Day 177:

We left Florida yesterday and are back in NC for a few weeks. Our time in Florida was amazing. The last couple of days we visited Rainbow Springs which, in my opinion looks like heaven. The water is clear and you can see the bottom and the fish and other creatures so clearly. When the sun shines on the rippling water it makes rainbows on the white sand and rocks. So beautiful. The kids loved swimming there. We stayed at the state park campground and no one wanted to leave. It was so peaceful there. But we received some news while in Florida that is important and pushes us in a new direction.

Some of you know how hard these last three years have been after losing Cede. I won’t go into detail, but grief, depression, and panic attacks were taking over our lives. Leaving the life we had with Cede is all we knew to do because moving forward in the same life was impossible for us. Cede’s sister, Atalie, was especially affected and her dreams seemed to be pointless and unattainable to her after the death of her sister. I just want to share a little story about her with you.

I can remember so vividly taking a walk one afternoon with Atalie a few months before she turned five. We walked past a squished frog and Atalie asked if we could bring it inside and dissect it. I said no, so she got a stick and started identifying the frogs organs right there on the sidewalk. She knew what they looked like from a body atlas that her Aunt Jessica gave her. The atlas was as big as she was, but she carried it around and memorized it. Taking a break from the frog, she looked up at me that day and said “I’m going to be a doctor.” That became her dream and it never wavered.. until she lost her sister. She stopped dreaming and caring about anything. Then, one particularly horrible night I stayed up with her all night. She couldn’t sleep without having nightmares about her sister. She was sobbing and panicking. I grabbed the computer, desperate to find something to distract her or calm her down. I found a video of a little guy named Hudson playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with both hands on his keyboard. Hudson is the son of one of Cede’s oncology nurse practitioners. He was born while Cede was in the hospital. Just a few hours after Hudson was born his parents got the horrible news that he was blind. But that doesn’t stop Hudson. He lives life enthusiastically and has one of the best smiles I have ever seen. He smiles like Cede did, with everything in him, not based on his circumstances and you can’t help but smile when you see his smile. That night Atalie and I watched videos of Hudson until the sun came up. She stopped panicking. She was inspired by this little boy. She knows that Hudson will have to live his life making constant adjustments because he has no sight. And she connected with that because she will have to go through life the same way, always making adjustments because her sister, who should be here with her, is gone. But those things that some people look at as handicaps sometimes push people to greatness.

Last week we received the news that Atalie has been accepted to the University of New England’s Biological Sciences Program on scholarship. They have a neuroscience program there, which is what Atalie wants to go into. So we are moving to Maine so we can at least be in the same state that she is. After losing Cede my heart cannot take being so far away from her. Atalie has greatness in her, she always has. Now we get to watch it take shape. And we have a little boy named Hudson to thank for his example of tenacity and courage. I cannot wait to watch these two and the amazing things they accomplish. And I know that Cede is so proud.

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