Our purpose for gathering was not pleasant, but something we knew we must do - to be there for a fellow Sister as she grieved for her son - her 16-month-old, unbelievably amazing and beautiful boy.
As I sat in my Southwest Airline seat, I played over in my mind how the next 24 hours would play out. I was "happy-sad," so said my Facebook status.
From the moment I laid my eyes on my dear friend, Amy Bennett, I felt at home. She ran over to me (with her broken, booted foot) and gave me the best hug - a huge heart hug that I'd been waiting for. Amy threw (literally) my bag in the back of her car, we hopped in and sped off to her house where she announced the margaritas were already flowing. It was then, I knew these truly were my Sisters :)
That evening, I met four more heart sisters - all amazing and inspirational women. We sat around a dining room table for hours chatting and laughing. We tried to keep the mood upbeat, knowing the next day would be extremely challenging for us all - a Celebration of Life for our fellow heart sister, Nicole DiCarlo's dear Travis.
The next morning, the breakfast table grew increasingly quiet as we knew the time grew near, to load up the car and drive to San Diego to support Nicole and remember Travis. I'd never met Nicole before that day; seemingly odd since the moment we embraced, I felt like I'd known her for years - and not just known her, knew what lies inside her heart and soul. "I love you" - the only words that left my mouth as we embraced.
As we walked into the room, we were met with hundreds of photographs of the DiCarlo family and Travis' big eyes and radiant smile.
The Celebration of Travis' Life was both beautiful and down-right frightening. As I stood in the back of the room (yes, Trav packed them in,) I couldn't help but wonder when I would be "the mom" needing support. I tried to push that thought out of my mind, but the thought was relentless. I listened intently as Travis' surgeon spoke - the only man who literally touched his heart. I listened as Travis' Nana, Sue's, words were spoken from a letter she'd written but couldn't speak herself. I listened to Nicole as she stood in front of hundreds of family and friends and spoke of her only son. I wondered where she found the strength to stand, let alone speak. But, the love inside the room was nearly palpable.
After the service, which ended with a photo and video tribute, everyone gathered for a balloon release. Guests scrolled messages to Travis in various colors and sent them into the blue skies.
I knew immediately what my message would be...
Bodie, Trav's buddy and fellow HLHS warrior, kissed his balloon before letting it fly. This sweet sentiment brought tears to my eyes.
And so, as we Celebrated Travis, we also celebrated ourselves. We are strong and amazing women. We acknowledge it. We take pride in it. We banded together last weekend, on that day, for Nicole. For Roger. For Travis. For ourselves.
What a gift these women are to my life. A Band of Sisters.
I am truly blessed to be a part of this family.