I first wrote this back in 2006 when we were on a cross-country family trip. After a friend told me it was her very favorite thing that I’d written, I had to go looking for it so I could drag it out again. After all these years, this experience still reminds me of the importance of leaving a legacy that is meaningful and true.
September 28, 2006 – Maybe it is because I have a lot of kids, but I found it easy to relate to the parents in the videos today when we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I was often moved to tears, and my sentiments and thoughts were just as often interrupted by my younger children who had no concept of what we were doing in this place.
I wasn’t sure how I should even feel about them being there. I did not want them to be disrespectful to the memories of those who were killed in the attack (on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995), and they did not understand why everyone was so solemn. They sometimes ran over and were exuberant at buttons they could push. Other times, they were whiny and fussy that they couldn’t do what they wanted.
We kept them in line as much as we could – Bella, at 6, is old enough to understand some of what she was seeing. I was frustrated that I could not spend more time focused on the information that was presented. I wanted to give each of the victims a moment of my time, to honor their memory in some small way.
I tried to block out the bickering. It is wearing after a while. I tried to look at it in a different perspective. For the parents who lost their children – children who would be about the age of my Alex and Alyona right now – I tried to imagine what they would trade for a chance to see them today.
Toward the end of the memorial, there is a room where there is a picture of each person who died in the attack on the Murrah Federal Building. Most pictures have a small object that the family of the victim selected. One child has a pacifier, another a favorite toy. One adult had a work ID, some had Bibles or plaques with favorite verses, others had sports items or stuffed animals.
It got me to thinking: If I had to pick something to represent my life, my passion, what would that one thing be? And if my family had to choose, what would they choose as the one object that defined who I am?
Postscript: In the past two years, our family has changed dramatically. Soon after welcoming our youngest son who was born with Down syndrome, we drastically downsized our lives, selling or giving away most of what we owned. We loaded up what we needed and set out on another cross country adventure. In 2006, we’d driven to Godfrey, IL and back to California. This time, we were leaving California with a broad destination: We were heading East for an indeterminate amount of time. All that we held dear was family, and we planned to see the country and spend quality time together. It was an incredible journey, and our lives are forever changed.
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