I spent the next year deeply grieving the death of my father. The world was a different place and did not hold the same enchantment it had held a few months prior. My heart was not in the right place to celebrate marrying the love of my life when I was heartbroken over losing the first man I ever loved.
A little over a year after losing my dad the dark cloud that had been following me around since he passed away had turned into a lighter shade of gray. I was just beginning to see where the world held some beauty again when, as God would have it, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The trajectory to healing and happiness had changed course again.
Shortly after my mom's diagnosis, my dad visited me in my dreams. I was standing on the patio in the backyard of our childhood home when my dad walked through the sliding glass door. He was wearing the usual attire he wore working around the house, and he looked a lot younger in my dream than when I had last saw him. He walked up to me and with his whiskers rubbing across my cheek he gave me a big hug. It was at that moment I realized it was a dream and I began to pull away from his embrace. Before letting me go, he grabbed my shoulders, looked into my eyes and said. “Jill, it won’t be long now.”
I woke from that dream with tears in my eyes and the conviction he was telling me it wouldn’t be long before he and my mom were to be reunited.
It was over the next few days, my husband and I agreed to plan our wedding within six short weeks. We had already missed the opportunity to have my dad at our wedding. We did not want to live with the regret of not having my mom there either.
We married at the Seattle waterfront with just our families on a stunningly, beautiful March day. Everything about that day was perfect and a testament to God’s blessings.
My husband has always wanted to travel to New Zealand, so as our wedding gift my mother gave us plane tickets for our honeymoon. Over the next several months she would continuously ask when I was going to schedule our trip. She may have felt I was unappreciative since I seemed to be hesitant making any arrangements. The truth was, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her, I didn’t want to plan anything while she was sick.
Over the next several months, cancer overtook her body and her health slowly declined. She lived at home for the majority of the time and it wasn’t until the final two weeks she lived in the hospital and in hospice care.
On the last day she was here on this earth, I heard the same words my dad spoke to me in my dreams that night. The hospice worker told us, “It won’t be long now.” Shortly after hearing these words, I left my mom’s hospice room and booked Ryan and my plane tickets to New Zealand.
In the final hours of someone’s life you can visibly see the transformation of life leaving their body and death creeping in. Sedated with morphine, their eyes hold a listless stare off into the distance and are neither open nor closed. It is difficult to determine if they are present in the room and can still hear what is going on around them.
But when I grabbed my mother’s cold, frail hands and I said, “Momma, I scheduled Ryan and my tickets to New Zealand” her listless gaze moved from the corner of the room to look at me directly in my eyes. With as much strength as she could muster she nodded her head and tried to smile.
That image has imprinted itself in my memory and evoked an immense amount of pain every time I thought of New Zealand. As the dates of our scheduled trip approached, I knew I could not avoid the moments of pain any longer and risk losing out on my mother’s final gift. So over the last several weeks my husband and I have spent many hours together listing out all the things we wanted to see on our honeymoon. And my husband spent many, many more hours over the next several weeks planning all the logistics…. booking hotels, rental cars and more flights.
The feelings towards New Zealand have slowly evolved from the painful memory of my mother on that day to one of excitement and gratitude. I now envision exploration in Auckland, hikes along the Tongariro, dinners in Wellington, sunbathing in Abel Tasman, kayaking in Milford Sound and bike riding in Queenstown. More importantly, I envision many wonderful days together with the husband I married on that beautiful day in March.
We are going to have a trip of a lifetime together. And with a change of heart, I feel blessed to know it won’t be long now.