My childhood memories are full of days spent traveling. We traveled for camping trips, a visit to family, and oftentimes for moving. I have lost track of the precise number of times I have packed up and relocated, but one thing I will never forget is how special my mom always made those trips when I was little. She had a knack for keeping me and my siblings occupied, ensuring we took breaks often enough to stretch our legs and run some of our young exuberance out, planning visits to see some amazing things, and always having an arsenal of game ideas for us to play as we crossed the country in our old wood-paneled station wagon.
One particular trip involved a drive from Pennsylvania to Washington State when I was about eight years old. My grandparents drove from Washington to meet us in Pennsylvania and accompany us back to Washington, bringing their R.V. along for us to use during the trip. My parents and grandparents pulled out a map of the United States and we all helped to plan our route home, making sure that visits to several places of interest were included along the way. I remember my dad and grandfather spending several days constructing walls and a roof for a little trailer to tow behind our car while we helped my mom and grandma pack up the rest of the house. The anticipation, excitement and sadness built as we prepared to leave another home behind us.
Once on the road, we spent our days in the car taking turns snuggling with our old golden retriever, making Christmas wish lists, singing songs, playing twenty questions, and filling out Mad Libs. There were plenty of mishaps along the way as well, including a flat tire, a broken axle, and a sudden downpour while we were in our tent one night that caused a large amount of rain to collect on top of the tent and resulted in the support poles breaking. I remember my mother standing in the middle of the tent, holding it up while my father tried to figure out a way to keep the whole tent from collapsing. Throughout it all, mom always kept a smile on her face and made each day an exciting adventure to be appreciated and enjoyed.
Of all the places we stopped and visited on the way to our new home, the one that I remember most vividly is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We had a fun filled day walking around to see the sites, and were thoroughly entertained by my very silly grandpa who tried to give my mother a heart attack acting as though he’d fallen over the edge at one point. It was, however, the end of that day which made the biggest impact on me.
The sun was beginning to set and the vast, open sky exploded with warm colors. Vivid pinks, purples, and oranges seemed to create their very own silent symphony in the air around us, blending and swirling together in the most chaotic and artistic way. In that moment of profound beauty, a small group of Mennonite women gathered near where we were standing and began to sing Amazing Grace. My mother, with her lovely soul and even more lovely voice, joined them. Their voices merged together and lifted up a love song to their Savior, into a sky that seemed hand painted by God. My heart was moved and I felt blessed to be there to experience that moment. I saw my mother in a way I do not think she ever saw herself, as the truly beautiful, gifted, needed, and wanted woman she was who touched so many lives and hearts.
My mother is gone now, taken much too soon from my life nearly three years ago, but this memory lives on in my heart and mind and still brings her back to me when I miss her most.