Anchored in Easter
By Kay Hollyday Filar
The year 2000 brought many milestones to our extended family. Son Travis graduated from college. Daughter Kaitlyn had her 16th birthday and my father his 75th. Sister Deb and her husband marked their 20th wedding anniversary; my husband and I, our 25th; and my parents, their 50th. We had so much to celebrate! But finding a time to do so with a dozen people living across three states was a challenge, and Dad was having health issues that prohibited him from traveling. So the gathering was postponed until Easter weekend of 2001.
Just before those three days in April, Dad had made the difficult decision not to begin dialysis for his failing kidneys. He had a myriad of other medical issues already affecting his quality of life and chose not to add a three-times-a-week, several-hour therapy with many side effects to the regimen. Dad worried about the toll that would take on Mom and decided he wanted to spend whatever time he had left enjoying life, eating what he loved and doing as much as he could. My sisters and I wanted to be sure our celebration helped to make that happen.
The group – our family of five, middle sister Joyce, and Deb’s family of four, who brought Mom and Dad as the guests of honor – assembled at my home in North Carolina. Our first meal together was a colorful array of Dad’s favorite foods: taste bud-blasting hickory-smoked steak, loaded baked potatoes and fresh produce like what he grew in the garden that took up most of our childhood backyard: crisp green beans, sweet yellow corn bathed in butter, juicy red tomatoes and luscious, orange cantaloupe. How often we three girls complained about having to weed, debug, pick, snap, cut, can and freeze those foods all summer long, but how wonderful to see Dad’s wide smile while he savored each bite as if he had grown it himself!
The next morning we awoke early to an unseasonably cool spring morning threatening rain. Nothing, however, was going to spoil the surprise that we had in store for Dad and Mom that day. Although our family had enjoyed motor boating and waterskiing on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River growing up, Dad’s real dream was to own a moto-cruiser and sail it on the Chesapeake Bay. Once again, his face lit up as we joined Captain Al and his first-mate for a three-hour cruise aboard a 35-foot sailboat on Lake Norman.
With Mom and Dad bundled against the brisk wind, we glided across the water, taking in the wildlife and our pilot’s wild life story as one of the first commercial sailors on the Southeast’s largest man-made lake. Everyone had a chance at the steering wheel and to assist with the sails and rigging as we plied through choppy waves and occasional drizzle. The highlight of the cruise was briefly stalling on a shoal between two small islands that Captain Al had somehow overlooked, causing just enough excitement to keep the attention of the teens aboard!
Once back on land, we headed to a nautically-themed restaurant at water’s edge. There Dad ate his fill of seafood, and Mom cried over the delicious cake covered in fresh coconut and fondant violets, the flowers she carried in their February wedding 51 years before. In between we toasted the many milestones we had reached the previous year and reminisced long into the evening.
Dad amazed his doctors by living another 10 months. Within two years of his passing, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and experienced the slow indignity of losing herself for the next seven years. Each of us left behind; however, is so grateful for the gift that we received through that special, life-giving Easter. Like the anchor that kept our sailboat secure in a windy cove, we created a perfect memory to anchor Mom and Dad forever in our hearts.
About this writer
- Kay Hollyday Filar recently retired, after 22 years as department assistant in chemistry and art for Davidson College. With her move to Pawleys Island, she looks forward to walking on the beach with her husband and dog, reading and writing more, and deepening relationships with family, new friends and God.
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