At the time, we had already planned a family trip to Florida, so we invited Make-A-Wish to give us a special day on the water with our extended families—17 people in all. The foundation did just that: On a sunny morning in July 2015, we cruised the Gulf shore in a private boat, watching dolphins play and giving Hudson all our love and attention.  I have a vivid memory of the end of that boat ride that will never fade: Riding back to the marina, my husband Barrett held tightly to our son as I peeled off his soaking wet life jacket, swim shirt and trunks. Next to Barrett and his year-round golfer’s tan, Hudson looked like a china doll; but his perfectly pale skin was greasy from sunscreen and slightly pink from a day spent under the Florida sun. His thick, wavy hair was messy and windblown, and he thrilled at the sight of the ocean and sunshine, the feel of the wind as we raced over the water, the sound of his cousins laughing over the hum of the motor, and the feeling of being held in his father’s arms. He smiled the wide, crooked grin I love so much; the smile that only comes out when he is happiest.  After we got him undressed, my husband placed Hudson in my lap. He immediately turned his face toward me and opened his mouth as if he were trying to give me a kiss. I nuzzled his cheek and hot, happy tears rolled down my face. His day with Make A-Wish had been so perfect, and I desperately didn’t want it to end.  

Our Make-A-Wish experience was so much more than a vacation. It gave us peace. I never saw Hudson as full of life as he was on that day at sea. Gathering as a family to share his joy and celebrate his life was a priceless gift. The people surrounding Barrett and Hudson and me on the boat were the same people who held us on our worst days, and that day was our best day. It was as if we all knew, without saying a word, that that vacation would be the last we took together. 

As Hudson’s mother, I thought of that in almost every circumstance: This could be the last time we enjoy Christmas together, or that would be the last time we sing “Happy Birthday.”  The Make-a-Wish Foundation gave me a day, and it wasn’t even for me, but I will relive it forever in my mind. On that one day, we lived like any other family; together, happy and whole. Out of all the memories we packed into five short years, holding him in the ocean on that trip is by far our most beloved.