It’s been four months since my father passed. My first visit home since then is for his celebration of life.

There are almost 100 guests coming to an afternoon event in my mother’s backyard garden. My sisters, mother and I have been preparing for months.

It’s a Cape Cod-themed event, complete with mini lobster rolls. My parents spent their honeymoon on the Cape and 20 years of their retired life. It was “their place” that brought them tranquility and joy.

I came back home a few days early to help with preparations. We cleared the patio, washed the pollen from the windows and made sure the landscaping was as perfect as nature would have it.

In the afternoon, we shared with each other what we planned to wear. My mother showed me her new blouse. It was a lovely cornflower blue, perfect with her silver-white hair.

I said an ocean-blue-and-green beach-glass necklace would be the perfect accompaniment and fit with the Cape Cod theme. My mother thought she knew just the place to find one.

As we were casually exploring the merchandise inside the store, I realized it had been years since my mother and I had “pleasure shopped” together. When my dad was ill, excursions out of the house were for getting food or medicine; one of us went and one stayed with my father.

As luck would have it, we found the perfect necklace. It was a good omen.

I suggested to my mother that, rather than cook at home, we grab a bite to eat since we had plenty of kitchen time ahead of us in the next few days. She picked a restaurant that was a family favorite, and I thought it might be fun to sit at the bar. She was game.

We ordered a glass of wine and nibbled on some popcorn before the appetizer we were sharing arrived.

My mother and I reminisced about how, when my parents were empty nesters, they used to periodically eat at a restaurant bar. They’d chat with the bartender and patrons. It was as nourishing for the tummy as it was for the soul.

I decided to memorialize the event with a selfie, which got the attention of a few of the patrons around us and across the bar. A husband and wife asked if we’d like them to take a picture, and the woman sitting beside my mother did the same.

They asked if it was a birthday or celebration, and we said that we were just enjoying a meal out after my mother’s long caregiving journey. The patrons seemed genuinely happy for us to be having this time together.

The woman next to us said her mother had died not long ago, and she thinks about her every day. When her mother fell ill, the woman had moved from the town we were in to Massachusetts to care for her.

This restaurant was a place she used to come when she lived locally. It brought her comfort, too.

Many of us take for granted the choices and options we have that can bring us joy in a day. How simple an outing but how significant a milestone.

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