Summer. The warmest season of the year….long days, warm nights, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and days filled with carefree, fun activities that lead to great memories. We took full advantage of summer this year. When I look back at it, I’m pretty impressed with how busy yet carefree we were— busy in that we were on the go quite a bit and carefree in that wherever we went, time slowed down, we did what we wanted, and we enjoyed just being with each other. I noticed that I had many moments this summer where I tried to push a pause button…moments where I tried to soak in everything and thought about how grateful I was for those moments, for the people I was with, and for what I was doing. I had so many moments like this that I began to wonder… Am I getting sappy with age? Or maybe wiser with age? Or maybe I’m to the point of acceptance in my grieving process? I will never feel ok about the loss of Gracie, but I am accepting it, living with it, and trying to make the best of every moment I have with family and friends because I know things can change in the blink of an eye. Because of this, I’ve really tried this summer to live in the moment and to live for moments I cannot put into words.
We had some awesome trips and adventures this summer, but nothing topped the little moments that made me smile and let me know my middle child was with us. Some might say these are daily coincidences, but I know in my heart that it’s my Gracie Girl letting me know she’s with me. Our family heads to camp at Brennan Beach each year for the month of July. Brennan Beach is located on the great Lake Ontario. If you’ve never been, you should go. Lake Ontario has the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Our month consists of relaxing on the beach, swimming, campfires, good food, cornhole, other games, laughter and sea glass hunting. Sea glass hunting is serious business with our crew. It’s a job that the kids and some of the adults take very seriously. Several times a day, a group would split up and walk the beach to look for these different colored, smooth, stone-like pieces of glass hidden among the rocks on the beach. It was a competition to see who could find the biggest, prettiest, most unique piece of glass. Competition is pretty serious; it is so serious that one of the kids is nicknamed “Hawkeye,” and you can’t even sea glass hunt near her because she will find it and take it before you even see it! Hawkeye never disappoints and normally has 3-4 pieces within her first 5 minutes on the beach. Even our 2 year old Ava has been watching this competition and gets right down in the sand to pick up rocks that she thinks are sea glass. She’ll get it eventually, as I have Hawkeye training her for next year. I must admit, though, I am not the best at finding sea glass. I like the feeling of finding it, but I don’t really go on the hunt. I like to sit with my beach buddy in my beach chair, look down and just have the sea glass appear. FYI: this does not happen too often! On our last day of camp, we took a morning walk on a different part of the beach with some of the kids, and I thought to myself, “This is my chance; I’m actually going to look and find some sea glass on my own!” Thirty minutes in and I had found nothing. I was pretty bummed and realized the patience it takes to find these little treasures. At this time Ava was getting antsy, so we decided to get going. As I was walking back empty handed to the stairs that lead off the beach, I was talking to Gracie. I asked her to help me find just one piece of sea glass. I said, “Gracie, if you’re here with me, please help me find a piece of sea glass.” I walked up two steps, looked down in the sand and saw a large piece of dark blue sea glass, a rare find, just sitting there. My Gracie Girl was with me. It was moments like this all summer long that put a smile on my face and a feeling of peace in my heart.
So many moments like this happened all summer. At Sesame Place, we were walking along in the park and one of my Gracie songs came on…one that I hadn’t heard in years. She was with us. When coming back from the lake and hanging our wet towels and bathing suits on the clothesline there was always, day in and day out, a dragonfly sitting on it. She was with us. We recently had something living under our shed. We caught it in a live trap and discovered it was a baby bunny, which we let go! A family of bunnies had moved in under the shed. Bunny was Gracie’s favorite stuffed animal. She was with us. A young girl we have all come to know and love was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago. Her treatment options were exhausted and we were all praying for a miracle. Jackie and I went to visit and to help the family create an everlasting memory. We are so thankful we went in that moment because the next day she passed away. Gracie was with us. A last minute stop at the Candy Cottage in Old Forge resulted in finding a stuffed animal named “Gracie” tucked under a shelf and barely within view. The “Gracie” animal had a saying on it that said, “Love goes on forever.” She was with us. We were on a last minute trip to the ocean in Rhode Island, and after a walk on the beach under the full moon and among an outbreak of teeny tiny jelly fish, that thankfully don’t sting, we were greeted by a baby bunny that stuck around with us for a while. She was with us. A foundation event at the Ronald McDonald House of Albany and when we walk in we are greeted by a big picture of our blue eyed Gracie. She was with us. And while cleaning bookshelves this summer, we found a special book that both of my children own. These books were given to us when Gracie passed away. We hadn’t pulled out these books in a very long time and we all stopped to take a minute to look at and read them. We have two copies, one from the staff at Melodies Center where Gracie was treated and the other from a teacher at CVA who has also had to deal with a devastating loss. We read the special notes inside these books from them and talked about the invisible string between Gracie and all of us. “ People who love each other are always connected by a very special string made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart and know that you are always connected to those you love.” The invisible string between Gracie and us is always there, but I believe it was tugged on a little bit more this summer.