Oh, where do I begin? A few weeks back, Rick mentioned we'd be taking a trip. At some point he mentioned it was a "surprise," and all he could share with us was we were headed to Minneapolis for the MEA break from school. (Thursday, Oct, 15th)
So a few days before we were supposed to pack for our 3.5 hour ride in the car, we started asking more questions. What were we doing? Where, exactly, were we going?
Rick simply said, pack for 4 days, casual attire, and just know you'll have lots to do and you'll have a great time.
If living with cancer has taught me anything? Its this- sometimes, you just do, whatever is in front of you, with little thought about why.
So I packed. We packed.
Then Thursday morning we hopped in the car.
And then like every. other. trip. Rick had to make 1 quick stop before we got on the highway. He had to drop off a picture for a woman who was at work in Fargo.
Sigh... so classic for Rick. We didn't even blink.
As he pulled into a loading zone, he ran into the building.
And we sat.
To go to the cities.
Rick soon came back to the car and said this "Vicky, the woman working inside is a fan of your blog, and would like to meet you- all of you. Could you come inside?"
"Of course," I say, as I glance at my watch and think about our need to get on the road.
So we all go inside the beautiful building.
She greets us all with the biggest smile. Have we been to the Fargo Jet Center before?
No, we haven't.
We walk around and take it all in.
We walk around and take it all in.
She then casually points at the plane sitting outside getting ready for departure.
She turns to Colton, "So if you could fly anywhere, where would you like to go?"
Colton stammers, "Ahhh, Miami?"
Then he points to me- "mom would go someplace warm."
We all laugh.
Then the woman, smiles and says,
"So how about Pittsburgh, PA? Any Penguins fans here? How would you all like to go to Pittsburgh today, and watch the Penguins play tonight?"
Suddenly, I'm searching her face... my mind is in such shock... is she for real?
"Are you saying, all of us, are going today?' I ask?
And then she points, to the plane, waiting just outside, and says "Yes! Right now!"
And I lose it. I just lose it. Tears burst from my eyes, as I lean over, and then I see Nolan... who has literally fallen to his knees and is also in tears. "Really? REALLY?"
Rick is misty-eyed, the woman is wiping tears, and suddenly we're all shaking with excitement! And hugging, and shaking our heads. Is this real?
And then we sit, and try to wrap our brains around this crazy, awesome, mind-blowing, surprise. Then Rick snaps a quick picture.
We're offered a tour around the hangars, and it suddenly occurs to me, we're waiting for someone.
A short while later, Jeff, Sherri, and their son, Ben walk through the door. When Ben's eyes see us, and then the plane behind the windows, the surprise takes over his face too! Ben is related to Matt Cullen. Bridget and Matt have planned this whole surprise for all of us!
Ben thought he was in Fargo to help his parents get supplies... we all just keep shaking our heads in pure awe and wonderment.
Best. Surprise. Ever!
Suddenly, the pilot is greeting each one of us, and it's time to go!
That is sheer excitement on Nolan's face- and probably Ben's too.
And that is, the "tummy tickle," Colton experiences as we take off. We haven't flown in a plane since the boys were very little!
A quick refueling stop in Milwaukee, and some time to explore the plane.
Ben with his mom, Sherri.
We flew at 42.000 feet! The views were spectacular and I couldn't stop taking pictures. We all loved that everyone got a "window," seat as well as an "aisle" seat. It was literally the smoothest flight I've ever experienced. It was still all so surreal. But the expressions on our faces are real and very telling.
Just a little over 2 hours later, and we were in Pittsburgh, with taxis waiting to take us to our hotel. We had just a few hours before the Pittsburgh Penguins would play against the Ottawa Senators.
Our hotel, was right across the street from the ice arena.
Could we be any luckier? I don't think my smile left my face in over 4 days.
Going to an NHL game is a pretty special treat. But when you get to see someone from your home town, play? And you enjoy the experience with his family and yours? It doesn't get any better than this.
#7- our Matt Cullen.
#87 Sidney Crosby (Ben and Nolan had been to Shattuck St. Mary's for summer camp, where Sidney had gone to school for a year.)
#29 Marc-André Fleury. (Colton has always loved watching him play.)
While the boys and I sat in the seats, Rick got a press pass to shoot photos at ice level, for the Fargo Forum. (Will post a link when his pictures get published.)
I think it's really great to be a fan of a player, like Matt Cullen. He has all the talent, skill, and hard work, put together to make him the phenomenal player that he is... but more importantly to me? I'm a fan of what a great person he is, inside, as well as outside of hockey. Plus...
he picked her. Bridget, is the one who dreamt this dream, that was far bigger than I could have ever imagined, for our little family. And then she pieced it all together- seamlessly- flawlessly. Every last detail, covered.
And if you think the "story" of our adventure can't get any bigger? Yep, you'd be wrong.
On our last night in Pittsburgh, Nolan and Ben hadn't been able to cross paths with Sidney Crosby. So we were gathering to go to the car with Bridget, when Sidney walked past us. And Bridget, knew exactly what to tell our boys... Run! Catch him! Go! And they did- down through the halls, around the corners, faster and faster we all went, until, Sidney slowed, and turned around.
"Are you the boys from Minni?" And I'm struck by how thick his Canadian accent shines through. The boys do a good job of carrying on a conversation with him, while clearly being awestruck the whole time.
It was a shining moment that had very little to do with anything we did. It was just meant to be. We've all been learning how to live in surrender, to the havoc that having cancer can wreak on your life, but sometimes that surrender means you're open to all the things that come your way- the shining moments of light, that help carry you through the dark.
We couldn't have hung out with a better group of people. Sherri, and Jeff, with Jeff and Janna.
All too soon, it was time to head back to Minnesota.
I'm still not sure any of us have wrapped our heads around all that happened to us.
The one little gem I garnered, and was able to share with Matt and Bridget was this- when you live with cancer its a 24-7 reality. We had just talked about this in our group, Fourward. How do you ever escape centering your life around cancer? I've lived with it for 4 and 1/2 years, and its a heavy burden to carry. So the biggest gift they gave to me? To my family? Was a break from cancer. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, we all got a reprieve from our life of hard and gritty. As far down as cancer can take me at times, this hockey trip moved me in glorious and profound ways , in such an uplifting manner. I lived my moments- a whole string of them- more fully than I have been able to in a long time!
We're overflowing with gratitude, for what two people did so generously for us. We could say thank you a million times over, and it wouldn't begin to touch how grateful we continue to be.
These beautiful flowers are from my Uncle Bill and Aunt Carol, and my Aunt Marlene, in honor of my mom. They were on the altar of their church on Sunday, because Mom would have turned 80 today!
I kept saying to Rick, on our trip, I just want to call mom and tell her! I have no doubt, she was with us, but I still miss her. I can only wonder what shenanigans she would have attempted today- with a twinkle in her eye- always.