the Take Good Risks project
Tyler William Lemke enjoyed the open road, a place without ‘place’ where possibility stretched for miles in every direction. The rising hum of gear and mechanism fell in tandem with his will as he slowly yet steadily urged the throttle onward in search of new horizons. His vehicle of choice, a deep purple BMW R 1200 RT motorcycle, represented risk. It also was an object of meditation, beneath which a current of imminent danger rushed below his feet yet steadied and focused his mind. Success, failure, victories, and defeats alike melted into the ever-shifting landscape. Love, however, remained a constant- love for his family, and his daughters Sarah, Danielle, and Vivian (02/16/2002-05/01/2003) most of all.
His tender heart was both his greatest strength and his greatest vulnerability; from it sprung great affection and words of encouragement, words such as “do something I wouldn’t do” and “take good risks.” Childhood dirt bike lessons grew into thousands of miles spent together on the road, culminating in two father-daughter motorcycle trips to Arkansas (2014 & 2018). Whether in words and laughter over greasy diner food, or silently amidst the yawning curves and mosaic plateaus of the Ozark Highlands, we spoke candidly and lovingly as fellow nomads. Just two adventurers in a place without ‘place.’ Just a girl and her dad. It was wonderful.
Yet, the cruelty of circumstance— of a world seemingly full of pitfalls and ‘ROAD CLOSED AHEAD’ signs— halted, and ultimately overwhelmed his beautiful heart. On the night of March 23, 2019 my father, my sweet daddy, took his own life.
When my grandma broke the news to me and my sister the following day, reality splintered; we cried together, the three of us, for a long time. The months that followed were hazy and blurred with tremendous grief. My dad was my best friend, and I felt, despite the earnest sympathy of my friends and family, that I had let him down. That I was responsible.
How did I not see this coming?
How could I have misjudged his pain?
When could I have intervened?
What pushed him to this?
Where should I have been?
What could I have done differently?
How could my sweet dad do this to himself?
These questions along with others whipped into a bleak and terrible storm of the mind. Guilt streaked my waking hours, and the sadness that followed would not abate. Then, during the difficult but necessary process of clearing out my dad’s house, a momentous discovery. Among the heaps of boxes, shuffled in with love letters, photographs, and mementos of decades past, a list. Far-off locations stacked the page, the faded black of typewriter strokes persevering. The heading: “Estimated Route For Tyler’s World Trip.”
It wouldn’t be honest to say that I hadn’t already envisioned escape. The city of Omaha, though a place close to my heart, had grown slick with painful memories. I struggled to find a foothold as everyday life resumed. Sliding into grief time after time, downcast eyes and well-meaning half smiles trailed me, my throat caught somewhere between “HELP” and “STAY AWAY” yet producing nothing. I knew as long as I remained in Omaha, the only voice I would seek belonged to my dad. Perhaps a month or two abroad would help me find my bearings, if not forget for awhile…
But when I found my dad’s itinerary, it was as if his voice had finally broken through. A tiny gap had formed in the universe, overlooked by time and space, and maybe even death. It was there, if only I could find the entrance, that I would see my father again. From there, we could resume our adventures…
This is why, with the support of my partner Julius Fredrick, the Take Good Risks Project was initiated. Our plan is simple: to follow my dad’s travel itinerary while raising awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. It is an ongoing, lifelong project dedicated to adventure, a lust for life, and my father’s legacy.
My name is Sarah Eve Lemke and my greatest desire is to continue my dad’s journey into love.
Not to forget, but to remember in the absence of pain.
“Life is twenty percent what happens to you, and eighty percent what you do about it.” – Tyler William Lemke
Life is twenty percent what happens to you, and eighty percent what you do about it.