It’s hard to believe it’s been three years without our girl! I never thought I would make it three days, much less three years. But here we are 1095 days later. Some days it feels like just yesterday and sometimes it feels like a whole lifetime has passed. I don’t miss her any less, but I do now have the gift of time that has allowed me to see that in all the days that followed she’s aligned the stars for me just right, and because of that my world has kept on spinning.
At just 55 years old my mom was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of dementia for which there is no treatment. For the next five years our family was on a roller coaster ride of a lifetime that no one EVER signs up for, and death is the only way off. There were times when the car was chugging up hill slowly for a few months and we could catch our breath, but for the last six months of her life the car hurtled towards the ground uncontrollably without brakes. It was awful. No one wants to remember those days, and fortunately we don’t think of them much anymore.
For me, I think of our many family trips to the beach. I remember the first ski lessons I had in Canada. I recall the epic battle of the skis on the side of a mountain in Canada too. I think fondly of the the family trip to a dude ranch in Wyoming where we explored Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful. In high school we made our first of many trips to Switzerland to visit people who were then basically strangers, but now have been the best of friends for over two decades. Following my graduation from college I was treated to a trip to Hawaii with my mom, aunts, and cousin. After finishing graduate school my mom and dad and I set off for Napa. When things started to head south with her health, my mom and her best girls (me included) took the trip of a lifetime to Greece for two weeks for one big hurrah. Lucky for me, there have been countless road trips, weekend getaways, and other trips big and small, too numerous to recite here.
It is absolutely not lost on me that she worked her tail off to give me these opportunities. She was the first in her family to graduate college, and one of the smartest people I have ever known. When success came, she chose travel and new experiences as her luxury of choice. Never opting for designer clothes, fancy cars, or anything out of the ordinary really. Despite the success she and my dad had achieved affording them the opportunity for things like this if they had chosen. Instead she went places. She took me places, she and my dad traveled extensively, she and her lifelong girlfriends saw places little girls in small town North Carolina never dreamed of seeing.
As the always attentive accountant, she was never one to hand over money for just anything. I remember having the chance to go to Italy in college. My friends were spending the semester there so we would have a free place to stay. I had saved up enough money to buy my plane ticket, but neglected to realize that although I did have a free place to stay the trip wasn’t actually free. Having never been to Italy herself, she willingly handed over some spending money for the trip and told me no one ever regrets money they spend on once in a lifetime experiences, have a great time with your friends! That trip was over a decade ago and those friends and I still reminisce about the week we spent in Italy.
She reveled in every new experience big and small. Never losing sight of where she had come from, and just how lucky we all were that our paths had brought us to these amazing places. Every beautiful sunset, a sky full of puffy clouds with the light hitting them just right, a field full of blooming flowers, the beauty in the history and architecture of places abroad, the ibis flying over the deck to roost on Bird Island for the night, a full moon splashing across the waves. Always stopping to take it in, and lucky for us, almost always pointing out the beauty of it all.
I am thankful for all the wonderful memories that our travels brought me. But more importantly, I am beyond grateful to have seen all these places through her eyes. I know now when I travel to new places near and far that I can see her in every sunrise, every rainbow, every full moon, every night sky full of stars, every yellow butterfly flitting across a field, she’s there soaking it all in and reveling in the fact that she gave her girl the dream and the opportunity to keep chasing sunsets.
So on July 9th we cheers our girl with chocolate sundaes. There was not a candy bar or sweet treat that she didn’t love, and as the end drew near for her I mainly existed on chocolate syrup and ice cream, so to me it just seems fitting.