“To shine your brightest light is to be who you truly are.” ―
I have always felt different and out of sorts in my life. As a child I swore for the longest time that I was adopted. I just felt out of place...I struggled and frankly still struggle to feel understood and accepted. I have also lived a lot of my life with regret and following someone else's rules.
My mom's extended family lives overseas in Netherlands and Belgium. I had a strained relationship with my maternal grandmother, Oma, to say the least. So when I was 12 and we visited Belgium and Netherlands to meet my mom's extended family and visit with them it was an amazing time. Some of the family would come to visit Canada and it was always special when they came and I was excited to grow up so I could visit overseas again. But that didn't happen for nearly 14 years because I followed someone else's rules.
In 2013 I had been planning and contemplating a trip around the world by myself. However, fate intervened and I met my husband. as luck would have it he was planning a trip home to England to see his parents and daughters. We decided to change our plans slightly and spend a month in Europe visiting his family and mine. My family in Belgium and Netherlands made arrangements for us to come and stay with them and look after us while we were there. In Netherlands it was Annie and Frank who jumped at the opportunity for us to stay with them for most of the trip. My mom said we were one of the first ones from the family who were going to stay with Annie and Frank so I was excited and nervous. I remember the day we arrived at their house after the drive from Belgium. Annie had cooked an amazing supper for us and the family that drove us from Belgium. After supper and the other family left we sat in their living room just talking - I don't even remember entirely what we were talking about but I do remember the feeling that for the first time in a very long time I felt understood and accepted. I felt loved. Annie was like a second mom from that moment on.
When we made the decision to go back to England in 2017 we also took my daughter, the monkey. While planning the trip we had a large discussion about the plan and itinerary for the trip because there were so many things we wanted to do in such a short period of time. We ultimately made the decision that Monkey and I would travel to Netherlands and Belgium and the husband would stay at home to visit with his family. Again we were fortunate enough to be able to stay with Annie and Frank and it was like being home again. Louise and Richard feel like a brother and sister to me. Our time with them was some of the best parts of our trip as we just were at home with them. We visited the market, Annie would cook of course and we would eat and play games. If you have ever been on a long trip away from your home - especially one with lots of unexpected adventures - you know how wonderful it came be to come home to your own home and bed. That's what it was like arriving at Annie and Franks I was home again.
Unfortunately, we got news last year that Annie was sick - she had cancer - pancreatic cancer. Annie fought long and hard over the last 18 months and at the start of the summer we were told it could be any day but she fought and enjoyed the summer with her family, children and grandchildren. Unfortunately we got a call last night from the family to let us know that she wasn't doing well and they were expecting her to pass at any time. We were able to video chat with Frank and say our goodbyes to Annie and as Frank said she was stubborn until the end.
Annie - I love you more than words can say and I will carry the memories of our time together, that was too short, for the rest of my life. You will always be an inspiration in my life.
Frank, Louise, Jowie, Richard, Chloe and Sam - I love you all more than words could say and I would give anything to be there with you right now. My heart breaks for you. The sky is a little brighter now that she is among the stars.