I am sitting next to my son, Taylor, officially a senior as of yesterday. Yesterday was the opening chapel of the new school year at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. His sister, Kyla, had entered the chapel first, along with her 9th grade advisory. They both passed through the doors of the Upper School chapel where their mom’s celebration of life occurred 22 months earlier (Maureen passed on 10.21.2014 after an on and off 11 year battle with breast cancer). I stood in the back, along with many other senior parents, to be sure we got “that picture,” that picture we will cherish for a lifetime, that picture of our little ones growing up, pivoting into adulthood.
Taylor and I are sitting on a Southwest flight to Memphis, and I am looking forward to the week ahead and not just because we will be participating in the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter annual work project with Habitat for Humanity. I’m looking forward to spending time with my son. In a year, this part of Team Powdered Donut, the first child of the Thompson family, Taylor, will be walking back through these same doors of the Upper School chapel, heading out, not in. Heading into his future.
I’ve also been looking forward to this trip, because it comes at an important time in my own life. A few weeks ago I woke up and realized that this is no longer just one more day since Maureen’s passing, but it is indeed the first day of my new life. It is an interesting moment in the grieving journey, because it forces you to acknowledge a new identity, yours. For just over 27 years, my identity was shaped by my love for Maureen, by our marriage, and for the past 17 years, by our children, Taylor, Kyla and Katelyn. I know Maureen is still with us, because as we drove up Auger Lane to head out of our neighborhood for the airport this morning, there was a rainbow right in front of us. Rainbows, like the lyrics to music, are Maureen’s way of reaching out to us, letting us know that her part of heaven is intersecting with ours back here on earth.
It is not surprising that heaven and earth would be intersecting now, because Taylor and I are on a journey of love. Not only is tomorrow the 21st, powdered donut day, but it is the start of the Carter work project. While we are in Memphis, we are privileged to be guests of Habitat for Humanity International and are looking forward to meeting the former President and First Lady. I am looking forward to working side by side with my son, as we work on our first Habitat house together outside of Austin. On powdered donut day last month, July 21, I launched a new site, Team Powdered Donut. It not only tells the story of the donut. It tells the story of how each of the kids and I are living into our new identities, identities shaped by our love for Maureen and her love for us.
As I have written frequently in my I Have Been Provoked series, my personal, professional, and philanthropic work is driven by my passion to change the fight with cancer in any way I can. However, the powdered donut does not have only one meaning, just like love does not have only one meaning. Love is neither big or small. Love is love, and love is always enough. That is the beauty of the powdered donut. Taylor expresses his love through his passion for architecture, a similar passion to his mom’s, just like his passion for Habitat for Humanity, a story told in more detail at Team Powdered Donut. We are sitting together on our flight, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what he has done. He has loved. And when you love, love has this ability to do just about anything. The Austin Habitat for Humanity house Taylor built in memory of his mom was the result of love, his and that of many, many others who contributed not only financially but as volunteers out at the build site each Saturday. Some of those volunteers included Taylor’s classmates, who also walked through the doors of the Upper School chapel to thunderous applause as the class of 2017 was recognized.
Just like Taylor will walk back out through those doors in a little under a year into his new future, he, his sisters and I walked out those same doors almost 22 months ago into our new future, walking behind Maureen’s casket, as we walked into the sunshine, singing You are My Sunshine, the song she had sung to her kids each and every morning. And, that is the funny thing about rainbows, because they come at the edge between storms and sunshine. You need both storms and sunshine to unlock the light. It is the prism of love that shows forth the beauty of a rainbow, and it is the prism of love that leads Team Powdered Donut forward. To Memphis. And beyond.