Yes, the snow has fluttered to the ground on more than one occasion since we arrived in Colorado…but that is to be expected. As an example of a typical day in Colorado this time of year – I’ll have my cup of coffee at 6am when the temp is a cool 28 degrees, by lunch I’m in a T-shirt enjoying seventy degrees and sunshine. Then dinner rolls around and I’ve put my jacket on as I make my way from dinner with friends at a local restaurant to the car dodging snowflakes the size of fifty-cent pieces.

But let’s talk about something other than the weather. Dan and I have been on the go since we arrived the night of March 9th. We have had family time with my stepdaughter, Shannon, her husband, Brandon, and two of their three little ones, Ember and Kaidence. I smiled as I heard Kaidence excitedly ask as I walked in the door, “Are they here yet?” Her grandpa is her favorite person, but her love for me is easily felt with the hugs and smiles she gives me when I lift her into my arms. We’ve stayed busy with potty training (the two-year-old, not Dan…hehehe). There was grass seed to lay, and time spent babysitting to fill our days. Dan has done his normal puttering to keep busy when he wasn’t helping in the house. He’s never without something to do, much like myself, but I didn’t hesitate to leave the yard work to him as we prepared for Kaidence’s 3rd birthday party. All-in-all it has been good. Our time with Shannon, Brandon, and the kids has been filled with good laughs, busy dinners, and, as always, great private stepmom/stepdaughter conversations while we pamper ourselves with pedicures.

Dan and I have used our “grown-ups only” time wisely. We’ve done dinner and a movie (Game Night…so good). We have had lunches with friends. Dinners with other friends. We attended a birthday party for a friend’s son who turned sixteen. Earlier that same day, we were with little Kaidence at her third birthday party as the yard filled with fans of the bouncy house and their parents who have grown up before my eyes. We enjoyed an evening of dessert and great conversations with more friends. We even had an opportunity to have dinner with our nephew from Michigan because he was on a job assignment near Brighton, Colorado. All of these events were filled with fun moments of getting caught up since our last visit, sharing plans for future travels, and simply enjoying each others company. We spent Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday at our old church, Crosstimbers. I consider Crosstimbers my “home church” because when I’m inside those walls, I am with my second family. I am drawn to Pastor Russ’s every word. I feel the combined love of God in every song we sing together, and love for each other in every hug from friends I have missed since my last visit. The community built in Crosstimbers is like no other I’ve experienced. For that reason, I’ll always visit my “home church” family. I’ll hold onto all these memories I’ve made on this trip with my friends and family. We still have a few days to go, but we want to thank everyone who made time to see us, break bread with us, and shared stories with us…we love you all.

It has been a whirlwind of fun, but life sometimes tosses those lemons at you…and bam…it gets you right in the center of your heart. That day, March 28th, came when I got a call from my baby brother, Bill, asking if I was sitting down. Never a good start to a conversation. He informed me that my Aunt Elajean had passed away an hour before. I leaned back in my chair and felt the sting of heartbreak hit. Not just because she was my aunt (technically step-aunt) who had been in my life since I was eleven, but because of the great lady she was to everyone around her. I spent time as a teenager babysitting her younger kids when needed. Their farm was a place of safe comfort for me, so I’d use any excuse to visit them in Kirkland. Aunt Elajean and Uncle Don had eight kids, almost matching our eleven. If you couldn’t find someone to play with you on their farm you simply were not looking hard enough. Over the years I lost touch with most of them, but through Facebook many of us reconnected. Even Aunt Elajean was on Facebook, so reconnecting with her was a bonus. We could talk about my childhood, and enjoy sharing memories of the farm, my Uncle Don (funniest man around), and my stepdad (Elajean’s brother) for hours.

Elajean gave me insight into life from her vantage point. One day she began asking questions about my mom. Their lives were so different she never had a chance to really get to know her before she passed away in the early 70’s. I recently told Aunt Elajean how much I appreciated her caring enough about my mom to ask and understand. I loved Aunt Elajean’s kind heart, her witty humor, her adventurous ways, and her love for God. I appreciate that she became a fan of my books and told me she enjoyed them, and not just because I was her niece. Before Dan and I went on the road she and I planned a visit. I told her I would be over earlier than planned and I hoped she didn’t mind. She told me no, it would give us more time and she loved to hear my stories. That was Aunt Elajean…always happy to hear about anything you had to tell her. Her unselfish heart made everyone that knew her love her even more. Dan and I have a lot of friends our generation and younger, but also of the generation above ours. I’ve rarely walked away from a conversation with someone older without learning something. My older friends have helped teach me to listen, to learn, and to understand life. Even at eighty-eight, Aunt Elajean was young, because her spirit was young. Unfortunately, the frailty of the body sometimes can’t keep up with the spirit and mind, and though her mind was quicker than most her body could no longer keep up. I won’t be in town for her service, but she and I talked about it enough to know she would be okay with my absence. I know she’s smiling down on all of us because she is home with the Lord, and that is a blessing and something we can all take comfort in knowing. I have no doubt she is still watching, listening…and perhaps even reading. R.I.P. Aunt Elajean…you will always be loved and remembered.

I’ll wrap up this travel blog by reminding all of us to enjoy your time with others, old friends and new. Don’t let an old argument or misunderstanding stop you from picking up that phone. There will always be roads less traveled, and some traveled far too much. There will be good days, bad days, rainy, snowing, and sunny days…but it’s the days when we are sitting quietly and someone comes to mind making us smile that really count. It’s those memories that give us hope that no matter where we are in the world, someone out there in the universe loves us.