Our 17 day journey covering 6,693 miles cross country to honor Maggie’s bucket list was bittersweet. We cried on our way out, cried in between and cried going home. We’ve come to accept that this is our new norm.
Pulling into our driveway was a reminder of Maggie’s absence. Her closed curtains on her bedroom window. The bedroom where Maggie should still be. It’s the one on the right in the photo above.
Some may find this strange, but we had considered printing a life size structured photo of Maggie to put in her bedroom window. It might freak some people out, but it might also bring smiles and if she can see it, to her too. Maggie enjoyed and embraced her sense of silliness, with a tragic dose of some serious reality thrown in towards the end of her life.
This town and our home is also a reminder of her presence, as Steve pointed out shortly before we arrived home. It’s that feeling that will most likely keep us cemented here in Greenlawn, despite there being a few towns in our travels we felt we could have settled into.
During the trip, we both tried to honor and embrace her sense of fun, as some of you may have seen if you were following our posts. On our last day of driving, we recorded the intimidating trucks all around us to the tune of an old song called ‘Convoy’ and did some video editing on the fly to make the clip look vintage. We laughed. It was a wonderful distraction to what felt like an endless drive.
We arrived home late Tuesday evening, our son Steven was happy to see us and so were our dogs - Cody and Lorie. Steven did a great job of holding down the fort while we were gone. We had invited him to come along for the trip too but he declined, saying that it might remind him of he and his dad’s fateful camping trip out west to visit some of the national parks in August, 2016. That was when Maggie first got sick and almost died from blood loss from what they thought was a burst cyst that hemorrhaged. Their trip was cut short abruptly.
There are so many triggers and emotional fallouts from her illness and death - most of them almost impossible to recover from. Memories of better times haunt us too, especially those that closely preceded her cancer.
Today is one of those days. It’s Donna’s 53rd birthday. She was born in 1966, so many years ago. Maggie’s dying words which we’ve mentioned before ring in our heads - “Mom, you got to do so much in your life”.
It’s hard to grasp the concept that Maggie died just after her 17th birthday. If you do the math, 53 is more than three times the age Maggie was when she died. That simple math hurts.
The photo of her above was taken three years ago today on Donna’s 50th birthday while staying in an old Victorian B&B, called Tumblin Falls in the Catskill Mountains. The falls sit on the owners private property and are closed to the public. Maggie and her cousin Delia did an impromptu photo shoot there. Even though you don’t see her face, it has become one of our favorite photos. To us, it demonstrates her strength, eternal beauty, and poise.
Her boyfriend at the time didn’t appreciate the photos that she shared on her social media but that didn’t stop her. Her independence shone through always.
It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves as we navigate life without our only daughter, but this simple sign, seen on a stop during our trip sends a positive message that no matter how sad we are, we have a purpose in this life. To fulfill not only Maggie’s bucket list but to honor her dying wish to help other children.
In a little while, we will head to the post office and send another hurting family a donation. One that we hope helps them at least a little bit in their difficult journey against the awful monster of a disease that is pediatric cancer.