I am on the last leg of my journey from CT to the lovely state of TN and back again. The last two days were spent driving through the hills and valleys of Tennessee and Virginia. Tonight I am in Maryland and tomorrow I will fly back home to New England. It has been a wonderful week and I am sharing some highlights with you of the moments that I am most thankful for.
I am thankful to be a Grandma now. That means I get to tuck all kinds of fun things into my bags when I travel to see Caleb.
I am thankful that this little guy is such a flexible and fun traveler. He had his moments, of course, but they were always followed by a big smile that would light up his face.
Our first stop in Nashville was Belle Meade Plantation. We had fun exploring the property and I enjoyed watching Rebecca in action with her camera. And Caleb.
I am thankful that Rebecca did such a good job chronicling our trip visually. I tend to get too caught up in the moment. And listening to the birds. And feeling the warm sun.
I didn’t know much about the Grand Ole Opry before this trip. And so I am glad we took a back stage tour and I learned a whole lot more about the history and tradition that exists with this institution.
I am thankful that Caleb was willing to let us take a quick picture of him in his cowboy hat. I am thankful for that little piece of hay that he was playing with during the torture.
Our next adventure took us to Centennial Park which was the site of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. This is the premier park in Nashville. The center piece is a replica of the Parthenon. It is huge. I am thankful for the old swing that Rebecca, Caleb, and I sat on for quite a while after our walk around the park. It was a beautiful morning and we soaked up the sun and beauty.
The true highlight of the trip was this moment. Abby and Lee’s wedding. A picture perfect evening. Their joy was infectious. At one point I became pretty teary. It always seems to be at the part of the ceremony where each person vows their faithfulness to one another “til death do us part”. I remembered the day when Mike and I took that vow. And here I am. But even though we have been parted by death, Mike remains a very large part of me. It is one of those things I have yet to figure out. I am not sure I will. Anyway, as I was thinking about all this, I noticed a large blue heron on the river. Right nearby was a white crane. Another quick reminder that God is taking care of me. (Matthew 6:26) It was an honor to be invited to witness this wedding and the start of a new life together for Abby and Lee!
Our final stop before leaving Nashville was to explore downtown. We walked by singing cowboys, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Johnny Cash Museum, Bridgestone Arena, Jack’s Bar-b-Que and many stores selling boots and hats. We ate lunch at Jack’s and it was truly an experience.
But of course in true Giannattasio/McCoy fashion, we could not leave town without stopping here:
We could not walk by “Mike’s Ice Cream” without going in. It is a hole in the wall place that serves ice cream and coffee. Mike would have loved it. They even served homemade coffee ice cream. Caleb clearly enjoyed his first taste of Grandpa Mike’s favorite flavor:
If you are reading this post for the first time, you may be wondering what this trip has to do with grief and hope. This is the hope part. I feel as though I have had a bit of a vacation from grief. Oh, I had moments. I was hit by a wave or two of tears over the course of our travels. I felt melancholy. I missed Mike. I was quiet. But I want you to know that there can still be joy amidst the sorrow.
Over the last week we visited many interesting places and spent time with some of our dearest friends. Even still, I am most thankful for the time I’ve had with these two:
Rebecca gave me hugs and reassurance when I most needed it. I am thankful for her wisdom, sensitivity, and care for me. I appreciate her laughter, flexibility, and hard work in loving and caring for Caleb. She is a faithful friend and she values relationships deeply. Caleb melts me with his eyes. He smiles with them. He has a funny little chuckle that he does when he is tickled with something. He is an observer who loves people. He is an entertainer who has a tender spot.
Grief is hard. And it is made so much more bearable when I am able to be with people who care; who are not afraid of my tears.
Thank you Abby and Lee. You gave me an opportunity to see beyond my grief for a time. And for that I am so very thankful.