June 2014, I got an email from Angie, Abbie's mom. She told me they were planning on visiting Southern California to celebrate what would have been Abbie's 8th birthday at the Happiest Place on Earth and felt like she was ready to meet us if we would make the trip that way. There was no doubt in my mind, I was going to make that trip happen. After the first of the new year, I began making plans to go, but keeping cautious. I knew this was going to be abundantly difficult for Angie, her husband and daughter. I kept in the back of my mind that they may change their mind, and I think I kept that small bout of hesitation up until the day we left for California. We spoke many times about the emotions and fear we were feeling anticipating meeting, how we predicted we might feel at the moment, and so many other emotions that truly have no description for someone who hasn't been in one of our 2 places. But the minute I knew this was going to be beautiful was when she told me her daughter Lillian, Abbie's big sister, was so excited to meet Gabriella.
March 19, the day after Abbie's birthday, we packed up our rental van and headed for a Spring Break trip like nothing else we would ever experience. I planned a few activities for us, like visiting the area we lived after Gabriella's transplant, heading to our favorite aquarium in Long Beach and a visit to Santa Monica Pier. And of course, some solid beach time for my water babies! But the day we got to our destination was a day reserved for our new family.
Gabriella, PJ and I walked into the lobby of the condo's they were staying at and before I even found an elevator, a sweet little girl with a face that felt like I had known her forever asked "do you know Angie?". My sweaty eyes grew huge and I immediately hugged her and said her name, Lillian. She was happy, shy, nervous... but I could feel my heart exploding in my chest knowing everything this precious young lady has been through and how she is one of my real life heroes. She guided us up the elevator to their condo, where we were greeted, for the (not so) first time, by a man and woman who instantly felt like family. A few minutes of settling nerves, hugs and little Laila being a bit overwhelmed, we all settled in with such ease. We talked about their trip to Disneyland, happenings of life and Abbie while Angie made us a delicious dinner. We went to the rooftop to watch fireworks from the park on a night that ended too quickly.
I was able to give them a gift that day. Over 5 years that I have attempted in weak English terms to express my
I noticed immediately, which carried through that night and later in the weekend when we met up again at the beach, that Gabriella and Lillian immediately clicked. Gabriella has friends, but despite her vibrant personality with people she knows, she is very reserved and quiet in settings like school and other social gatherings. With Lillian, it was something special, unique. They were truly 'Sisters By Heart'. I cannot help but believe in the miracle of cellular memory and the connection between souls being a real living thing. I know Lillian felt close to Abbie, knowing that her heart was beating strong within Gabriella. And I know Gabriella had no understanding as to why, but that her heart felt drawn to Lillian. The heart is a physical muscle, but one would be a failure at trying to convince me that it is not an emotional existence as well. I saw before my own eyes what power the heart has, physically when it saved Gabriellas life and supernaturally as these two (not so) strangers connected like sisters in a matter of minutes.
And one of the most beautiful things I think anyone has told me was a sweet message I received from Angie after our trip: "I have to tell you meeting you guys somehow makes me feel closer with Abbie. I still miss her dearly and my heart aches, but I think some the edges of the wound are not as sharp."
I love you all, my new family!!! I cherish the time we got, and look forward to the next time we can get together!!!!