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Mother's Day Past & Present

Mothers Day weekend, 2017. In anticipation of his upcoming Transpacific sailing voyage, Brian competed in a three-day sailing race from Astoria, OR to Victoria, British Columbia. My mom flew in from San Diego for the weekend, and we took the kids up to Canada to celebrate Brian's finish in the race and to celebrate Mother’s Day together. We had a really nice Mother’s Day brunch, but my darling husband was distracted with race stuff most of the day and early in the afternoon, the kids, my mom and I boarded the ferry back to the States, and Brian boarded Stay Gold for the sail home. It wasn’t a terrible Mother’s Day, but it certainly wasn’t typical of Brian who tended to go above and beyond to make me feel special for most holidays. He knew he hadn’t made me a priority that day and his entire sailing trip home he was texting me that he felt terrible and vowed to make it up to me the following Mother’s Day.

Mother’s day weekend, 2018. We’ve moved to Oahu, Izzy is three, Hudson is one and I’m six months pregnant with our rainbow baby, Adeline. Brian tells me to pack a bag for the weekend, that he has a surprise planned. He LOVED surprising me with stuff, but was actually really terrible at it and I almost always figured out the surprise prior to the actual reveal of it. I didn’t this time though. Our family of four (and a half) piled into our black Subaru and Brian drove us through the winding H2 highway as we made our way to the North Shore. Fifty-five minutes later we were driving past the town of Haleiwa to our left, and the familiar sunshine smoothie shack to our right and I knew where we were headed. Brian and I had celebrated anniversaries here together, we’d treated ourselves to date nights, gotten “glowy” on overpriced pool-side pina coladas, acted like children while giggling and going down the waterslide, and watched the incredible sunsets from the lounge chairs - we were headed to Turtle Bay. A few minutes later, Brian signaled the blinker and we pulled down the familiar street leading to the resort. I smiled.. he really had pulled off the secret and I wasn’t expecting it. We’d only ever stayed in the regular hotel rooms here (the resort is situated so that every room has a view of the ocean – there are literally no “bad” views here) but he didn’t pull into the typical valet spot we normally did, instead circling around to the VIP section. I looked at him and raised my eyebrows as if to say, “wait, what??” and he just laughed. Twenty minutes later, our personal room steward for the weekend was delivering POG juice for the kids, and putting lei’s around each of our necks – since I was pregnant, he left mine mine open to symbolize an easy and safe birth – and we were settling into our ridiculously boujee ocean front villa that Brian had gifted us for the weekend. We spent the rest of the day playing in the pool with the kids, I took photos and videos of Brian going down the waterslide with Hudson, and then throwing Izzy in the air and dunking her under the water, we ordered more pina-colada’s (this time non-alcoholic) while Brian treated himself to mojitos and then we eventually made our way back to the villa, exhausted but unbelievably happy. The next morning, Mother’s Day, we woke up, and the kids and Brian excitedly gave me the presents they’d purchased and made for me. Izzy had gone to San Diego with Brian only a few weeks earlier on a daddy/daughter trip and she had made a wooden box with sea shells glued to it and a photo of her and Brian hugging on the side. She’d also helped my mom pick out a blue anchor nightgown and matching slippah’s and Brian had a HUGE bouquet of birds of paradise -my favorite flower- delivered to the room. It was such an incredible morning and I was so thankful and happy to be a mom to Izzy and Hudson, with such a supportive and amazing partner to raise them with. Brian had also bought tickets for us all to be a part of the Aloha Mother’s Day brunch at the resort, so we got dressed, packed our bags to be able to check out after the brunch and made our way to the main building. We indulged on fresh pineapple and every vegetarian option they had available.. it was an incredible spread. We ate as much as could fit in our bellies and made our way outside to wait for our car. “Let’s take a quick photo!” Brian suggested, as we waited in front of the Turtle Bay sign, the ocean in the background. My belly was full – both of breakfast and of baby – so I sat on the ledge and perched Izzy next to me, Brian on my right with Hudson and baby bear in his own lap. 1.2.3. Aloha! We all smiled at the camera, Izzy throwing up a perfect shaka at the last minute.

This was the last family photo ever taken of us.

Brian died exactly one week later, and while I have a few more photos of him taken over the course of that week, none of them depict the faces, the feeling, the family, shown in this photo taken on Mother’s Day morning, 2018 in front of Turtle Bay resort. Brian really went above and beyond this day, to make me feel loved and appreciated and to show me how much he loved me and this family of ours.

I’ve taken the kids back to Turtle Bay since, and we’ve taken new family photos in this exact spot, and I’ve sat on that ledge with all three kids now in my lap, Izzy and Hudson who are now five and three, and Adeline who never got to meet her dad. This is “our” spot, and it makes me even more grateful to have these kids, to have a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day, to push myself to be a great example to them, and to raise them to know the man who their dad was. The kind of man who would surprise us with a weekend trip to Turtle Bay and insist on a family photo in front of the sign – a photo I will now cherish for the rest of my life. Mother’s Day is a reason to celebrate, but for me, it’s also a reason to mourn. It’s a complicated set of emotions, that only get more complicated as the week goes on and I count down the last days and memories we made together this week.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there, especially to the ones doing it alone – I know it’s hard, and I know you have days you cry alone in your closet, or car, or pantry.. whatever “your” space is – I hear you and I feel you. You’re amazing and your kids are lucky to have you as a role model of how to push through hard times. And to my own mom, to my mother-in-law, to my sister-in-laws, and to my best girl friends – especially you, Kase & NeeNee, who have stepped up to help me raise my kids, I’m so unbelievably grateful to each of you, I truly couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do this without you guys. Happy Mother’s Day to us. Xo




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Lessons of turning tragedy into triumph 

from a military widow

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