Megan’s priority in life was Shelby. The fact that it is so unlikely that a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer can even have a child naturally made Shelby that much more valuable to both of us. Her “peanut”, as we call her, completed Megan.
During her hospitalization, Megan and I had to have “the talk”. We knew the odds of her coming home, and we were smart enough to talk over her wishes should she not be around. Sure enough, her most important wish was for Shelby to be happy, healthy, and smart. We had also talked of me moving forward, and that she wouldn’t want me to be alone. Putting two and two together, I read this as her wishing me to be with someone that was good for Shelby.
Little did I know (and surely wasn’t looking for) that a few months after her passing, a few women would sit down beside me at Camp Widow. One of those women would move her life 1400 miles to be with me. It’s been a year since Sarah sat down at that table in the hotel bar and grille. There hasn’t been a single day we have not talked in some form since then.
We started out as friends. We were so inseparable that weekend that we were actually asked if we were brother and sister. We both knew then that it was something that neither of us wanted to hide from, and that we would be great friends, if nothing else.
Over the next month or so we had our good and bad days. We had triggers left and right. There was anxiety, grief, fear, and apprehension on both of our parts. As the friendship moved towards something more, Shelby became more of a prominent centerpiece. We had agreed that it would be best, given the distance, if Sarah and Shelby did not meet until September, when Sarah would be coming to Ohio so we could travel to Camp in Toronto together.
If you’ve followed our stories over the past year, you know that we obviously did not wait until September. By that time, Sarah was already making plans to move this way. Shelby had been to Texas, and spent a sizable amount of time talking to her on Skype prior to that. There was a huge part of me that wanted to avoid this. I was fearful that Shelby may begin to see Sarah as a threat, and I worried that dating a man with a child may be overwhelming for Sarah. Both of those fears were totally and completely unfounded, but I had them just the same.
One night, in the late summer, Shelby had said goodnight to Sarah on Skype, and let slip an “I love you”, and Sarah responded with the same. It was slightly awkward for both of them at that moment...even more so for me. Regardless, I melted. My daughter, Megan’s peanut, had just told another woman, one that lost her mother at almost the same age, that she loved her, and she meant it. As I tucked Shelby into bed, I asked her about it. She confirmed that she did love Sarah, and that she knew that she wasn’t her mom, but she loved her just the same.
We’ve observed countless signs and synchronicities through the last year. Stars, helicopters, animal totems, and even our first meeting after camp, where we went to a restaurant called “Drew’s”, and had a waitress named “Megan”. None of those signs has been more significant to me than Shelby and Sarah exchanging an “I love you”. How could Megan have NOT had her hands in this?
That sentiment hadn’t really been exchanged between them for quite awhile afterwards. It may have still been too awkward. Over the past few weeks or so though, it has reappeared in the form of “Olive Juice”
If you mouth the words “Olive Juice” into a mirror, it looks as if you’re saying “I love you”. Shelby has said this to Sarah now almost every time we say goodbye. It’s been one thing for Sarah and I to fall in love...it’s so much more important to see those two form a bond over the past year. Shelby means it, and so does Sarah. I am sitting on the sidelines, watching these two, and melting every time. Megan, wherever she is watching from, must be doing the same.
Shelby knows that Sarah is not, and will never be her mom. She knows that no matter the relationship, Megan is not going to be there through the years as she moves on to high school, meets boys, and becomes an adult. As she grows up, she’ll also begin to know that it hasn’t been just two people coming together, but rather five. I don’t know Drew, but I can only surmise that he is just as happy for Sarah as Megan is for Shelby and I.
And so here Sarah and I sit, one year after meeting each other. Every day still feels as new as it did a year ago, and even though Shelby doesn’t really say it, I believe it’s the same for her. We both still miss Megan dearly, but she has also learned that it’s OK to have love for someone else and miss her mother simultaneously.
And she’s expressing it through “Olive Juice”