The Greatest Adventure

Gena with family

The Greatest Adventure

It’s just after sunrise on a frigid Saturday morning. New York sits under an oppressively deep freeze. The single digit temperatures seem in conflict with the too blue sky seen out my bedroom window. As though the snow covered ground and the frost in the air mock a sun with no apparent heat to offer. It’s only a few days after New Years and while my coffee cools on the bedside table, I wanted to tell you about an adventure. A journey.

I love traveling. I love being a little nervous. Landing in a foreign place and finding my way. It’s a little ridiculous how satisfying I find it to negotiate the public transit of Hong Kong. Or finding the right local bus leaving Mexico City for the ruins of Teotihuacán. Swimming through a menu without a word of English. Street signs and landmarks. Local customs and cuisine. And, of course, following the clues left by my grandparents as I track down the location of their pictures to see it with my own eyes. Walk it with my own feet. Touch it with my own hands. And then record it with a photo. I love it all. But that’s not the sort of journey I’m talking about.

Now, it has been almost four months since my last trip for this blog, and I’ll be getting back to that real soon. But I wanted to take a minute to discuss a different sort of adventure. An adventure of life. An adventure of love and family. Several months back, my partner’s mother, the amazing Gena Turner, took a turn for the worse in her protracted two-decade-plus battle with cancer. Fearing being out of the country and far from Mark at this time, I ceased all travel. Excepting the 8 trips I’ve taken to Pittsburgh in the last 3 months to be with Gena and Mark. Mark had relocated to care for his momma.

Over the last few months I watched a son care for a mother, a friend. I watched a daughter loving her mother, while helping her own 9-year-old daughter through the maze of confusion brought on by a sick family member. I watched so great a cloud of witnesses (Diane, Susie, Theresa, Karen, etc) gather to love and care for a woman who devoted most of her life to caring for others. I saw devotion and patience. Love. A love given for no more reward than that of returning love received. I once heard the phrase, “God’s love only comes to us on its way to someone else.” Never has that been clearer than those weeks gathered around a hospital bed. Those late nights sleeping on a hard hospital floor. Or sitting up in case water was needed or an oxygen mask slipped from its place.

That was the adventure I had. I witnessed. The adventure of family. Of love. Of friendship. Of the greatest gift we have to offer. That of time and attention. I had the profound blessing of witnessing Mark and his sister Angie lovingly care for the woman who gave them life. And then gently let her go. This woman: a fierce supporter of her children; a lover of her community, even being named Pittsburgh volunteer of the year; a passionate advocate for animals; and a fearless warrior against her cancer.

After 24 years of surgeries and treatments, ups and downs, Gena stepped from this life on December 6th. But she didn’t lose her battle. I watched her bravely fight. But I also watched her bravely stop fighting. It had never occurred to me before. There is required a profound amount of courage and will to step into the ring with cancer. But it requires just as much courage, if not more, to step out. A sort of beautiful grace. A depth of understanding and faith.

I am so profoundly grateful.

So, in a short while I expect I’ll be back on the road, or in the air I guess. Got some places I wanna see yet. But I thought this was a journey worth sharing first. Because there will never be a greater adventure than the one that is sitting across the table from you. Or across the house. Or across town.

Your friends.

Your family.

This is everything.

Love you!

Journey Home

or…Journey to Bruges.


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  • Maritza says:

    Beautifully written, and so powerful! There is nothing that can touch you and effect you more than the comfort and joy you feel around loved ones. I’m sure Ms. Turner thrived in it.

  • amber says:

    Your words are So truly amazing Chris. And you my friend are so truly amazing. Thank you for loving Mark, Angie, Adena, & Aunt Gena so much. This was powerful and deep. Much love to you my friend ♥

  • Michelle Glidewell Kearney says:

    Beautiful post! She sounded like a wonderful lady…I am so sorry for yalls loss. This post definitely resonated with me as my family is walking through our own valley at this time.

  • Christine says:

    A thrilling, terrifying, awesome (truly awe-some) experience. You, Mark, and I are some of the lucky people to have mothers who are heroes, and I am reminded of this by your incredible piece, Chris. I am going to grab my mother, squeeze a little harder, and tell her how much I love her today because you’ve reminded me how precious and fleeting and beautiful life is. I love you, and I’m grateful for being able to have met Gena. I know she lives on in Mark.

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