Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Joyful Adventures: A Christmas Memory In July

In December of 2013, the weekend before Christmas, my family did something a little different than normal. Our normal holiday was a few of us adult children coming home to our parents' house, hanging out and celebrating the holiday in our small house in our small hometown. The tree would be a real one that my parents' got a week before, and it would be decorated with the ornaments collected over their long lives. The star at the top of the tree, would be my brother's handmade, card stock, four-point star. Thirty or more years of time removing most of the red glitter that now was in small clusters in only a few places on the star. We'd enjoy the snow around the yard, and attend the holiday bazaar to see the crafts. My mom would serve Christmas Eve dinner by candle light and we'd all pile into the tv room and watch a Christmas movie or two. It was simple, and it had always been that way.

The 2013 year brought a scary change to the family. At the age of 57, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in March and before Thanksgiving had undergone a second brain surgery to give her life until Spring, nothing more could be hoped for. If she didn't do that surgery, she wouldn't last until Christmas. So, to celebrate the last Christmas of her life, and the last Christmas of our family being whole, we all went somewhere TOGETHER. And by all, I mean my grandparents, my parents, my siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, and nephew. All under one roof, for most of a week. There was roughly 24 of us. We rented a large house in Las Vegas that had enough bedrooms for us all to pile into. 

The best part about it is, it wasn't unwelcome chaos. It was beautiful, and full of joy. We all laughed a lot, made good food, prepared meals together, and enjoyed each other's company. My mom had seen some breaks in the pain, and seemed stronger than she had earlier in Autumn. She was still very much afflicted by her cancer, but she was starving and ate TONS of food, which is the polar opposite of how she was at Thanksgiving. The little cousins played perfectly together and we ended up watching homemade plays created by an 11-year old and acted out by her younger cousins. We made meals for 24 people, ate together, piled into bedrooms together, and really had a blast.

We even fit in an emotional spur-of-the-moment family chat. Tears of love were shed as we all sat together with my mom and talked about the goings-on of the past year and how much we love her. We even caught her at a moment of clarity, when she was able to speak instead of stumbling over all her words, and we filmed part of the story about how my stepdad and mom met and fell in love. It seemed like the kids all became best friends, and all of us siblings became closer. Family really is the root of all that matters in this world. I am so thankful I have the massive family I do. I couldn’t imagine my life without a single one of them. I am a rich girl.

As part of this week together, we decided to head out to the Hoover Dam since it was close to where we were. There is a highway bridge that spans the peaks above the dam and creates a gorgeous scenic viewing point. This is a great article about the bridge and why it's worth a trip. We bundled up my mom since it was cold and windy, and headed off to explore. Many a “dam” joke was told, and we had a great time exploring the desert. 

I don't think I'll ever forget how important that weekend was. There is nothing more beautiful than the circle of love we sat in and all cried about how much our mother had made us the people we are today. It was a celebration of the family she had created, and her beautiful life. Even now 18 months later, I am still so grateful for this beautiful weekend in the desert.

These are the moments that make up our lives. These are the moments that we never forget for as long as we live. These are the moments that change us into the people we are meant to become. 

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