All too often in the hustle and bustle of normal life, when I return from a trip and start to post about it here on Land of Marvels, some of the stories of those trips often get lost along the way. Whether I’m not sure that you’d be interested as a reader to hear the more personal side of some of our trips or I simply don’t have time to share everything, there is always so much more behind the scenes that obviously happens when we travel, both good and bad and hilarious that doesn’t make the cut here on the blog. So while we have the time and are all stuck at home for a while, dreaming of travel, I thought maybe it’d be interesting to go back in my archives and tell some stories revolving around some of our travels that I’ve never shared before. Hence this new series of Travel Stories, looking at moments or memories of trips that you’ve never heard me share here before! Today, I’m starting with a story that, for me, is all about hope and I find that fitting especially now. So grab a cup of coffee to and welcome to my first travel story…
In October of 2014, my mom went in for her normal mammogram. For whatever reason, that I can’t remember now, they did a more advanced 3D mammogram on her that time around and in that more advanced image, they uttered those words to her that everyone dreads hearing, they had found something. This happened on my birthday that year and I’ll never forget that moment, her calling me to tell me that they had found something on the imaging and they’d need to examine further. I was in a hotel room in Kent, Washington where Nick was working for the week. I fell to the bed as she said the words, trying to reassure her that it was probably nothing. But we both knew. It was breast cancer.
What followed were weeks of unknowns. More testing, more information gathered. Waiting for doctors to schedule appointments, waiting to meet with said doctors. So much unknown, so much fear. My mom and I are a lot alike in that we both like to have a plan. When we have a plan, we can accomplish what we need to, we can get through it. But without any sort of plan, with everything unknown, life becomes overwhelming, it becomes all too much. The chaos of not knowing what was ahead was almost worse than knowing she had cancer.
Her mammogram was on October 15, she got the cancer diagnosis the following week and October 28th I was on a plane over to Hawaii to spend a few days with her and my dad. Partly to be a distraction, partly to just hug her. I don’t honestly remember a whole lot about that few days other than a specific sunset that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
One evening, my parents and I went to dinner at an Irish pub called Murphy’s in the downtown business area of Honolulu. That area, while packed during the day, is often a ghost town in the evenings. I remember it being really quiet that evening as we enjoyed our meal of comfort food and discussing random things, anything other than talking about the thing we were all thinking about, cancer.
The parking hours for the meters are also strange down in that area of Honolulu and for whatever reason, it required me to run out in the middle of our dinner to re-fill our parking meter. When I stepped out the front door of the restaurant, I was almost knocked back as I took an incredulous deep breath as the sky in front of me was lit up in the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen. The sky was streaked horizontally with bright pink, yellow and orange. I’ve still to this day never seen a sunset quite like that, as the clouds formed a rainbow of streaks across the sky, the palm trees creating a silhouette against it that I can only describe as witnessing something so profound, so hopeful in that time of fear.
I snapped a quick photo on my phone, filled our meter and ran back into the restaurant to show my parents the photo of what I had seen. It had lasted only a moment, and by the time I was back in the restaurant the sky had already faded into the evening light. I showed them the photo and they jokingly laughed that that couldn’t be real, that I had added a filter or something to make it so vibrant. It became known then, and over the subsequent years, as the sunset that really did happen. We still jokingly laugh about this sunset and I’m still trying to convince them that the photo was unedited, that what I saw really was an incredible solitary moment, when nature was so brilliant it seemed fake.
For me, that sunset, that one moment in my life when the sky was so vibrant it took my breath away, it represents hope. It represents a moment in my life when everything around me seemed uncontrollable, emotions completely overwhelmed me at all hours of the day, my panic took over my body, the fear of my Mom going through something horrible was all I thought about. But that one moment, that small part of a terrifying time, I’ll always remember that sunset as a beacon of hope. It was nature’s way of showing me that even though I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets in my lifetime, sometimes, you get a view of one that is so beautiful, so perfect, that we know to look forward to better days ahead. That sunset that really happened, that moment, was my moment alone with hope.
Over the next year as my Mom went through surgery and then radiation and then healed fully, I thought of that sunset that really did happen over and over again. That was my beacon, my sign of hope. And today, that sunset reminds me of a horrible time but it also reminds me that even though we feel like nothing in our lives is beautiful, even when the days are hard and long, there is hope for an incredible sunset sky at the end of the day. That to me, right now especially, seems to be an important reminder. Our days right now are long and hard, we are unsure of what the future might hold, but at the end of it, if we’re willing to stop and look, there will be an incredible sunset waiting for us. The sky full of color, silhouetting the world around it, will give us a beauty we’ve never known and above all, it will give us hope.