Feels Like Home

The Stellhorn family starts them young
Growing up, my family had a very strong connection to the University of Wisconsin- Madison. My
mom went to school there, along with my grandparents and countless aunts and uncles. My dad grew up in Madison as well, and a handful of relatives still reside right around the city. I started going to Badger games when I was a toddler and we have had season tickets for the football games for as long as I can remember. Visiting Madison was a normal routine for my family, and in a sense it was just another familiar place in my childhood.

I think my sister knew from the time she was in grade school that UW Madison was her dream school. I'm pretty sure…well actually I am positive that was my dream too, until I was about 17 years old, but life has a funny way of working out as we all know. But any who, I'll never forget the day during my sister's senior year of high school when she found out she was accepted. I can recall walking into the house and seeing nearly a dozen badger balloons and a stuffed bucky. To say we were all excited was an understatement. My sister is the oldest cousin and her going to Madison meant that the legacy of our family was living on there. It was honestly such an exciting time for all of us.

While I do not attend UW Madison, I will forever call myself a huge Badger fan. I will always cheer for Wisconsin, regardless of my school or where life takes me, and I will always wear one of my many Badger clothing items on game day. To be honest, I think it's a requirement in my family ;)

After Alex passed away, there were a lot of things I didn't think I would be able to do any more. Places to go, foods to eat, even songs to listen to. I haven't stepped foot in a Qdoba since she passed away and I haven't listened to a few songs since the summer of 2013 either. So, needless to say, Madison was a bit of a touchy subject after Alex passed away. She was about to be a senior and she had really big dreams of attending law school at Madison, too. I wasn't sure if I could go back to that campus without her there. Not only did I grow up spending so much time there, but the three years she was a student I spent so much time there with her. I attended lectures sitting by her side, slept over countless times in her dorm and apartment, worked on homework in the libraries, and wandered around campus eating ice cream and pizza.

Standing outside of Alex's old apartment on State Street
Not long after August of 2013, however, I did return to Madison for a visit. And I kept returning. And now, almost three years later, every time I go back to Madison's campus, it's kind of like coming home. Like coming home to Alex. She absolutely loved that school and that town. I wander past her old apartment complex and can feel the warmth of Alex in the air. I stroll down State Street and past Camp Randall and am reminded of the hundreds of memories we had in that town for 18 years.

After Alex passed away, so many of our relatives and friends did special acts in her honor. One of the coolest things however, is what we did in Madison. We bought a memorial chair in the Union Theater with her name on it as well as bought a memorial brick with her name on it. The school and city that meant so much to her and my family will forever have her name engraved on it. I like to think she would be so so happy about this.
Sitting in Alex's chair in the theater
While it still saddens me that she never got to finish college or pursue her dreams of becoming a lawyer, I am confident that her impact is still
shining through. She will always have a place in Madison and on that campus, and for that I am happy. Everyday I see a little piece of her somewhere, in someone or something. The friends I can talk to and be genuinely happy with that make me forget about some of the terrible things in life. The activities I participate in that make me forget Alex is gone. I am so thankful for countless people in my life. Alex is still living in me. And I am forever grateful for places that make me feel like time hasn't changed, and make me genuinely smile.

Big thanks to Alex, a friend of mine and my family's for taking these great pictures!


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