(Photo of Emma, Kelli, Jill, and Kate taken outside of their home in Bountiful, Utah. Two days before leaving for California.)
I stopped on my way to a wedding reception to see if there was anything else I could do to help. Mom had been there for days straight, among other things, trying to keep Kelli focused. I started on the task of cleaning out the fridge but my own focus was elsewhere. Kelli was putting on her best brave face but I could see under her tough exterior that her heart was heavy. As Jill and Emma arrived from saying last goodbyes to friends, I found myself looking intently at their features-Emma's thick, wavy hair and Jill's rosy little lips-and trying to imprint them on my mind so as to never forget the way they looked at that moment. Jill twirled so I could see how awesome her tulle skirt was and my throat started to close with emotion. How was I going to survive without regular doses of sunshine from that little girl?
I don't think for even one day I took for granted how lucky I was to have all of my siblings and their family living so close. And yet here I was wishing-really wishing-I had come up more often, had more sleepovers with her kids, more BBQs, more sister get-aways and just more chats on the porch. The road ahead of my sister was not going to be easy and knowing that none of us would be close by to offer a hand or a shoulder made this goodbye that much more heart wrenching. That said, we also know that there is much for Kelli to look forward to and plenty to celebrate and we wish we could be there to enjoy those moments together as well.
Because Kelli had such an aversion to being in the spotlight, she served others quietly, behind the scenes, almost hoping no one would notice. But not so. Everyone noticed. All felt the love and the strength Kelli provided. She has no idea how missed, and by how many, she will be.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself for keeping it together. I could feel the eyes of her girls focused intently on my face-checking for signs of emotion-needing reassurance that I, and they, were going to be okay. I wanted them to know how much faith I had in them and their mom in making the most of the adventure ahead. But as they skipped off for a farewell dinner with neighbors, I got in my car, closed the door, and sobbed. To pieces.
Then started planning my next trip to California.
Man, I miss you, Kel....