Monday July 8, 2013

We have returned to Willow Lane and are fighting our bodies today to adjust to the time change.  Our re-entry was made much easier by the fact that Grandma and Papa Harkins stayed at our house while we were gone.

They claim it was a good deal for them as they had a 10 day stay in a house with air conditioning, cable TV, and a golf cart in the garage.  We think we got the good end of the deal as we came home to a clean house, laundry done, dinner and groceries in the fridge, and no kennel bill for Sunny the Wonderdog.  Best house sitters ever...

It will be impossible for me to recount all the experiences we have had over the last 10 days.  Exposing ourselves to new places, a new language, world famous sites, and side streets off the beaten paths.  We saw all the things you should see in London and Paris:  Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Wimbledon, a West End Musical, then on to Notre Dame, L'Arc De Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and a river cruise on the Seine.  We have the pictures to prove it, so allow me to bore you with a few:

Having a French history professor as your own personal tour guide only added to the experience.  Erin's cuz-in-law Doug was able to share stories with her (and me and Dan) about what had happened in the past on the very streets we were visiting.  It almost made me want to go back to college and learn again.

Over our 10 days we experienced emotions of joy and sadness and Erin even admitted to feeling guilty.  We spread Shannon's ashes into the Thames and the Seine right along with Doug, Maggie and Owen who did the same for Henry.  Two families standing in memorable places, fighting to keep the memories of our children alive.  

As we memorialized Shannon in Paris, it was July 6th - 18 months since her passing.

There was also a reception at the Oxford & Cambridge Club while we were in London for British Studies students who received Shannon O'Hara scholarships and Henry Mackaman travel awards.  Doug and Maggie have graciously endowed these scholarship programs and each year some students will be able to have this study abroad experience in honor of our children.  We were able to spend a great deal of time with the three Shannon scholarship winners - an international business major, a pre-med student, and a journalism major.  Great kids with their whole lives ahead of them.  We presented them with signed copies of Determined to Matter and they responded with gratitude.   

Erin continues to be open about her feelings.  She was grateful for these experiences, but her guilt about this trip was real and understandable.  Shannon didn't get to do these things.  And, there is an underlying question of whether or not we'd be taking this kind of trip if we hadn't suffered the loss of Shannon.  If we're being completely honest, the answer is probably no.  We'd be living status quo, conservative with our money, planning for the future, content with our "normal" lives.  

But, we can never go back to that place.  Our world is different and our perspective has been altered.  So, how do we accept that it's OK to live this way?  We need to think about how we frame it.  

It's not that we are capitalizing on our change in circumstance, throwing caution to the wind, and just doing whatever the hell we want.  Of course, we are living differently because of Shannon, but that's OK.  We are living with a bigger purpose, continuing to share our story and do some good in Shannon's memory.  We want to do what we can to give Erin every opportunity to see the world and decide how she wants to make a difference with her life.  We just have to remember that it's OK for us to find some joy along the way and treat ourselves, too.  We deserve as much.

So, we are back on Willow Lane and there is work ahead.  Dan will travel again later this week.  A trip to Cedar Rapids will be a piece of cake!  Erin will get back in the swing of things with volleyball and piano.

I need to begin planning for the next few Determined to Matter/Shannon O'Hara Foundation events.  I have two speeches and a golf tournament in the span of 6 days coming up.  The jet lag is making it difficult to focus, so I'm going to give myself one more day before I start forcing my brain to work.

London and Paris are behind us now, but will always be with us, too.  Dan mentioned that we were having a photo contest between the three of us to take the most artistic photo on our trip.  Here's another possible entry from my camera...