Monday, August 30, 2010

Mushroom in the Rain

I had an entirely different post in mind to share today after my hiatus from the blog. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned…in business, in art, in life.

When I was very young, my aunt, uncle, and cousins from Colorado came for a visit.

I was at an age where memories of it now play more like random snapshots of moments, rather than a true overview of what really occurred. The funny thing about childhood memories is that while we regard the details we remember as quirky and by chance, we grow to realize that they contain the most honest essence of whatever it is we are recollecting.

The snapshot in my mind from my Colorado family’s visit has always been this: My older cousin Colette hunkered down next to me on the floor of our living room. Sitting on the green shag carpeting, we huddled in close as she read one of my favorite books to me, “Mushroom in the Rain”; a story about various animals who squeeze underneath a mushroom to take shelter from the pouring rain. The animals continue to wonder how any more of them will be able to fit under the mushroom’s cover, until they discover the mushroom’s magical secret about the rain. I especially coveted this book because it was a library book, which meant it had to be returned, and I’d have to hunt it down again to read it in the near future. The image of sitting close to my cousin, admiring her natural warmth and beauty, sensing the bustle and buzz from the other family members, hearing the crack of the book’s spine, and smelling that library book smell as the book fell open hits me every time I think of Colette.

Last summer, Colette decided to make a trip back to see her family in Wisconsin for our wedding. We were thrilled to hear of her plans and especially more so since she had learned the previous year that she would have to battle breast cancer. News like that makes for longer and tighter hugs, and after not seeing her for years, our rehearsal dinner naturally turned into an all out hug fest! Months of highs and lows had us wondering how she would be feeling around dozens of relatives and a high-energy weekend. Looking beautiful in a black dress she boogied down on the dance floor with us, beating the cancer that night, not physically, but with her spirit, vibrant smile, and positive attitude.

That weekend, she pulled my three sisters and me aside to give us each a gift she had made for us. They were necklaces on which hung charms etched with the messages: “Love life. Live life.”, “Follow your heart.”, “Trust in your dreams.”, and “Be Free.” (see photos below). Despite a cancer that would only continue to grow and challenge her body, these were the messages she wanted to ensure remained with us.

This morning I received the news. Colette passed away yesterday morning. 38 years old. Surrounded by her husband and family, she was finally allowed to…be free.

Even though Colette was the one facing this aggressive disease, she was always one to see the glass half full, to give of her heart, and to demonstrate resilience. In a crazy irrational way, her battle with cancer caused our family to be inspired by her unwavering determination to live life fully, to appreciate every random mental snapshot, and to remember to cling tightly together and to shelter each other to weather the worst storms.

Do you know what happens to mushrooms in the rain? They grow.

They also cause whoever is gathered beneath them to stay close, be thankful, humble, and reflective until the sun shines again.

All photos from our wedding rehearsal dinner July 10, 2009. Pictured are my sisters, me (green dress), and cousin Colette (blue shirt & scarf).
Many thanks to A&A Photography for capturing these goes to the heart of why we take pictures at all.

Love and peace finally...xox


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