As our event season is coming to a close here at DCC, it’s far from over in our personal lives. All of us here at the office love the holiday season; it’s a special time of year to celebrate family and friendships.
We enjoy the parties, the events taking place in our city and of course, time spent out-of-the-office.
For me, that time away from the office is filled with the hustle and bustle of the season as I strive to create the perfect holiday for family and friends. Kurt and I have spent countless hours decorating our home to create a festive, warm and inviting place for all who visit. I dedicated a weekend to baking cookies, my Dad’s favorite persimmon bread pudding and my mom’s favorite coconut clusters and making a family recipe of European Plum Preserves to share with family and friends. And, I am thrilled to say that all of the gifts have been under the tree or shipped for everyone on our list.
In this beautiful season of family and friends, it is also a time of reflection. Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed the chance to look back at the year and remember special moments, adventures and the moments that we wish wouldn’t have happened, like losing a loved one. We all have years that it seems that life is a bit more challenging.
For me, 2017 was filled with many hardships and challenges … some of those carried into 2018.
In March of 2017, within hours of returning home from a beautiful ski trip, our beloved dog Cara was killed by a car in front of our property. She was an integral part of our lives & family, I was at a loss. What I didn’t know that night was that it was the beginning of a long road of heartache.
Days later, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. Words can’t describe my shock, sadness and complete despair watching the strongest man I know battle this vicious disease. For months, he endured chemo treatments, blood transfusions and various procedures in the fight for his life. I spent weeks at a time with him trying to be a support system for my family. I needed to be with them in South Carolina as much as they needed me there. My heart hurt every time I drove him to a treatment or for appointments. All I could do was pray and hope.
My Dad was diagnosed shortly before his 75th Birthday. Kurt was driving down to South Carolina to be with all of us and on that trip, he brought us all smiles with a sweet puppy that we named Hope. I actually wasn’t ready for a new puppy, I was still grieving Cara and overwhelmed by all of the developments with my Dad. But, he believed she would bring joy to our lives when we needed it most. I knew then that more than anything we needed hope for our family, that’s how I named her.
A couple months later, my grandmother (who at the time was 107-years-old) broke her hip and needed a partial hip replacement. As you can imagine, the doctors and medical teams were leery about operating on someone her age. What they didn’t know is that my grandmother is one of the most determined people you will ever meet! Thankfully, she came through the surgery healthy and thanks to the love and attention of my mother; my grandmother healed and was back on the move within weeks.
As my Dad was recovering from his last chemo treatment, my Mom learned that she had to have skin cancer surgery. It was the last thing my mom needed to handle, but she did it. And, during that time she continued to take care of my grandmother and Dad. She’s the hero in our family.
Then, we anxiously began the wait to hear the latest results from all of my Dad’s tests once his planned chemo treatments ended. Simply put, the tears I cried on August 9th, 2017 when I learned that he was in remission were those of incredible gratitude and thanks. He continues to be in remission and there isn’t one day that I take that for granted.
As the 2017 holiday season was upon us, I remember reflecting on the year that we were ending. I was grateful that we all found the strength to survive the hardships, for the blessings that came from those terrible times and that our small family would all be celebrating Christmas together. Without a doubt, I was looking forward to the start of a New Year and chapter.
Kurt and I celebrated the holiday season with friends and family. We returned home from Christmas in South Carolina on December 27th. On the drive home, I remember putting my list of to-dos together as we were hosting his children and grandchildren that upcoming weekend for a belated Christmas celebration. In typical fashion of the Type A personality that I am, I wanted everything to be perfect. I planned the menu making sure it consisted of their favorite foods. I planned to immediately start baking fresh holiday cookies and cakes. But most of all, we looked forward to their arrival, time to play in the snow with the little ones and watching them open their gifts.
Kurt and I got home that evening, ordered a pizza, enjoyed a glass of wine by the fireplace and opened our gifts to each other. We talked about our plans for the next day as he was heading back to the office after a few days off and I was meeting one of my dearest girlfriends for a holiday lunch.
The next morning, everything stopped. Kurt suffered a stroke, as he was getting ready to leave for the office. I had been in the kitchen making coffee and breakfast and our ever-faithful Hope was in the bathroom with him when it happened. I heard the thud of his fall and as I was running down the hallway, she met me halfway barking and circling me. The time waiting for ambulance seemed like forever, and once again all I could do was pray and hope.
We spent several days in the hospital surrounded by family who traveled from different states to be with us. All he wanted was to go home. He didn’t want to start 2018 in the hospital; he just wanted to be home. He did it! We knew the road ahead would be a long and challenging one as he had suffered a massive brain bleed as a result of the fall. But, once again I saw his determination and he fought hard to recover and heal. I’m not going to pretend that the beginning of 2018 wasn’t difficult, it was. Kurt had countless medical appointments and physical therapy. On top of that, it seemed we were getting pummeled with snow every week, which when you live on close to 60 acres requires hours on a tractor to move snow. I was diligent about keeping the long driveway cleared in fear of needing an ambulance and they would be able to quickly access the house. I was forced to juggle clients and meetings, but thankfully some long days and nights on the computer kept me from ever missing a deadline. I never wanted my team or clients to be negatively impacted. Thanks to an amazing team and caring clients, we all survived January!
Thankfully, Kurt recovered completely! I am always so appreciative when people see him at various functions or company events and tell me how great he looks! Others tell me they can’t believe it ever happened.
2018 was filled with so many incredible moments: our wedding in May, our Tahitian honeymoon, special moments visiting family and friends, celebrating my grandmother’s 109th birthday and creating more memories with those we love. Some of the best moments were the simple moments – golfing with my Dad, hikes with Hope, jet skiing with my nephew and taking Kurt’s grandson fishing.
The last couple of years have certainly reminded me that life is precious. I have a sign in our kitchen that says, “Start each day with a grateful heart.” It’s a friendly reminder and one of the truest statements I know.
We all have the tendency to get wrapped up in the to-do list and the desire to create the “perfect” holiday season, but in the end … what matters most are the moments that aren’t captured by an Instagram post. They are the simple moments: the conversations you share with a loved one, the memories you create as a family and the joy of making someone feel loved, appreciated and special.
As 2018 comes to a close, my wish for you is a holiday season of simple moments. Let’s all take the time to cherish these wintery days and count our blessings. My greatest gift on Christmas morning isn’t under a tree – it’s the family surrounding the tree.
On behalf of the DCC team, we wish you and your family a beautiful holiday season and the absolute best for 2019!