to Go
A Place
The path to acceptance is never-ending.
She broke as soon as she got back to America.

Crystal Bohlander walked through the San Francisco International Airport with her blue backpack on her shoulder and a green box in her arms. After rushing through customs, she realized she had lost her passport somewhere in the process. This was the final straw.
"I don't know why but just as soon as I was on American soil, I couldn't keep it together." Crystal said.
She went up to a man in an airline uniform and said, "Please, just get me to this flight," while pointing at her ticket. "I promise I'm not crazy, I just need to help. These are my husbands ashes, and I just need to get home."

Family pictures of the Bohlander family sit atop a cabinet in their living room, reminding them of the memories of the good times they spent together.
That happened on July 4th, 2018.
Her husband had fallen and hit his head three months earlier while on a trip in Vietnam with their son, Will, and a family friend, Ronnie. After a long series of events that caused her to live in Vietnam for three months, he passed away from a cardiac arrest. Since then, Crystal has fought the long and hard path of recovery, trying to find her way in life on her own, while also recovering from the traumatic experiences of losing her partner.

"I've known him since I was 22; he had always been in my life. Having to find myself and my independence was terrifying but empowering."

She had been a part of the juvenile justice system for 22 years and had retired soon before Ed's death. After the hectic three months, she felt lost. She had no outlet to go to get her mind off of everything. Holli Drummond, program head of the criminology department at Western Kentucky University, reached out to her and offered her a position to teach a class on juvenile justice system.

One of her biggest concerns was holding her own; Crystal wants to be known as herself and defined as herself, not by any others. She was nervous to take the position in that regard, because Ed had taught in the program until he passed. More so, it was where they first met which served as a motivation for her to join.

"Being able to be respected and loved by Ed's close friends and respected collogues means the world to me. And what means even more is they recognize me as me."

Crystal talks with her students before class starts about their trip to the humane society they had taken recently.
Crystal heads to her car after a long day of work at her office, walking across WKU campus.
Crystal organizes her notes before her class, CRIM 334: Mentoring Juveniles, in her office on a Wednesday afternoon. "It's an in-the-field experience for student to see if this is what they really want to get into." Crystal says.
Her daughter, Elizabeth, and son, Will, live with her in the house they grew up in. While she had to raise them, she also is able to rely on them. They have helped her into the woman she is today just as much as she made them the strong, kind people they are today.
Through the rough times, she was never without support.
Crystal talks to her son, Will, as he takes a Friday morning to clean the garage out. "It's really nice when he helps move things out, so I don't deal with it." Crystal said.
Crystal laughs with her daughter, Elizabeth, while she grades papers from home on a Thursday morning.
Crystal takes a moment before entering her daughter's room to look at the butterflies. Ed's mother made this piece, and it hung in Ed's room when he was young.
Even with the success of finding herself, she still had to face one of the hardest things to deal with when a loved one passes: organizing the belongings.
Her children have been there to help go through different sections of their house, but they all had a hard time going into his office at school. It took her time, but along with the help of one of her closest friends, Rebecca Spires, she was able to go through all the belongings in the office.

"Rebecca kept making a pile for herself, and by the end we had two huge piles of books and stuff. And she just said, 'What are we going to do with all these books?'"

Around the same time, Crystal and a few of her college friends came up with the idea to buy a house together. They found the perfect place and bought a large expense of property in Portland, Tennessee. There was a large room that they weren't quite sure what to do with then they came up with the idea to take all of Ed's belongings books, and desk there, and to build a library, together.

The library is still in progress. They have the books lining shelves Tim and Rebecca built themselves. They have access to educational criminology books from Ed's office to a collection of children's books that Ed and Crystal built together. Crystal is planning to try to build a tiny house on the property and live on the property, and to enjoy a peaceful retirement.

"I call it the E.W.B. Library. I think I want to get a plaque, with his full name on it. Edward, William, Bohlander."
-Rebecca Spires
Crystal sits with Rebecca at the top of their property as they plan how they want to build their backyard at the Portland Playhouse.
A row of the children's section in the E.W.B. Library.
Crystal smiles with her friends as they crack a joke in the library at the Portland Playhouse.
Will Bohlander hug his mother on his wedding day, October 2, 2021. "Your father would be proud," she said into his shoulder as tears formed in her eyes.