Every day is our first without my beautiful mother in law, my friend, my confidante… our mom, nana, wife, aunt and sister. As a family, we will have a minimum of 365 firsts in the next year. With every day being a new different for each of us… the same rang true with our Easter. A day full of so much purpose… a day that reminds us that she is truly in a better place because He lives! Yet a place that is removed from us for now. Our family needed to get away. We needed to escape the daily reminder that nothing will ever be the same. The constant change of life was gripping our hearts and at times squeezing our purpose right out of us. We have gone from a family of 6 to 5 just like that… 1/6 of our heart was no longer beating the way it had for so many precious years.
We set off for Canada. A bucket list moment for the kids was to see Niagara Falls and we were determined to make it happen. They have seen some of the world’s most beautiful sights and this was one yet to be seen by them. My father in law was on board. An immediate “yes” was his response to our curve ball of a holiday plan. He may be one of the strongest people I know. The love of his life gone after 50 years. Twenty-four hours/seven days a week simply different. Yet his focus stays the same.
We arrived. Pictures were being snapped by the second. We were all thinking the same thing, but no one spoke of it. We smiled. We created new moments. We shopped, turning to tell her to look, but she wasn’t there. We ordered drinks wanting to ask for her favorite, but didn’t or couldn’t. I watched my father in law settle in to his first trip away… without her. I watched my husband make the best of every moment given without his mom. In a far off distance, I heard a child say, ” Nana, look!” and I prayed my own family didn’t hear the reminder of the absence we were all feeling to our core.
Then it happened. Trent, my 15 year old son and sparkle of Nana’s eye, decided he would join me for a trip to the spa…. something I would have done with mom and was about to do alone. We arrived and were greeted by the kindest woman. She immediately took us under her wing to this new found “a la carte” spa treatment. She noticed Trent’s age and let us know he typically would not be allowed to join me, but that she felt he was mature and was welcome. She handed each of us an oxygen canulla and told us to insert it in our nose and drape behind our ears. We were about to refresh ourselves with this gift of oxygen… rejuvenation. Trent and I looked at one another, and proceeded as if we were speaking the same language. In that moment, this woman had no idea that mom/nana was on oxygen for the last year of her life as she battled the deadly disease of lung cancer and lost. She had no idea that mom hated oxygen and loved it all at the same time. The same way we felt in that moment. We were taken aback, yet found comfort. The hum of the concentrator. Mom was right there… exposing us to an anxiety that neither of us were prepared for, yet embraced. Nana found a way to get him in the spa to be with me… something so like her to do!
Easter arrived. I decided to stop at Starbucks before we left the hotel. I opened my wallet and saw my gift-card from a special friend, Tamara Letter. A dear friend whom I never met in person, but one I hold dear to my heart (My PLF). One that reached out to me when mom had passed away to tell me I needed to take a moment for myself and when I was ready she would buy me a coffee to sit and reflect. So I did. I reached in and pulled out that card… and I smiled. #kindness
We packed into the car and headed for home. No Easter “best dressed” this year. No ham in the oven. We were in our comfy clothes made for traveling. Our meal would come at a rest stop or random restaurant with an OPEN sign lit. Yet, we did have one constant. A bond that defines our family. We were all thinking of the same person… and smiling. Mom loved Easter. It was a time in the year she knew the birds would start to sing, the flowers would start to bloom, and the breath of life would shine down in the warmth of the sun. With winter on it’s way out, you would catch her smile grow… a little wider and a little brighter. She would find balance again. We drove home with the sun shining down on us. We reminisced about the beautiful moments…. the new memories we created. We smiled. Dad reminded us all that the one thing we cannot stop is change. Profound connection between my family life and my passion for teaching.
Mom’s purpose redefined over the years from daughter and sister to wife and mother. The one purpose that she held above all was creating joy for others, especially her precious grandchildren Trent and Jack. She could do this with one simple action.. her smile! Our family created joy together this Easter. With her, without her, and always through her. The kind that radiated from her. Her legacy lives on in each of us.