So, here's the map "someone" delivered to our hotel room.
When we found the two trees that grow as one, three deer stepped from the woods! The Hippie seemed shocked as she whispered, "We went on a treasure hunt. Well, this is the real treasure." We watched those deer for a long time. Surprisingly, Doctor Jones and the Zombie Elf hushed--that alone was magical. Those kids are NEVER quiet.
After that, the kids found some prizes Cade and I hid the night before. I know the 'prizes' might sound dumb, but our kids were thrilled. We hid seven different items including a frisbee, silly teeth from the dollar store, water bottles for each of the kids, water and special flavors of Kool Aid packets. The treasures were each shown on the map with an X--how cliche, right?
We walked up the winding road to a Y intersection. A field rested ahead. It looked like nothing special from that angle . . .
I timed everything just right. We wouldn't see the path, not until the church bells rang twelve times. At that point, the kids would look back at the church. Then they'd see the "magical" path.
When all of that happened, they were so excited, they ran.
Vibrant butterflies flew around us. Flowers grew everywhere and I couldn't help laughing since some people say those gorgeous flowers are weeds. That reminded me of life. Sometimes we take the most beautiful things for granted.
Then the path, which only appeared at the perfect time, wrapped around a quaint Catholic church.
The second half is what I'll never forget.
We crossed two tiny bridges. The kids were the bravest heroes ever known, about to visit a haunted cemetery AND LIVE.
After a long time playing on the trail, we made it to the cemetery. The map instructed us to look for the most striking tree. The Hippie--that genius--found it right away. Cade and I had already hidden a box of Whoppers and a little excerpt from the Bible by the tree. It was about Adam and Eve--because they're awesome--they're our ancestors and a tree is in the story. When I finished reading about fruit, snakes and poor choices, the kids gazed at me and then the 'striking tree.'
It was so surreal. Playing with my kids. It might sound silly, but sitting among those graves of dead strangers, it reminded me of everything I've lost--of everything I've gained. Yeah, life isn't easy, but it's worth it, if you can push through the hard times, just to find the good ones around the corner.
"Why was something from the Bible here?" the Scribe asked, breaking my thoughts. "Aren't we on a hunt for treasure . . . like pirates? Aren't pirates kinda against readin' the Bible?"
To be honest, I hid the scripture because I felt like a sucky mother when my mom asked the kids who Mary was in the Bible. My kids had NO CLUE last week. The Hippie said Mary was a blind beggar Jesus healed. Really? REALLY? Yep, that's my fault.
Anyway, I was about to become an idiot and lie to the Scribe--right after reading the Bible. Then I noticed the Hippie's sparkling eyes.
"Isn't it obvious?" the Hippie said. "It was here, by the tree--in a hidden cemetery--because we just found the Tree of Life! We're the luckiest kids in the universe."
As the Zombie climbed onto a headstone, I was about to scream for him to get down, when a man on a mower drove into view and gave my zombie a
"Oh my gosh!" the Hippie squealed, oblivious. "I bet that man is the keeper of the cemetery. He promised to spend his whole life guarding this tree. Maybe he's even the one who gave us this map!" She grinned so big. "He might even be an angel."
That mowing man, he got so many compliments and all he did was give us a mean look. To think, we went looking for ghosts and instead we found a lawn-mowing angel . . with a mean face.
You can see the tree on the right. Yes, the Tree of Life is an aspen.
As we walked down the trail, the Scribe pulled me aside. "I love you, Mom. Thanks for all you do. That was so fun."
"What do you mean? I didn't do anything."
"What do you mean? I didn't do anything."
She winked at me. "I knew it was you the whole time, but that made it even better. We have parents who love us. We're lucky. Thank you."
I have to admit that as she ran ahead to help her siblings, I cried because it meant so much. My kids may not know everything about the Bible. They may have thought Mary was a blind beggar. They may think the Tree of Life is an aspen, but I'll tell you one thing, at least they know they're loved.
Moments like this make life worth it. I'll hold this memory dear. Forever and always. Because life is short.
P. S. If you'd like more information about Zeke, my son who passed away, please click here: