• Jessica Stough

BLOG POST #50! - Adventuring Close to Home - Lake Red Rock & a Heavenly Birthday Wish for Mom

“May I say something to you to give you a true knowledge of yourself and life? Man in the full knowledge of himself is a superb and supreme creature of creation. When man becomes possessor of the knowledge of himself, he becomes the master of his environment. I don't feel pain anymore. Guess what, baby? I feel free. Nothin' hurts me anymore. Guess what, baby? I feel free.” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Freeee Ghost Town Pt. 2


I went back and forth for an embarrassingly long time, debating whether or not to write this particular blog post. I also went back and forth trying to figure out exactly what I would write if I did move forward with it. The blog, I kept telling myself, is all about travel and adventure. People don’t want to read anything else, and they especially don't want to read about anything super deep.


A little bit of vulnerability always goes well with travel and adventure, though, right? Two peas in a pod, macaroni to cheese, laces to sneakers, frosting to a cupcake, or something to that extent?


Well, my mom and I were unfortunately none of those perfect pairs. Our relationship was pretty strained – but it hadn’t always been that way. Before she and my dad divorced, I remember her always being the absolute best mom, and we were really close.

I remember coming home from kindergarten and telling her all about my day, asking her opinion of the new friends I had made. I remember the time when I wanted to curl her hair with a comb, and I curled it so tightly that dad had to spend what felt like hours unknotting it. I even vividly remember her approach to handling my brother and me when we would get into fights – sit on the couch next to each other, put our arms around each other, and listen to oldies music until we would forgive each other.


When I got to high school, though, things started to shift. Long story short, she remarried, re-divorced, and our relationship changed. We would talk on the phone sporadically, and I would sometimes see her at work or when she was watching my niece and nephew.


Years went by with that sporadic and choppy relationship, but we continued to talk and see each other for birthdays, holidays, and other important dates. We continued to chat on the phone here and there as well. It wasn’t until Zac and my first trip out of the country that I got a phone call from her that would completely change everything.

 

We decided to meet for coffee to see each other in person, both to celebrate my belated birthday and because she mentioned she had some news for me. I brought tons of pictures from our trip to Greece to share with her, and I was actually so excited to tell her all about what it was like to visit another country. She had never been outside of the U.S. to my knowledge, and I wanted her to be able to experience a sliver of that through our pictures and stories.


What I didn’t expect, though, was that her news for me was that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She talked through everything she knew with me – what kind of cancer it was, what was expected for her future, and even that she waited to let me know until after vacation because she didn’t want to ruin our trip.


We sat there – sipping our coffee, looking through my pictures of our trip to Greece – with an added heaviness to the air. Shortly after, I went with her to her first chemo appointment. I sat with her in a hospital room for hours as she got her first treatment, and all she could tell me was how happy she was that I was there. As time went on, and her treatments continued, we stayed more in touch than we had for most of my teenage and adult years.


It wasn’t long into her treatments that she was transferred to hospice. The day I received the call that they had transferred her, I told my boss the news with wide eyes, sharing, “I don’t know what to do.” She looked at me, gave me a hug, and said, “Go see her.”


I picked up my things, drove to hospice, and spent that evening with my mom. The next day, she had gotten to the point where she wasn’t even able to acknowledge that we were there with her, and shortly after, we had to say goodbye.


Today is her Heavenly birthday. Although a bit uncomfortable to share the story, I wanted to do something special for her birthday and for my fiftieth blog post – and couldn’t think of any better way than to celebrate the two things together. Plus, nothing good ever comes from the comfort zone, right? I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think the fact that I felt the need to share this story has a reason behind it too (even if I don't know the reason yet, and even if it is scary as hell to share).

 

For my birthday, about a month ago, I wanted to get my second travel inspired tattoo. When I called to schedule an appointment, though, they had told me the first opening they had was April 12th. Although not exactly on Mom’s birthday, it felt like another one of those things that happen for a reason – to do it in honor of her birthday. She was always so free-spirited, I know that she would’ve loved the idea, and that if she were still here, she would even love the idea of going with me to get her own.


I decided to get a tattoo of one of my absolute favorite quotes – not all who wander are lost. The more I thought about the tattoo, and the appointment scheduled so close to her birthday, the more I thought about just how much that quote means. It means I have a love of travel, and it also means that I plan to continue to wander. It means that my wandering is necessary, a way to stay grounded. The saying itself is the heart of this blog. I also like to think, though, that it means my relationship with mom may have wandered, but it was still never lost.

 

I wouldn’t be me and this wouldn’t be Wandering to Get Lost if I didn’t share some travel or adventure ideas, though. I remember Mom telling me about a time in her life when she was really struggling. She made her way out to the Cordova Tower and prayed to God for a sign. She said in that moment, she looked up and saw an eagle fly overhead, then looked down to see a beautiful bird below.


In honor of Mom’s Heavenly birthday, and her excitement over that interaction with nature I'll never forget, I am sharing a list of some places that make it easy to become one with nature, all near her old stomping grounds:


  1. Cordova Observation Tower | Red Rock Area

  2. Karr Trail

  3. Elk Rock East Loop

  4. Elk Rock West Loop

  5. Elk Rock Perimeter Loop

  6. North Overlook Campground to Fifield Recreation Area

  7. Lake Red Rock South Trail

  8. Volksweg Trail

  9. Marion County Park Campground

  10. Cedar Bluffs


Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom. I hope you have had the absolute best day, celebrating with all of the eagles you can count and beautiful birds you want to watch – and that you are even surrounded by endless apple trees because I remember how much you loved apple decor.

I know you were never a huge fan of pictures, so I don't have a ton. Here's a throwback of us from when I was really little, and my mischief was written all over my face. Finally, nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking or secondhand smoke (Source: Smoking and Cancer | CDC ). I want to share a few resources for anyone who may need them, in regards to lung cancer, quitting smoking, and even losing loved ones:



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