Justin Ricklefs


In Lieu of Flowers, We Sent a Story

“I have some sad news to share…”

The text came in from a client, who is also a trusted friend (and may I add, mentor to me) at this point after many years of working together.

We were at the high school last Monday night, watching our second daughter’s basketball game. In between quarters, I stepped out.

I hate admitting this, but when I get texts like this as a business owner, the fear flies around pretty quickly.

Did budgets get cut? Are we missing the mark somehow? What went wrong?

Turns out, it was none of that.

“Justin…Norval passed away this weekend.”

Without my AirPods in I’m like my old man. Plugging my open ear, and getting grounded now that my fear proved foolish yet again, I said with a bit of panic, “Marcy…who died?” The crowd drowned her out the first time.

“Sweet Norval.”

“Oh my God, that’s awful. That’s so sad. In many ways, he felt like my own grandpa even though I met him once.”

We chatted for a few minutes, both heartbroken, but also both deeply grateful.

“You know, it’s incredible timing that we were able to capture their story this summer. His story. That we are able to show the world his legacy…”

The next morning, I told Courtney on her team who leads our engagement with this brave brand. And then the rest of our team.

As life always does, until it doesn’t, it kept going. We had meetings, and slacks, and calls, and projects.

But then, before the 2:30 meeting with that same client, Courtney called, with an “I want to run an idea by you…” kind of call.

The idea being the creation of a different kind of Mosher story. The final chapter for Norval, at least his earthly one. A tribute that those he left behind could use to celebrate him. And be reminded of what he lived, and stood, for. Even as his back made it progressively harder to do so.

That afternoon, I hit play on a profound tribute, curated from b-roll from a bird-filled summer patio that those two have sat on since 1959 together.

Facing each day’s challenges with Norval’s simple, yet profound, mindset of, “You meet ’em, you deal with ’em, and do the best job you can…”

And after 92 years of facing each day’s challenges like that, as the tractor in the storyline goes from chore to chore, that beat up John Deere drives into the glorious sun, to return to Earth and his beloved cattle, one more bucket full. Emptying of himself.

Death, creating new life, one chapter closes, so another can begin.

“And go on,” he concludes, or so it seems. As the sun fades, and the story fades to black.

Go on he did. In a way that inspired many well beyond the corn rows of Liscomb, Iowa.

In lieu of flowers, we sent a story. One we’ll never forget telling. Because it changed us too.


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