Have you ever experienced a time in your life when it felt like ... magic?
That's what this past week has been like for us.
On Monday, when I could hardly walk, everyone came to our house and we spent some time at the pool and sitting in the hot tub. While I popped Tylenol like candy and cried like a baby that my legs hurt. And my feet.
And well, come to think of it ... pretty much everything from the neck down.
On Tuesday, Charlie showed everyone around Sea World while I worked.
On Wednesday, Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill, Margaret, Alexander and Brian took a train ride up the California coast to ... somewhere. Nobody knew where exactly they were going when they first boarded the train, they just knew that they wanted to see the coastline.
As luck - perhaps - would have it, they wound up at San Juan Capistrano, where they visited the Jewel of the California Missions. They spent some time in the oldest building in all of California, a chapel that was constructed in 1782. And within this mission, there was a chapel that had been dedicated to St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients. Seeing as my family is Catholic and have been praying to St. Peregrine, this was rather special.
And cosmically coincidental.
On Thursday, we visited Legoland.
We had just walked in to the park when we bumped in to Jack Reynolds - Deana's husband - with his two boys Zach and Zane. Jack was at the park celebrating Zach's third birthday. While we stood talking about Deana's stem cell transplant which will be happening in a few weeks, and I watched her little boys running around with their grandparents, I felt positively sick over what this family has had to endure the past 10-months.
On Friday, we visited Balboa Park and strolled past all the beautiful museums, gardens...
And a silver mime that juggles.
Last night, when we were having our farewell dinner at a seafood restaurant on the waterfront...
Uncle Bill told me that this trip is the first time in years that he has flown by airplane. When I inquired why - he told me that it's because he is concerned about the risk of infection. And who wouldn't be concerned about the risk of infection when they have stage four cancer and a suppressed immune system because they have undergone intensive regiments of chemotherapy?
But when Uncle Bill told me this, it felt like I was being pulled back from a dream, because for a short time this week, I had actually forgotten that one of my favorite people in the world was fighting cancer. Sure, I noticed that he needed to sit down every now and again, but the light in his eyes and his wonderful stories and his cheerful demeanor made you forget.
And the fact that he was here, in San Diego, several thousand miles from home, after the health challenges he has faced for the past few years ... to me, it was nothing short of miraculous and a true testament to the strength of this man's will and positive attitude.
I don't hate very many things.
But I'll tell you what.
I really hate cancer.
I hate what it is doing to Deana and I hate what it is doing to my Uncle Bill and I hate what it is doing to Jim. I hate what it does to the families. I hate what it has done to so many good people that I care about. I hate what it is going to do to so many good people, still. But I'll also tell you that I have loved experiencing, firsthand, how people are brought together and inspired by something as devastating as cancer. It makes you appreciate the here and now - unlike anything other.
I have loved this week.
I loved participating in the marathon with my awesome cousin and husband - I loved that we raised money for cancer research - and I loved that my Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill were at the finish line.
I have loved spending time with our family.
I have loved watching our children bond with their second cousins.
I have loved watching five matching hats running around.
I have loved watching Henry sit still and be cute. As opposed to say, scream and run away and throw himself on the ground in protest. Because those are just a few of the toddler characteristics that he has mastered these days.
I have loved sharing a good meal and a good bottle of wine (or margaritas) at various restaurants around town with some of the best people I know.
I have absolutely loved watching my Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill together.
They have been married for more than 50 years, but they are so good to one another.
The love and devotion that they have for each other is truly inspirational and every time I would watch them walk away - holding hands - or with their arms around one another, I tried to snap off a picture to memorialize the moment.
But pictures can't adequately capture the beauty of their relationship.
I have loved teasing Margaret - relentlessly - about her addiction to Diet Coke.
And she - in return - absolutely loved beating Charlie in the hand pump fire truck race at Legoland.
I had NO idea my cousin was SO competitive...
Which is why it came as such a COMPLETE surprise...
That she yelled across the park, "I WIN! I WIN!! YOU LOSE!! I WIN! I WIN! YOU LOSE! I AM THE WINNER!! ME! ME! I WIN!!" to my husband.
Despite that, I still loved showing my cousin around town and taking her to places that will hopefully motivate her to keep running.
I loved that before she left San Diego this morning, she insisted on going by Trader Joe's and as we walked across the parking lot in to the store, she pulled out her camera and told me that she was so excited she was getting the chills.
It was good to know I wasn't the only one that felt that way.
The fact that Margaret stuffed whatever open space she had remaining in her suitcase with these items ... just further confirms we really are cut from the same cloth.
I don't think Margaret wanted her entire family to know that she is bringing home several boxes of highly coveted chocolate from California. It seems they don't have a Trader Joe's in South Carolina?
Maybe next time she'll rethink letting my husband win on the fire trucks.