Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Trip To Arizona

Eric, I and the kids headed down to Arizona to spend time with our friend Greg and his kids, Jeremy and Andra and their girls and my friend Leigh Ann's family. We have made numerous trips in Arizona since we moved 7 1/2 years ago but this trip would be different than any trip previous. It would be the first trip since the tragic death of my dear friend.

As the kids processed the trip they too knew it would be different. They had questions about who was going to pick us up at the airport and where we were going to stay because we had stayed at Leigh Ann's last year. They wondered how were were going to get to different places. Shane wondered if I knew the phone number to the gate to get into Leigh Ann's moms development. Shane loves Grandma Peggy and her pool. They wondered how Leigh Ann's kids were doing with out a mom and if they would still be able to swim and play with them. I knew it would be good for the kids to spend time with Greg and the kids so they could see that they are ok. At such a basic level my kids needed to see that their friends could still play, swim, smile and laugh!

I had a tough week leading up to our departure. I know some of it was the unknown of what I was going to experience and feel as we got off the plane in Arizona. The thing with grief is there is no guidebook, every one's journey is different and it is so unpredictable. There are times it hits you full force when you least expect it and it knocks you to the ground and then there are times that I can rest in knowing my friend is in the presence of her maker.

When we returned home everyone asked how our trip was. I was often at a loss for words because in some ways it was so hard to put into words the feelings I had. I guess the best way to describe it is a double edged sword. In so many ways it was hard. It cut deep to see Greg as a single dad, to seem him drive away at night with 3 little ones in the back with an empty passenger seat. It was hard to see the kids with out a mom and wonder why was their mom taken away from them at such a young age. It was hard to be in places that I spent a lot of time with Leigh Ann like her mom's pool, our favorite restaurants, her house and Andra's house. When we would sit around the table at night with our friends and there were 5 of us instead of 6 and it screamed her absence. When we spent time with Leigh Ann's extended family her absence again screamed loudly. As hard as it was on the flip side there was so much comfort in being in Arizona. There was comfort in being with people who loved her deeply and understand the loss. There was a comfort in being in places that reminded me of her. It was so good to talk about her, about memories, about the things we miss. It was good to see Greg and the kids. It was good to let the guys hit the golf course while the girls and the kids spent many hours in the pool. It was nice to sit around the table with the 5 of us and share our hearts but also laugh about life. There was a comfort in being at Leigh Ann's moms house, a place that feels like home to me. It was nice to hug and love on friends and to be loved in return. So like I said it was a double edged sword!

Our first morning in Arizona we headed to Joe's Farm and Grill. It was one of Leigh Ann and Andra's favorite places to go for breakfast. It was also Andra's birthday so we got to celebrate!

The weather was perfect and the food was yummy! The kids seemed to pick up like long lost friends.

We then headed over to Leigh Ann's mom's house, better known to my kids as Grandma Peggy's house, for swimming and dinner. The kids love Grandma Peggy and in the pictures to follow you will see why! She has the best pool. It is like a resort and Shane would say that he gets lots of snacks at Grandma Peggy's.

Check out Grandma Peggy and Leigh Ann's sister, Reagan's master piece! What a cake. The kids thought it was the greatest!

It didn't take long for the kids to jump in the pool and turn into little fish. Andra had them singing songs with actions on the ledge. This was a round of "I'm A Little Tea Pot!"

Emma was also trying her hand at cheerleader tricks with Andra.

The kids loved waking up in the morning at Andra's house and heading out on the patio for breakfast. Andra and I enjoyed our time on the patio with coffee too. It was so nice to be together and sit face to face and talk. We often would jump up and realize we needed to get kids ready and be out the door in 30 minutes for Bible School. Greg's church was having VBS the week we were there so our kids all went with his. I so wish I would have gotten a picture of our little VBS gang in their red shirts. After VBS we would gather 8 kids in their red shirts and head over to Grammy Peggy's house for lunch and hours of fun in the pool!

Jeremy, Andra, Greg, Eric and I were able to spend most evenings hanging out for dinner. One evening we got away without kids and one evening we went out with all the kids. The pictures above were from a night we hung out at Jeremy and Andra's house. The kids all did their own hair and had a show for us. They had so much fun together.

The night we went out for dinner with the kids we were sitting on the patio with the gang at one of our favorite restaurants. Caden quickly became the entertainer and had the kids either giggling or mesmerized. He was going for round 2 this night. Look those kids watching so intently with smiles on their faces.

Alexa thinks Caden is the greatest. We think he is pretty great too. He is always so nice to Alexa even though she is a couple years younger than him. They seemed to pick up where they left off last year.

I am so thankful that Eric was able to take the week off and go to Arizona with us. It was nice to have him by my side with the unknowns of the road of grief. The kids also loved it because he would do things that moms could never do in the pool!

Malia and Emma all smiles!

The kids turned into fish. They were jumping off the board and swimming all over the pool! Even little Ava was all over jumping off the board. Look at her on the top left corner of the collage.

Caden taught Alexa how to jump off the rock waterfall!

A highlight at Grandma Peggy's house is always treats in the pool! One for each hand she says.

The slide is another of the kids favorites!

This is a picture of Leigh Ann's aunt, her mom, her sister Reagan and sister in law Robin. The weekend before we left we had Reagan's shower. She is expecting her first baby in July. I was so glad I could be there to share in celebrating this sweet little new life and the journey that this sweet couple is on. But once again it was a bittersweet day! A gift from God, new life and yet the sadness that it brings because Leigh Ann isn't here to share it with them.

The girls were excited they got to go to the baby shower too!

They were even more excited when they saw what Papa Larry had for them. He is an engineer so had saved boxes for them to make a house out of. I love this picture of Annika and Malia peeking out.

Papa Larry was helping them get their chimney on. What a great Papa!

Then the girls got to take a swing at the Pinnate. They were all squeals when the candy and play rings fell out.

Over the years when we would make a trip to Arizona we could usually be sure that Leigh Ann's dad would snag a picture of the 3 of us. This was a tough picture as now there are 2. Andra and I looked at each other and said "I guess it is time to start making new memories!" I wish new memories included our friend Leigh Ann but we are choosing to continue to walk the journey of life in all of its ups and downs. That is what life is, a journey! Sometimes it feels like you are standing still, sometimes you can keep the pace and sometimes you are just plain tired and need to be carried!

I am so thankful for Andra and our friendship. Sharing this tragedy has deepened and strengthened our relationship. We both considered Leigh Ann our best friend. We had different relationships with her, she filled different spaces in our life and hearts and yet we shared the very same thing. We loved her deeply and she loved us. I am so thankful that Andra and I can be open and honest with each other about the what Leigh Ann meant to us and how we are missing her on any given day. It is nice to know I don't need to filter what I am saying because Andra gets it. I love that we can share the depths of how we are missing our friend with each other and not feel like we are offending each other.


Andra said...

Hi friend, you have me in tears. ;) I love you, you captured the trip perfectly. I share your same sentiments and thoughts about our relationship, thank you for your transparency. You are dear to my heart. Our picture does scream Leigh's absence doesn't it? Yet,her fingerprints are all over us... Amazing...
I think I'll just post a link to your page, this is so beautifully written.
Coffee, tomorrow, my porch!

Andra said...

And that diving picture of Ava is hilarious!!!

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