Living After Loss: A Tradition of Traveling with My Widowed Mother

Fayetteville, AR

This is my 72-year-old mother. I am so proud of her. 

In 2017, we took our first “official” mother-daughter trip to northern California wine country. She needed some R&R because she was caring full-time for my father, who was afflicted with atypical Parkinson’s. We shopped, we went to the coast and played on the beach, and we drank lots of wine. (Duh.)

In 2018, we continued our Mother’s Day tradition and spent a week in Maui, Hawaii, relaxing and rejuvenating. We hiked into black and red sand beaches… into natural pools and volcanoes. We went snorkeling for Mom’s first time. She needed a distraction from the stress of life.

A few months later my dad died suddenly.

In 2019, we took our next mother-daughter trip; now, my mom a widow. It was a surprise. I told her to get on a flight — she didn’t know where the final destination was — and I shocked her at the connecting airport. Together, we flew in the first row to Charleston, South Carolina. We went on a dinner cruise. A horse-drawn carriage tour. Visited a war monument.

Each year, I pushed my mom’s boundaries little more. 

In 2020… our Mother’s Day trip didn’t happen, due to COVID. We made up for it in December 2020, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

I took her into caves, across rivers, and through waterfalls — and she brought her dog, who had never traveled before. For my mom, a homemaker since age 20, married for 49 years…. this all was another stretch. And she (almost) never complained. 

As much as my dad’s death killed me and my brothers, it hurt her more. If he were still alive, they’d be on 51 years together… retired, happy, exploring the U.S. But this future was stolen to a horrendous, progressive neurological disease. Like so many others.

I’m so proud of my mom. She could’ve thrown in the towel. Continued to control, needing limits, answers, schedules. She could’ve stayed home and wallowed in the tragedy of it all. She’s tentative, but curious. She’s open to surprises. She’s relinquished (most) control. Maybe she’s seen there can be tremendous beauty in going in blind and embracing the unknown. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m rubbing off on her.

I know this future isn’t the future she wanted or expected. But she’s still living, and growing, and loving, and that is exemplary.

For everyone out there who is navigating circumstances they did not expect, I applaud you. Keep living, keep smiling, keep hoping. 😘

Where should we go next Mother’s Day? ❤️

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