Before She Died, She Went West

For my grandmother who I miss every day.


She wanted to see California.

The Pacific Ocean. Hollywood. Palm Trees.

But she didn’t fly. Maybe she was scared, but a woman like Claudine Jackson needed two feet planted on the ground. She still wanted to go.

This came as no surprise to anyone who heard about her plans or knew her strength.

No one with West Virginia in their blood backs down from a challenge. Shoes on your feet and a meal in your stomach means you don’t have any room to complain.

Her family got moving on a plan and realized there’s more than one-way to see the world.

Eight round-trip train tickets and eighteen pieces of luggage later, she was on her way from DC to LA.

Brothers and sisters. Mothers and daughters. Grandmothers and grandkids.

Bridges and tracks. Rivers and mountains. Cities and deserts. Laughter and tears.

A family with a bond, a dream come true, and a promise kept.

Her eyes saw the water that sparkled, the stars that lined the streets, the trees that reached to the sky. They saw the smile on her face and the twinkle in her eye.

She wanted to see California, but she saw so much more. Everyone saw so much more.

She saw that a family could help her dreams come true. She saw that her family would survive. She saw a family who truly loved spending time together.

It was everything she ever wanted and more.

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