just one more picture

We had a nice visit with family in the midwest the last week of June.  The trip was the usual mix of chaos and fun.  When Kris and I were growing up, our families took long car rides, and got to spend hours trapped in a car with our parents and siblings.  Now we pop for four airline tickets, brave security and occasional delays, and rent a car.  There’s nothing quite like being trapped in an airline seat with one or more kids who don’t want to sit still, but at least it’s over in three hours, instead of eighteen or more.

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As we have for the past three years, we celebrated KK’s birthday while there.  This time around, she celebrated her thirteenth.  Amazing to think that I’m now the parent of a teenager.  My parents are polite about it, but I know they’re laughing at the prospect of me getting back some of what I gave them when I was growing up. 

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We enjoyed visiting with friends and family.  One of the quieter things that I carry with me from the trip is the reminder I got from each of my daughters to enjoy each moment, and take in the things around us.  R joined her cousin at Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin, including an overnight campout.  When we went to pick her up the next day, it was clear that she was very much in her element – enjoying friends and the outdoors.  It was clear too, when each girl went out in the canoe with me.  Our focus was on paddling over to a nearby island in the lake. 

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With R, the sun was out, but the lake was uncharacteristically quiet.  We paddled through some tall reeds, and spotted some loons along the way.  We talked about maybe camping out on the island sometime, bugs and weather permitting.  With KK, we went out just at sunset, with a small breeze blowing.  As we paddled out, she spotted an eagle overhead.  On the way back, we paddled straight into a beautiful sunset.

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On the trip, we got to visit Kris’ aunt, who celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year.  As always over the years, she was delightful.  Inevitably, we wondered how many more of these visits we’d have with her.  And then just a few days after we returned to Seattle, we got word that she’d passed away.  We were sad, but felt fortunate to have gotten one more visit in with her.  I took some pictures while we were there, and wondered whether I might have taken the last picture of her. 

Five years ago on June 30th, I lost a friend and colleague in a bike accident.  At his memorial service, his family shared a final picture of Peter on his bike, taken shortly before it happened.  He was focused on the road ahead, no doubt intent on finishing strong.  That was how Peter was.  We miss him, but still carry this image of him in our hearts.

Two years ago today, I awoke in the ICU and learned that I was a very fortunate survivor of a bike accident.  I will always treasure the moments I shared with my family and good friends that day – even though they’re a bit hazy.  I remember simple things – seeing people smile, asking Kris for a kiss, hearing a joke from the kids.  I began to understand what had happened to me, and some of the incredible gestures of love and support that inspired my recovery. 

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I’ve always treasured a picture taken of our family just a few days before my accident, while we were visiting my in-laws at their lake home in Wisconsin.  I’ve looked at my face and wondered how how I might have felt, had I known what was ahead for us.  That’s an impossible question to answer, but it does remind us to enjoy each picture – and each moment – as much as we can.

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