Wandering 50 National Parks: A grieving mother’s journey

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The National Park system in America is known around the world for its stunning beauty and diverse landscapes.  In fact, the granddaddy of the National Parks, the Grand Canyon celebrates its 100 year birthday this year.  But go into any National Park and you will find a reason to wander and linger and savor every beautiful moment.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

This travel blog has always had the theme of “slow travel” – taking the time to really immerse yourself and soak in the culture, sights, sounds and smells of your new surroundings. I’ve shared my experiences and a few tips for those who have a yearning to travel with the intent of savoring every God-given moment so that you can take home vivid memories rather than just souvenirs from countless tourist attractions.

“Expect the unexpected and listen to your heart” is my travel mantra. That, and “Not all who wander are lost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Biking Acadia National Park in Maine

But sometimes wandering takes us places that we never imagined.

Separation from loved ones is always heartbreaking, especially saying goodbye to your only child.  This is the time of year when kids are going off to college and parents are saying those bittersweet goodbyes.  But this story is not about those kinds of farewells.

My friend, Gil and her husband Fred, endured the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking of sorrows when they said goodbye to their only child, a beautiful daughter, who endured a long fight with Neuroendocrine Cancer that eventually took her life –  a life too short at barely 21 years old.  Her parents were there – caring, loving, nursing her until she passed in their arms.

How do you get over a loss like that?  Simple answer:  You don’t.  You take one heavy step at a time.  And for Gil, an avid runner, that took on a new meaning when she came up with the idea to run 50 American National Parks – a dream that was hatched between her and Anna in the months before Anna’s death.

Yosemite National Park, California

I won’t go into depth about her journey or her story – you can read about that here and see some beautiful photos on her website:  www.nationalparkmom.com.

Also a video about her quest to bring awareness to this rare form of cancer :  https://youtu.be/1yec2Cgx8n4

Gil ready to run in Utah

In posting this blog, I wanted to bring awareness to the this sneaky, elusive and devastating type of cancer, but most of all to honor Anna and her family.  They are carrying on in her spirit of strength and courage.   They are wandering through the unknown territory of grief, lingering on memories and learning all over again how to savor each moment with loved ones.  They are the embodiment of their daughter’s strong and courageous spirit.

Anna Rose Schaenzle

Anna’s song continues to ring loud and clear, soaring in the heavenlies, alive in the hearts and souls of those who loved her.





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