Ashlyn volunteers at the hospital where my mom works. She is a regular there, her friends generally other volunteers, 60 years or so her senior. If you were to walk into the lunchroom when she is sitting with her fellow volunteers, she would glare at you as most teenagers do when you shout “I love you” from your minivan window at school drop off.
There are very few employes left who have not met her or had the chance to return the smile she wears when walking the halls. She knows many of my mom’s coworkers far better than I ever will. They love her spirit, she loves their company.
Not long ago a dear friend and coworker of my mom’s retired. Soon after her retirement she was diagnosed with cancer and tomorrow she will begin an aggressive round of treatment.
Over the weekend this sweet woman found out that we had been searching for airfare to California. Ashlyn will be 18 this summer (18!) and I would love to travel with her like we used to when it was just the two of us and visit her uncle who moved to San Francisco last year.
My mom and my daughter’s friend, offered her years of frequent flyer miles. She wouldn’t be using them, she explained, with the treatments and her prognosis. Nothing would make her happier.
I am not in the habit of taking. Saying yes to this gift feels strange, but necessary.
Ashlyn has worked hard, so hard, to just be. To be three then ten then 14 and every age in between them all until now. To know she warmed the heart of someone enough for them to offer such a generous gift seems so full circle to me I’m not sure I can even put it into words.
When Ashlyn was diagnosed with autism, the medical research told me that she may not express emotion or show affection or love back as much as she is loved.
She jumped up and down at my side as I searched for flights tonight and came back to my room twice to tell me she loved me before bed and if I tiptoe in there right now she’s probably smiling in her sleep.
My daughter and one of the amazing friends she has met along the way, are sending us off to celebrate the end of her childhood.
A trip we will never forget, because of how we got there.
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