Happiness is Not a Destination

Dear Ruby,

On “the worst day,” a social worker came into our hospital room to talk to us about loss, grief, and what to expect in the coming days. Despite her best intentions, I only heard half of what she said. When she finished, she asked if we had any questions.

Your Daddy simply said: “What do you think about us picking up and moving to Montana?” I can almost guarantee she has never been asked that question before. She responded politely by saying, “I suggest you give it a year before you make any big decisions like that.”

For whatever reason, Montana was a Field of Dreams-like magnet for Daddy. He had never been there. In 9 years, I had never even heard him express interest in going. But in the blaring quiet of our hospital room, in a moment of pure helplessness, he wanted to go.

He needed to go. And so, we went.

We decided to make an adventure out of it. IMG_1298Over the next few months, we planned a special road trip – 8 states in 8 days: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. We would kick it off in Vegas, have lunch in Park City, UT, line dance in Jackson Hole, admire the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, stay in a cabin in Montana, enjoy a day on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, sleep in Washington, go to a concert and eat our way through Portland, explore Crater Lake, hike in Redwood National Park and end the trip with a visit to Berkeley, CA to see Uncle Jeff & Aunt Pickles.

Unlike Cabo, this trip wasn’t about escaping. It was about feeling closer to you. As usual, you didn’t disappoint.

  • In Montana, the sky lit up bright red as the sun set behind the mountains.
  • Enroute to Idaho, we came across a billboard ad for an Inn that read, “Ruby welcomes you to Missoula!”

  • In Washington, we stayed in Hotel Ruby, a completely renovated, modern motel for $85/night that showcased contemporary local art and had quaint bar attached.
  • In Oregon, we drank Ruby Ale at a Ray Lamontagne concert, came across Ruby Spa, and found Ruby Jewel ice cream and Ruby wine at a delicatessen.

Perhaps the most eerily wonderful moment was just outside of Portland, after we hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls. Daddy and I were sitting on rocks along the stream that fed into the falls. All of a sudden, a leaf fell onto the stream from a tree above. On it, a single drop of water. It sat there for a second before it started floating downstream. Your Daddy and I looked at each other as if to say, “Did you just see that too?”

Before you, this wouldn’t have meant anything to us. That day though, it took us right back to Labor & Delivery Room 302. Leaf One of the few times your Daddy left the room, he noticed a picture of a fallen leaf with a teardrop on it taped onto the outside of our door. We learned later that hospitals use this image to inform nurses and doctors that the people behind the door have suffered a loss. In doing some more research about the symbolism, I found that “the leaf with the teardrop reflects both intense suffering of loss and hope for the future. Though fallen, the leaf maintains its vitality, symbolizing hope. It cradles the teardrop with its upturned edges creating a sense of comfort.”

That afternoon at the Falls marked three months (to the day) since we lost you. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and yet, it also feels like an eternity. Seeing that leaf reminded us of our suffering, but more so, reignited our hope.

It became clear very early on that this adventure was not about Montana. Nor was it about any of the other destinations. Our favorite moments happened on the journey in between.

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Multnomah Falls

We’d listen to music and audiobooks, talk about you and our plans for the future, make each other laugh all while admiring the vastness of this country. We felt so small. The country, the world, the planet, the universe was so big and we were playing such a small role in its story. It was a perspective that only hours of “nothingness” on the open road could offer.

If nothing else, it was proven to us that this journey [life], is all about the ride. There’s no end point, no destination where we’ll find happiness. We need to find it along the way. On the road it was effortless; we were seeing your name everywhere we went. I wish I could bottle up those moments and open them now that we’ve returned home. I wish I could have bottled up the happiness I felt throughout my pregnancy so I could savor it every time I miss you. Some days will be easier than others, but we’ll get there.

I heard this quote by Kotzker Rebbe in one of the books we listened to on the road:

“There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.”

When we lost you, Ruby, I didn’t know how or when we were going to find happiness again. My heart was shattered. In many ways, it still is, but the process of putting it back together again has shown me love, compassion, kindness and friendship like I’ve never known before. There will always be a piece missing for you, but I’m working hard to feel whole again.

I miss you everyday and love you more than you know,
Mom

 

Ruby Sunset in Montana

Ruby Sunset in Montana

 

Cowboy bar in Jackson

Cowboy bar in Jackson

 

Ice Cream in Portland

Ice Cream in Portland


 

Paddleboating in Idaho

Paddleboating in Idaho


 

Climbing trees in Redwood National Park

Climbing trees in Redwood National Park


 

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Grand Teton National Park