Sunday Nov. 24, 2019

Team O'Hara is in vacation mode! Dan and I are in Rochester, Erin is in Philly, but tomorrow morning we will meet at O'Hare and catch a flight together to Palm Desert, CA for the Thanksgiving holiday.

This was our tradition during Erin's high school years, but we took a one year hiatus last year since it was Erin's freshman year, her first time living away, and we wanted to spend the time together at home. But, we're glad to be heading west again this year.

This trip is possible because of all the nights Dan spends in places like Flint, MI and Fargo, ND. All those Marriott rewards points add up... and we're going to spend them!

It has been 9 weeks since we took Erin to school. This is the longest we've gone without seeing each other in person. I am grateful for texting, face time and social media to stay connected, but nothing can replace getting to hug her in person. Tomorrow. We'll get a week with her now, send her back to school for 10 days to finish up fall quarter, and then get her home in Rochester for a 3 week winter break. This momma is ready for some Erin time. (Dad is too...)

I have kept myself busy this fall with the first two courses of grad school, working towards a master's degree. After some initial angst about WTF I was doing, I can say that it's been a good challenge. I am using my brain and critical thinking skills in ways that I haven't in a while. The coursework has been relevant to my job and I've been able to use real world examples in my writing. I feel like it's a worthwhile endeavor. I may be one of the oldest people in my program, but I ain't dead yet...

The holidays are here again. It happens every year. The good of family, friends, and celebration, and the pain of memories and loss. My Facebook flashback got me again this week:

This was such a great day. Shannon's Rebel hockey team won the title at the Hopkins hockey tournament. This group of girls had never won a tournament, but on that day, they did. Shannon played her heart out and was beaming from ear to ear, holding that trophy. 

We celebrated all the way home, including a stop at Dairy Queen where Shannon brought the trophy into the restaurant! We were all glowing. Shannon's teammates let her bring the giant trophy home. They all knew she was battling her brain tumor at that time, and symptoms had started to occur again. When we tucked Shannon in that night, we were reveling in the win. Shannon looked at Dan and I and said "It's too bad my first championship came near the end of my life". Gut punch. Two weeks later we went to St. Jude for a clinical trial. Seven weeks later, she was gone. 

So, these are the reminders that this time of year brings. I'm glad for the memories, even the painful ones. I need them so Shannon doesn't fade away. In some ways, I miss her more now, or miss the loss of who she would have been. Erin is an adult, doing adult things like living in an apartment, cooking for herself, and working towards a career. That makes me long to know where Shannon would have gone with her life. 

But, we have survived. We're carrying on, just as Shannon asked us to. Because of her, we all try to make a difference in this sometimes painful world. We're happy, even with the hole in our hearts that will never fully heal. We are who we are now because of who she was then.

"The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; the secret anniversaries of the heart." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow