Now we are back in the same place for our annual family vacation. The same resort, the same building, even the same floor, though not the same room. We go to the beach, we swim in the pools, we play games on the boardwalk. All the things Rebecca loved to do. In fact, her first wish with Make-A-Wish was not to go to Disney World. Her wish was that it be summer so she could come back to New Jersey and do all those things. Disney was a distant runner-up, a sort of consolation prize for not being able to do what she really wanted to do.
Even as we organized for that Disney trip, Kat and I decided to bring the family to New Jersey for an early vacation, if Rebecca was well enough once June finally came. And then to come again in August, unless Rebecca was still alive but too sick to make the journey. Neither came to pass.
Instead, we’re here without her. I had feared this would be too painful for us to bear, but it isn’t. New memories are being made with our children, and if sometimes Kat and I are drawn up short by a specific memory, or a wish that Rebecca were here to enjoy the trip with us, or just having the instinct to count three heads before realizing that we only have to count two, it is usually a wistful sorrow rather than a sharp agony. Usually.
Those newly-made memories, of jumping waves and digging holes in the sand and boardwalk ice cream and going to water parks, are the building blocks of healing. Forming them in the place that Rebecca loved so much is, we hope, the mortar that will glue them together. It helps that we love it here too, and that love is limned by the memory of her love.
It all still seems unreal. Our lives were proceeding as lives do, and then, in the middle of our special family time away, we were suddenly confronted with the horror that our middle child, our five-year-old girl, had a tumor in the middle of her brain.
I remember all the shock and terror and anguish, but not like it was yesterday, because it wasn’t. It was a year ago today.