I've only made a couple of threads so far in 2019, and I've been a lot less active than I have been in past year. Life gets in the way. But I felt it an appropriate time to tell a story about when I was growing up. I went to a very small school from age 12 until I graduated high school and started college. It was a public school, low budget, little blue building nestled in the middle of nowhere in the Carolina mountains. The high school was 200 kids, and the elementary and middle schools (ages 4-12) were another 200. My mom, who passed from cancer a few years back, was the fifth grade teacher. Not a, the. The only one, that's how small this place was. I started there in sixth grade, so I never had the privilege of having her as my teacher. But she was incredible. And I feel bad for those other kids who only got to have her for one year, because she taught me so much for 26 years. High school was a strange time of growth and acceptance for me. When I started, I was a nerdy, hideous looking 14-year old who was underweight and lacked many social skills. By the time I graduated four years later, I was the first two-time student government president, was dating the most popular girl in school (who is now my wife), got along with virtually everyone, and had a nice list of accolades. Through all of these changes, I would always ride into school with Mom early in the morning, and ride home with her after the day was over. It was 15 minutes twice a day where we could just chat. Most of it was meaningless, but looking back I am so glad that I had that time. I owe a lot to that small school in the middle of nowhere. But my greatest experience from those days was something I wasn't even there to witness. Mom was diagnosed in mid 2008. The day that they dropped me off for college she had a mammogram, and the next day I got a very rough phone call that they found cancer. A lot of it. At the time, I had no idea what "Stage 4 Triple Negative" meant. I do recall doing a ton of teary-eyed research immediately after and seeing a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent. They gave mom six months to a year to live, and I was two hours away at college without the means to travel back and forth. I remember thinking to myself "Why her?" To this day, I still ask this. She walked right past that six month mark, and then the year mark. Here is a post I made in a short thread in August 2016: She died a month after I wrote that, missing my sister's wedding by one week. But the adventures she got to take, and the experiences she got to live through in those eight years... Ten years ago last week was early spring in 2009. I was in college. My wife was a senior at that school. My sister was a sophomore. Everyone at that place loved Mom, both as a teacher and as a person. The messages and phone calls and letters I received with condolences when they learned of her diagnosis were overwhelming and emotional. And if there was one thing that tiny little low budget school knew how to do well, it was come together. Mom walked into the gym one morning thinking she was going to an assembly about not driving drunk or something to that effect. Imagine her surprise to walk in to see every single student and teacher covering up both sides of the bleachers, and all of them wearing pink with messages of support for Mom's fight. From what I was retold, it was like something out of a movie, where the whole place bands together for a cause. Except it was real. There was a good hour and a half of people passing a microphone around telling Mom how much she meant to them. My Dad was there, and he was almost able to get a full sentence out before he broke down. Everyone wore their pink shirts all day that day, custom made with messages that all said "We Love You". The local newspaper picked it up, and she was a headline. The ten year anniversary of that event last week got a nice memorial blurb. A piece of it read: "...in a supportive effort to remind her that she is not alone in her fight against breast cancer." And she really wasn't. I will never forget her happiness that weekend when I went home as she told me all about it. And that Friday evening she realized she forgot a stack of papers she had to grade, so I drove her to that small blue building and we had our very last on-the-way chat. We talked about life and mortality. She told me she was proud of me, and as I parked the car in our driveway after coming home she said "You've done great, John. I'm so glad I was around for it all." Spring 2009 was nine months post-diagnosis, so in her head, she surely thought time was closing in. Fast forward through another seven and a half wonderful years of ups and downs and turmoil and absolute adventure. Mom is on a hospital bed, finally coming to terms with this actually being it. It was her 53rd birthday, and she was adamant that she wanted to get through the day. That night she become unresponsive save for some hand squeezes. We spent the whole next day with our extended family at bedside. Eventually, we each got a chance to say goodbye. The last thing I said to her was "You've done great, Mom. I'm so glad I was around for it all." She was wearing her pink shirt they gave her that day that said "We Love You". And we sure did. She passed that night, and ever since I have had this massive piece missing from my heart. But so many of the best moments of her life, and of my life, can be attributed to that tiny, poor little school in the mountains. The place where I never thought I would fit in. The place I grew up in. And the place that, no matter where I end up, I will always refer to as home.