On the night my husband and I signed our will, our friends acted as witnesses. The four of us sat with the notary at the dining table, signing the documents that would outline how and what our kids would inherit when my husband and I passed away. It wasn’t at the top of my list for Friday night fun but we did it. Little did I know signing that estate plan would completely change my life perspective.
An Inventory of Everything
Later that night as I went upstairs, I ran into my two daughters who were getting ready for bed. As we often do, we joked around and touched base about the goings on of the next day. Then the giggles subsided and we all wandered toward our rooms.
As I lay in bed, I thought about how my daughters didn’t know they’d inherit a house and a car and little nest egg of money. They didn’t know all we considered in putting together our plan: what might happen and what the kids might need. Though the girls knew we’d signed an estate plan, they of course weren’t interested. They had school and friends and work on their minds.
Absently I stared at the closed bedroom door. I thought of my sister who’d passed away in May. She was gone from me, and the earth, forever. So what did I have left? I realized what I had left was just on the other side of the door: my kids. Not far away, not gone from the earth, but just a few steps away! Wow. My son, though far away, was in his college apartment with his buddies. He was a text or phone call away. Wow. I had three kids who loved me. That’s what I had left. Not to mention a loving husband.
How lucky am I? I thought. I get to wake up tomorrow and I could, if I chose, talk to all of them. Spend time with them. See their faces.
A Total Shift in Life Perspective
Slowly, my body filled with a sense of awe. Warmth. I was stunned by the love of my family. My husband. Our pets, past and present. I felt thankful for our friends of that night, and others I’d made over the years. All the experiences and travels I’d had.
As I listed all the good stuff in my life, I grew overwhelmed. Felt the power of gratitude. I couldn’t believe what a wonderful life I had. Yes, my sister passed away, yes, my mother-in-law too. And yes, I’d had health problems this year but still, I was here, on earth in this moment. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I radiated a happiness I hadn’t felt at such a strong intensity before. It was like my happiness skyrocketed into space. I floated with peace.
Afterward, I made a choice to enjoy my life as much as I could every day. Actually enjoy it. I’d never enjoyed life. I mostly thought about what was wrong and how to make it better. No longer. I decided to hang on to that wild and wondrous feeling I’d had that night. To be happy. For the first time in my life, I realized being happy was actually a choice, not a thing to work toward or that happened from time to time. I had the power to change my life perspective if I relaxed enough to enjoy the good things. And I haven’t let go since.
Have you ever had an epiphany like that? How do you stay happy? Maybe you keep a gratitude journal. If you have ideas, let me know!
First Day Home From School, Thursday
The virus Covid-19 has turned our family life upside down, in more ways than one. Plans cancelled, illness, work surges. We live just north of Seattle, not far from Kirkland where the first cases in Washington state appeared. Our governor has closed all schools until April 27th so we are home as a five-person family with not much to do but so much to worry about. I’ve been distracted by the virus’s rapid spread, its related news, and caring for my family so I’ve decided to keep a Covid-19 diary that covers the obstacles we’ve encountered and how we’re dealing with them. As you know, it’s a crazy time!
A Special Trip Planned for My Kids
The corona virus first hammered our family last Tuesday. Not through illness, thank goodness, but through a travel cancellation, an enormous one. Our son and daughter were scheduled to travel from Seattle to Dublin on Thursday. The school marching band was to march in not only Dublin’s huge St. Patrick’s Day Parade but several others in Limerick and smaller cities. They would perform in multiple venues. They’d compete in competitions. They’d tour and sightsee Ireland and Northern Ireland. They would experience another culture half-way around the world and in general have a blast.
During the winter, our kids practiced the line up of songs at home religiously. My seventeen-year-old son plays trumpet, my fifteen-year-old daughter, saxophone. In the band, they’d practiced their formations in the rain and cold and dark for almost three hours every Monday night. They’d prepared their uniforms and met all of the requirements. Meanwhile, their dad and I paid fee after fee, knowing this tri-yearly perk of being a “Highlander,” was well worth it.
As February progressed, the band trip solidified. The kids got their itineraries. They learned where they’d sightsee. They dreamed of ancient cities and mossy landscapes and friendly Irish people. Room assignments were handed out. It was happening! The directors shipped the uniforms, which are noble looking Scottish highlander uniforms complete with kilts. They shipped their instruments, including bagpipes, flags, etc. One of the assistant band directors even left early to retrieve the cargo. No one could wait for those planes to take off.
Meanwhile, the corona virus was circulating in Seattle. But in small numbers — or so we thought. Then, the first community case was announced. That was okay, it didn’t really affect our community. Then the Kirkland nursing home outbreak happened. The trip looked iffy but still likely. I, as well as other parents, wrote the school superintendent, voicing we were ready to take the necessary risks. There were meetings. A lot of wait-and-see. And the band directors, who’d worked for years to make it all happen, were reluctant to cancel. Everyone was ready to wear masks and travel with bleach if they had to to get to Dublin.
As the outbreak spread, more and more people got sick. Cases popped up in Ireland. Then the Irish government cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Still optimistic, the band directors thought perhaps the kids could simply perform in their other scheduled venues. But then the Irish government cancelled all parades in Ireland. And so, the final sad reality was with no parades to march in, the entire trip was scrapped. I felt gut punched.
Not long after I heard the announcement, I went to my daughter’s room. She’d been feeling under the weather and had stayed home from school. I opened the door to a red-faced sobbing girl who’d heard the news from her boyfriend. The Ireland trip was off. And worse, it probably wouldn’t happen next year.
Welcome to a Different Way of Life
That night, we ate dinner with two morose teenagers. My son had said that at the band meeting, the directors choked up as they announced the cancellation. A devastating blow for everyone. 175 teens had worked their butts off to show the world what a kick ass marching band they were. Now, with football season long gone, they had nowhere to perform and no reason to even play again.
After dinner, the kids went to their rooms, processing with friends by text and facetime. My husband and I wondered if we’d ever see the money we’d dedicated to not one but two children going. It could be a small financial disaster for us. Time would tell.
But the next couple of days only brought us another, more concerning effect from the outbreak: my daughter’s illness. I’ll cover that unexpected turn of events in my next post.
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Last week my husband flew to Ireland for work. It was not a hopeful Monday, more like sad Sunday. He travels once every couple of months and when he’s gone, we feel a slight tension in our family. Overall, we’re fine and with my three kids being older, it’s easier now than it used to be, but we still feel the absence. And inside the absence, a strange quiet yearning exists. We go on with school and work and home life but we’re all waiting for the five of us to be together again.
Because my husband works at home a couple of days a week and is actively engaged as a dad, his presence is big in our family. He’s the other anchor. The one who’s always there with his patience and reason and forgiveness. With the car to drive someone to a lesson or a friend’s while I’m making dinner. He plays piano with each child and their instrument. He’s the one who leads with me, deciding the ways to go forward. So when he’s absent, we all feel it. It’s not terrible or horrific, it’s just an extra bit of emptiness. We all miss him in our own way.
On Friday evening, he came back. Whenever he does, our two dogs jump and squeal and yelp like puppies. It’s a sweet sight to see him rolling his suitcase down the driveway. Like a drink of fresh water. Gathering into a five-person unit is a small change with a big effect. Perhaps, you feel it yourself when someone who lives in your home is gone, someone you love or even a room mate or relative. It’s a tiny temporary loss.
So, my Monday quote for the week is about what I’m feeling today with our family intact. It’s sunny out, it’s spring. Life is hopeful again. Here’s Marcel Proust’s words.
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.Marcel Proust