top of page

KerryOn: Commemorate the Milestone

We all have significant events in our lives that mark milestones, such as graduations, weddings, or birthdays. We often celebrate these happy occasions with friends and family. And while those are important milestones, other milestones can sometimes be hidden: equally significant to us, but unnoticed by others.

The picture accompanying this KerryOn portrays a milestone event in my life. My wedding day was a joyous celebration by all accounts. Even so, the picture of this milestone also carries great significance for another reason. This photo of my parents walking me down the aisle is the last photo of just the three of us before my mom’s brain aneurysm in March, 1999. For the next 12 years, we were in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, and managing in-home caregivers until her death in March of 2011.

My mom died on St. Urho’s day. For those who don’t know, St. Urho’s Day is a Finnish holiday celebrated on March 16, and it had a lot of meaning for me growing up. My mom was 100% Finnish – she spoke the language, she shared the heritage, and she celebrated the day. Because of her heritage, she was known to have what Finns refer to as Sisu. There isn’t a precise translation, so it’s most accurate to say Sisu encompasses determination, strength, overcoming adversity, and tenacity of purpose.

Another hidden milestone is the realization that this anniversary marks that over half of my life, I have missed out on a significant person within it. This is a personal milestone I don’t share all the time, but I do share with people who have experienced a milestone loss. I wasn’t a child when this happened, yet I wasn’t prepared for it either. It was sudden. It was abrupt. It left me navigating meetings with physicians and insurance bills for my parents earlier in life than expected. And more importantly, each day I miss my mom. It’s a milestone I carry with me. Always.

When we experience a milestone of this caliber we are left with many unanswered questions. Especially as we age. Who would that person have become? Who would I have become? Would my choices have been different?

Milestones can happen to all of us.

On the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death, my husband and kids decided to commemorate the milestone. We began a tradition on St. Urho’s Day to honor my mom with an annual FierkeLepp talent show. This year marks our 12th consecutive show. I know my mom would have enjoyed seeing us share the talents we have been working on throughout the year. We highlight our passions through music, art, writing, speeches, dance. And through the years as we grow and age it reflects who we are in our stage.

From this day forward, I have spent more time on this earth without my mom in my life, than within it. Yet, I commemorate the milestone through this KerryOn by sharing this story. She is the reason I have become the woman that I am today. She has passed on the value of Sisu.

Dedicated to Anita Adele (Hietala) Fierke 1941-2011

KerryOn Questions

- What are the milestones that you have in your life that you've overcome?

- What are ways that you can commemorate the milestone?

- How can you make milestones a part of the leader you are becoming?

The Kerry behind KerryOn

My name is Kerry K. Fierke, Ed.D. (pron. Fear-Key) I have a unique combination of skills and experience – decades of fast-paced corporate experience in Fortune 100 companies and large health care organizations, combined with the academic rigor of a highly ranked research university. My focus is supporting others to create their own path to leadership development, lifelong learning, and a unique leadership legacy. Take a moment to focus on leadership, then KerryOn!

To see all KerryOn's and other leadership stuff, visit

116 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page