concerning glances when we could make eye contact, and an empathetic squeeze on my forearm as she walked us out of the office.  She was seeing the same thing I was seeing.

Given what it meant to Trish to tell her story here, I want to properly document the milestone she hoped to see in the way she would do it (so buckle in for a long post with plenty of Greg’s pictures.)  While we’d rather have Trish with us, the COVID pandemic wiping so much off the calendar softens the blow of her missing so much.  As our family has learned that some of the most beautiful celebrations come amidst unwanted circumstances, this certainly holds true for the way Olivia closed out her high school years.

The week was kicked off by a celebration in an undisclosed off-campus location for an amazing group of lacrosse teammates.


I suspect there are a number of lacrosse teams in Southern California who are pretty relieved that COVID spared them a beating from these ladies.  ;-). We are so grateful that Livy discovered the sport she loves and gets to keep playing in college, but more than that, we’re grateful for a team of incredibly caring, fun, smart and supportive girls; led by coaches who embody all of that.

Coach Jess presents Livy with her stadium banner

Then came graduation day.  First we took some pictures at the beach:

The LAX girls with their leg pose…
I even got into one of the pictures!!!
No, actually I did.

Then, it was off to the high school.  Thanks to the amazing work and dedication of the faculty, Dos Pueblos was able to pull off an incredible drive-in graduation.  Every graduate got one carload of family, and cars were spaced in the parking lot with the event broadcast on FM radio with projection on the outside walls of the Performing Arts Center.

But first, we got to drive around the campus lined by cheering teachers:

As it was a special occasion, we took the Tesla!  #notourTesla

Lots of smiling, waving and cheering from the teachers that taught not only Olivia, but Max and Wilson, over the last nine years.  We spotted Coaches Sam and Jess (along with Rob and Jocey), who appeared to be playing it cool.


But that didn’t last–

This woman can educate our kids all she wants!

Then we got our spot in the parking lot and Livy took her seat on the roof as we waited for the sun to set.


Once it got dark around 9 and everyone could see the projections, the ceremony got underway.  Amidst the speeches were some surprise celebrity messages:

DP “Alum” Katy Perry (didn’t graduate but we get lots of mileage for her one semester)
Jack Johnson (whose wife was a DP teacher) brought aloha and a song

The graduates got to go up and walk the stage, provided the maintained social distance and then promptly returned to their cars.


A beautiful and unforgettable night.

So proud of this girl!

When we were house shopping back in 2007, Olivia was starting Kindergarten.  While we were fortunate to have a great local elementary school (Yay, La Patera Tigers!), what drove our final decision was the chance for our kids to go to Goleta Valley Jr. High and Dos Pueblos High School.  We could not be more pleased with the outcome, and frankly it’s hard to imagine that our last kid just finished.  I am so glad that our final memory of the school will leave such a special imprint on us.  We’ll never forget Olivia’s graduation and how it embodied the creativity, dedication and excellence of the people who have poured so much into our kids.

But things didn’t end there.  There was still the matter of the cancelled prom.  Aside from missing out on a night of fun, there had to be some reason to wear the dresses all of the girls got months in advance.  So, Olivia and her creative friends organized their own backyard prom.  There was an excellent dinner (served by the Wilcox siblings) and dancing under the stars, after-prom games and contests until 3am, some kind of rest period in tents in another backyard and then Sunday morning brunch!  As I can barely remember one detail from my senior prom, I don’t think these kids will have any problem.

Way more pictures than I can post here, but they made lots of stops.

A group shot at the SB Courthouse


Apparently every photo session must include the lax girls doing their leg thing
These Kindergarten classmates have grown!  (and glad they stayed friends.  Macey’s dad takes good pictures)
No way I was gonna miss out on the Daddy dance!

The last week has reminded me that there’s never a perfect moment for celebration.  All we have is imperfection.  Yet within it, we do the best we can.  Somehow, laughter can exist in the midst of sadness.  Even in the midst of grief, we can find things to rejoice over.  Sometimes I have to work hard to find it, and other times celebration requires an almost defiant resolve.  Trish did that.  We did that again and again throughout Rudy’s life.  There’s more beauty among the heartbreak than we might think.  Part of me wishes it didn’t have to be so, but without it the heartbreak might completely crush us.

It wasn’t the perfect graduation we envisioned, but it was good.  It was rich.  We weren’t the only family at DP to experience heartbreak this year.  Ours was one of a number of tragedies that actually put the COVID upheaval into some kind of perspective.  But it was life-giving to be a part of a community that was faced with imperfection and, instead of dwelling on how many things weren’t right, figured out a way to acknowledge goodness in the midst of it.  I’m really grateful for that.

But most of all, I’m really proud of her.  Trish is too.

Love you, Livy!


21 thoughts on “Olivia’s Graduation

  1. Thank you, Rolf for sharing this with us. We miss all of you and this was a welcome reminder of how articulate and caring Trish was and you are. One of the many things you share. Your family are always part of ours. Congratulations to Olivia!!’
    ❤️ Suzann Ellis

  2. Really lovely. Very nice to hear from you as well. You are in my thoughts. There is so much Trish in Olivia. You can see it in the pictures.

  3. WOW! Thanks so much for the post Rolf! Your words and pictures are so heart-felt and help us to again feel apart of your precious family! Olivia is stunning. You clean up nicely too…wink, wink. We continue to send you the best wishes as you navigate life. Please know you are covered with our UWP love and support continually. I pray for a smooth transition as Olivia heads to college, and for you as well. Again, thank you for sharing your lives with our lives. Melani

  4. Such a beautiful post! Thank you, Rolf.
    And CONGRATULATIONS, Olivia!! You remind me so much of your mom.
    It’s obvious from the pictures that you have such an amazing group of friends. So proud of your many accomplishments! Wishing you all the best as you begin the next adventure. Lots of love from the Graybills ❤

  5. Trish would be proud of this post, Rolf. You did it…you all did it and now, on to the rest of life. Bless you, friend and anytime you want to paddle board on Lake Mendota, give us a call. You are always welcome. We have a few extra beds in this midwest behemoth of a house!

  6. So many times, over the years, your family has acknowledged and even celebrated goodness in the midst of the hard. Go Class of 2020! So of course this week is no different. I am thankful that Olivia has a loving family, great friends, and a good school. Even though I miss my friend Trish. I need some Kleenex after that one!

  7. I love your “defiant resolve” to celebrate through complex and astounding grief!!!! Thank you for doing a “Trish” and documenting a graduation that will never be forgotten!!! Congratulations to the amazing Olivia- so tender, yet so strong!!!!

  8. Thank you so very much for helping us complete the journey with you. It was good to be included. I think of your family often and lift your names up to our Father. Blessings on all of your futures and please continue to share what you can with us.

  9. Made me cry, friend. What a beautiful young lady from such a beautiful family. Your ability to find joyful moments among grief is inspiring. And you forgot to mention Max having his music played on the radio…

  10. Loved it! Thanks, Rolf, for recording graduation week and doing it so thoughtfully. So proud of Livy. And that last picture – Trish is in it through Olivia’s glance.

  11. Wonderful, amazing post, Rolf. Many congratulations to Olivia! So grateful Max could be there to celebrate with you! And his music was on the radio?? So jealous of those who got to hear it! Much love to you all—Susie

  12. Congratulations to Olivia. What a wonderful post! So nice to receive. Brought me tears and good memories. – Suzanne and Kim

  13. Rolf, thank you for sharing this. It is a strange year to graduate and it’s beautiful to see how your family and so many gave of themselves to honor all of the graduates! Congratulations, Olivia! Love from our family to yours! – Joe & Angie

  14. What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing Rolf!! Your daughter is lovely! Congratulations to Olivia and her support crew! It was so encouraging to see the beauty and creativity of the celebrations even in this strange time. I’m sure Trish and Rudy were smiling along with all of you! Much love to you and your sweet family!

  15. I have followed Trish’s blog for years. I’ve missed her and knowing what is going on with the Geylings since her passing. Congrats Olivia on your graduation.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of Trish’s readers. We miss her dearly! Congratulations to Olivia. You make your mom proud!

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