I am Emmet Hardy
a family member of someone we've lost to ALS
In that moment, I cannot put into words how proud of her I was, and how proud of everything that we achieved as a team. She always found a way to show me what true happiness, positivity, acceptance and gratefulness look like.
There are so many memories with my amazing mother that I hold so dear and true to my heart; but I would say that our week-long trip to California would have to take the cake. It all started about a month before our departure date, when my mom finally realized she would have to soon give up driving for the safety of herself and others. She had always loved driving previous to this, but her fine motor muscles were no longer able to handle the daunting task of operating a full size SUV. (Our Honda CRV Pearl, we had some amazing times in that ride!)
This would be a hard fact to accept for any avid driver, so we came up with a perfect plan to ease into this new sense of normalcy. We would take a month-long trip to the west coast and join a large group of travelers on a pre-arranged trip; “Adventures by Disney.” I am truly so thankful we made this decision; as it turned into one of the best and most memorable weeks of our lives.
It all started with a crazy day-long trip across the country, which consisted of loading my mom into isle chairs, people watching, and being more inappropriate than you can imagine while we were hanging in the airport and planes (she really made the most of idle time). When we arrived in California, the nervousness of traveling quickly dissipated and she was back to her free-spirit self in no time.
Our first stop on the tour was Yosemite. I didn’t know it was possible to experience this much in just 3 days, but this was by far our favorite. We went for 3-4 mile long hike s(with my mom bouncing along in her mechanical wheelchair smiling the whole way), rode mules and horses through the mountains, had so much amazing food it was hard to keep track of, and so much more. From the tame deer that would come up and eat out of your hand, to the amazing landmarks and works of Ansel Adams that we saw, to all the great friends we made along the way; this part of the trip really did leave an impression on us that will last forever.
After our 3 day nature adventure, we were off to San Francisco for 2 days to see the sites and for my mom to reconnect with our cousin that we had not seen in about 5 years. We were lucky enough to have accommodations at the Sir Francis Drake hotel downtown. We had an amazing skyline view and truly felt as if we were in the lap of luxury! To this day, one of my fondest memories is her sitting reclined in her wheelchair at that large bay window looking over San Fran, with the sun beaming down on her and true bliss written all over her expression. In that moment, I cannot put into words how proud of her I was, and how proud of everything that we achieved as a team. She always found a way to show me what true happiness, positivity, acceptance and gratefulness look like.
I got to see another example of this that night! We arrived to my cousins doorstep to discover that she lived at the top of a 25 and 10 stair double flight. My mom gave a look as if there was no obstacle in front of her, and calmly let my brother Brendan and I hoist her onto our shoulders as she struggled to breathe the whole way up. When we arrived at the top and she caught her breath, all the worry instantly left her face and was replaced by a giant grin. We had a wonderful evening that night, which culminated in reminiscing old stories on my cousin’s rooftop while we watched the 4th of July fireworks light up the San Francisco Bay.
After biking the Golden Gate Bridge the next morning, we headed off to our final destination: a remote resort located deep in the northern California forest! This portion of our trip was spent mainly relaxing and enjoying nature, but was a much needed unwind after our crazy week. We left the west coast chalk-full of memories (and laughter and also sunburn).
I cannot express how grateful I am that we took this trip, as it brought us even closer together as a family, along with shining a light on my mother’s strength and determination. I remember that long drive home and looking after window at the road after Brendan took over for his turn. The overwhelming thought was: this woman is so much stronger than I ever could or will be. She taught us so many lessons about the true meaning of life; as she always had a graceful way of doing. Especially after seeing her deal with this trip with such grace; she truly was the epitome of not letting her disability define her, as well as being a beacon for hope and acceptance to everyone. I love you so much mom, and will be forever grateful for times like these. Keep flying high. 🙂