It was your birthday week, and I can’t believe you were not here. I remembered your birthday week last year. After living your dream of moving to Ketchikan, Alaska, and living there almost three years, you felt you needed to move back to Kansas City. I helped you drive to your new home in 2012 (what a dream trip that was), and now it was time to help bring you home. I had two connecting flights and would travel all day, but it was a spectacular clear day in August; and I captured this shot of Mt. Rainier approaching Seattle.
I thought back on our trip to Seattle the year after you moved to Ketchikan. We gathered together in Seattle in 2013. We had a wonderful extended weekend visit. The three of us had been friends for about thirty-five years.
You once told me it was after that trip that you felt a little homesick. And then your health declined, so you decided to move back to Kansas City to be closer to family and doctors. But your emotions were split. You loved Ketchikan too. You made sure that I saw the amazing beauty of Ketchikan when I arrived the second time.
In a couple of days, it was time to begin the long journey home – two days on the ferry and then a three-day road trip traveling in the same little red car we drove on our first adventure.
We had a pleasant and uneventful drive from Washington to Kansas City – unlike the deer-hitting adventure of three years earlier. We did have one hazard on our last day on the road, but you dodged it beautifully. I’m still trying to figure out how a pig was sitting smack-dab in the middle of the interstate in South Dakota. We laughed till we cried and couldn’t believe our eyes. Imagine that – a pack of deer in 2012 and a pig in 2015, both in South Dakota.
You settled into your condo in Kansas City on your birthday. It was good to have you home – spur-of-the-moment visits, Royals baseball games, shopping, and helping me prepare for the wedding the next summer.
Finally, it was wedding day. Then the following day, you were gone. We were called to the hospital, but you really weren’t there. A machine kept you breathing for another day, but you had already found peace.
Now, your birthday has passed again. As the weeks turn into months, I miss you more. I thought we would have more time for those Sunday afternoon visits. I went on one this past Sunday without you. I would like to hear your comments and review of “Helen’s Heritage,” but your voice is absent. I still look for you on the couch when I reach the bottom of the stairs, but you are never there.
I am beginning to understand that on this side of heaven, the chair will forever be empty. So I have this one request, please save one for me there.