Epic Adventure Part 5 - A Sweet Sorrow

Now that we were in Washington, we had some serious exploring to do. We had a long list of places and people to share with the children. Fifteen years earlier, we'd done the same, and part of our hearts stayed nestled and now we were there to hug necks and share the beauty with the kids.

The day was perfectly glorious for a ferry ride from Seattle to Kingston. We went straight to Ivars for clam chowder in a bread bowl and chatted with strangers in line for the boat. Hannah was not impressed with the boat. She was sure we had left our van. While George and the kids traipsed around on dock, Hannah and I went below deck to see the van was safe and sound and wait with Ocala.

It was late in the day and we were headed toward Kingston. My heart and mind wrestled with the sweet sorrow that was ahead. We were driving towards a very dear place to my heart.

When George was teaching at a tiny school in Bremerton, Washington, he taught alongside Karen Hanson. George had told me about this mothering mentor and how she had taken him captive with love and meals and time with her family. Karen's daughter, Beth, was one of George's first students. The first time I met Karen, she immediately folded me under her mother hen wings. She literally shoved a latte in my hand and took me in like a daughter. The entire time George and I dated long distance, Karen served us with a place to stay and a place to be and meals. When I decided to move to Montana for a job, Karen led me to her dear friend Catherine. I lived with her while I was in Montana and stayed with Karen when I was in Washington. 

When George proposed to me, she and Jack were waiting with celebration and an offer for me to move to Washington to live with her family until we got married. So I did. I lived with Karen and Jack and Beth for several months while planning a wedding. Beth and I lived across the hall from each other. While she navigated high school, I navigated wedding plans. We both were terrible at high school and wedding planning and found great solace in chatting late into the night and in those months, we adopted each other as sisters. 

Karen always smiled, always had an adventure for us to find, and always had a latte for us. Karen basically made us stay in their house while I battled salmonella poisoning after a summer European adventure. We hiked through Montana with the Hansons. We hiked in Washington with the Hansons. We took the ferry into Seattle and ate Ethiopian food. Moving away from Washington was impossibly sad for many reasons, but Karen and Beth took up half that sadness. 

A few years after we left, Karen was diagnosed with cancer. She fought so bravely and for so long. All through those years, I was having children, so as soon as it was time to wean, I would buy a ticket to Washington to be with Karen. Then Jack called and said, "Come." And I flew to say good-bye and wept giant tears and grieved giant grief. And in those tears and grief I vowed to always keep Beth close to my heart and mind.

Another weaning trip (we have a lot of kids) I flew out for Beth and Jeff's wedding. Life and distance don't keep us close, but we always want to be near each other. Finally, in May, Beth brought Helena, their precious daughter to meet us in Florida, which led to us deciding it was time for our kids to know Washington and that sweet house in Kingston where Beth and Helena and Jeff now live. In the in between, we talk consistently and often. I always smile when I see a text from Beth, because I know the text is coming every single time. I'm convinced Karen is watching us all the time, whispering into our ears that I am here and Beth is there.

 And immediately upon landing at Beth's, I wanted to take a million pictures of our children and text them to Karen. It was painfully precious that I could not do this. Our daughters, Hannah and Helena love each other and they picked it up, just like Karen loved me the minute we met. Karen is always with me. Sometimes I am so sad that she didn't know my children and didn't get to sit on the beach and watch Hannah and Helena play, but I know she sees it and I know she is with me and I know she is with Beth. It doesn't make the pain less, I just know she delighted. I feel it. 


  1. Such a beautifully written description of your relationships. Tears of joy that you've loved so deeply and been loved so deeply; and tears of sadness due to the temporary separation that death brings. Thanks for sharing these friends with all of us via your writing.


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