Born for adventure: a tribute to my mom

Mother’s Day is a difficult day for me. My mom died when I was nineteen, and was sick for many years leading up to that. Sometimes on Mother’s Day, I’ll go to the beach and think about her and try to recall as many memories as I can. Sometimes I’ll go out for a drink and raise a glass in her name. Yesterday, I worked and it helped to keep me busy. But I still took some time to think about my mom and look through some old photos.

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My favorite stories of her are the ones about how she was adventurous, fearless, fun, and spontaneous. And I know that she exposed my sister and I to adventures at an early age. I think my love for adventure, travel, and independence comes from a mix of things. Genetics must play a role in it somehow. I believe everyone is born with at least a part of what makes up their personality. The rest was instilled in me by my parents. Both of them are/were adventure lovers. But I’d like to focus on my mom right now, and write her this tribute to keep the memory of her alive and share how grateful I am that she was exactly who she was.

My mom and I didn’t have everything in common or the same personality. She loved to cook and sew, neither of which I enjoy. She saw a lot of things in black or white–it was either great or horrible! I feel that I’m more laid back than she was. But she was more fearless.

On the other hand, we were similar in many ways–as nurturing animal lovers, studiers of life science, and enjoyers of the thrill of riding on a motorcycle. We both lived abroad in Spanish speaking countries.

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In the early 80s, she lived in Puerto Rico

By the way, I love that she saved her Puerto Rican driver’s license. I totally get it. There’s something badass about having a driver’s license in another language or from another country. My Spanish driver’s license is still good, and I’m very proud to have earned it.

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But the very fact that my mom even survived to have so many adventures is a miracle. She had leukemia when she was six years old, and was part of a clinical trial for treatment. She was the only patient to survive.

 

Appreciating the outdoors

My mom loved having fun, socializing, being with family, and getting outside. And none of that stopped when she had my sister and I. My parents just took us along with them. We didn’t travel much internationally when I was young, but we did get to explore around the US a bunch. I think we appreciated the areas where we lived.

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My first hike

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Hiking and camping was a big part of my childhood, or at least I remember it that way. Even though my sister and I would complain about hiking sometimes, I did really enjoy the time with my parents and being outside.

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Feeling legit with the hiking sticks
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Hiking in Guatemala this year
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My sister and I, with our family dog in front
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We found a tortoise!

 

Becoming a “water bug”

We were very lucky to have two family friends who owned boats–one with a sailboat and one with a powerboat. I grew up loving the water and swimming.

My mom grew up in Maryland, eating blue crabs often. Below we’re getting ready to eat some (I’ve got a bottle of “Old Bay” seasoning in my hands). My mom helped me to be an adventurous eater, too!

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On the sailboat with my sister, our family friend, and our poor dog with “Minnie Mouse” ears
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On the powerboat with family friends

 

The importance of living your best life

My mom didn’t just sit on the sidelines and watch us have fun. She joined in! Even after she was diagnosed with cancer, she fought to stay active.

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My mom having a blast at the pumpkin patch
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Paddleboating at a lake in New York with our family dog. She was so sad to see us leave shore that we had to go back and pick her up. 
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My parents tubing
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Scuba diving

My mom did that scuba dive against medical recommendations. Yes, that was a risky decision. But if she had not have taken those risks, she would have missed out on a lot of things that she wanted to do. Scuba diving was on her “bucket list”.

 

A true animal lover

My mom owned a horse when she was growing up and participated in horseback riding competitions. She was a true animal lover and passed that passion on to me. I truly believe that’s a big reason why I have such a love for animals and am working with them today.

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My first horseback ride
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I still love horses
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My mom encouraged me to not be afraid of animals
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Checking out the goats
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Now I work with wolves!

 

Don’t wait

My mom learned from a young age that life is fleeting. There’s no time to sit around and wait for something good to happen. You have to get out there and enjoy your life. Take the risk to follow your passion. And take the time to foster relationships with friends and family.

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My mom showing me how to use a water gun
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My parents and family friends at a Jimmy Buffet concert
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Toughing it out at the first rained out Rose Day Parade in 50 years

Before my mom passed away, she went on a few international trips to check off her bucket list. Those included Paris and Zurich, Switzerland.

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My parents in Paris
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My dad, Peg, and I in Paris 14 years later

 

I don’t believe in fate, or that “everything happens for a reason” because I refuse to believe that my mom died because she should have. Her death is a loss that has created a void that I’ll never be able to fill. There is so much I want to say to her and I wish I could talk to her about. I will not have her around for when I get married or have children of my own. But what I do have are memories of her, and a fire inside me to keep living life to the fullest while I’m still here. I’m inspired to go to new places that she would have wanted to visit, try new foods that she wasn’t able to try, and love as hard as I can.

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