In the fall of 2013, I emailed all of the women on my mom’s side of the family and told them I wanted to plan a trip to New York City that December. I wanted to take my mom to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
My sister suggested that maybe we should plan something smaller, but I was hardheaded and dead set on New York City.
As the days went by, I quickly realized my goal was a bit too ambitious. Just over three years into my mom’s diagnosis, she was having far too much difficulty to be able to endure a trip to NYC, especially with all of the walking it would entail.
My sister had been right after all. I decided to scale back our trip significantly. Instead of NYC, I organized a girls’ day trip to Lancaster, PA to have lunch and see a Christmas show at a small theater.
I woke up extra early that day to get myself ready and then drove to my mom’s house to help her get ready. I did her hair and helped her get dressed. These tasks were already too difficult for her to do on her own and I wanted her to look nice.
I waited for my sister to arrive from a half day at work and then we drove about an hour to meet the rest of the women for lunch.
Lunch was at an all-you-can-eat buffet, so after making sure my mom was settled at the table with her mom, I hit the buffet to make two plates — one for me and one for my mom.
After a nice lunch, we drove over to the theater where we had tickets to see their annual Christmas show. I remember struggling to get my mom out of the car and into the theater, as it had begun to snow and the ground was slippery.
Once inside the theater, I held my mom’s hand tightly as we made our way through the crowd and found our seats. I did this again during intermission when I took my mom to the bathroom and once again at the end of the show when we all made our way to the Christmas tree in the lobby for pictures.
After everyone said goodbye, I drove the hour home to my mom’s house where I helped her inside and said goodnight. Then I finally drove back to my house, completely exhausted.
My mom had trouble understanding what was happening in the Christmas show, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. She mouthed along to the songs even though she didn’t know the words. She smiled and laughed with her family. She lit up around the Christmas tree and other decorations. And she laughed hysterically when her mom, my Nan, ran down the stairs with her oxygen tank to meet the main actor after the show because she thought he was just so handsome.
Looking back at this day, I remember feeling quite overwhelmed and stressed out. I wish I could talk to the girl in this picture and say, “Oh, girl! You have no idea!”
But the truth is, it was stressful at the time. It was a long, hard day and I was exhausted by the end of it. It wasn’t nearly as stressful as NYC would have been or as the days in the years that followed, but it was still hard.
And you know what? I got through it. We got through it.
It wasn’t New York City. It wasn’t the tree in Rockefeller Center. It wasn’t the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
But it was us. Just a mother and her daughters, together at Christmas.
I will forever cherish these memories and these photos.
I will forever be grateful for my ability to let go of my big plans and scale back instead of just giving up.
And I will forever be so damn proud of how well we loved my mom.
Your plans don’t have to be grand.
Your days don’t have to be perfect.
You will have to revisit, reframe, and reset.
You will have to scale back.
Just please don’t give up.
It will never be easy.
But I promise, it will always be worth it.