Tuesday June 6th, 2023
This time last year, Theo and I were planning our greatest adventure yet. I really thought this might be the last and only opportunity for me to get back to Africa with my kids since age was creeping up and it was more expensive than I expected. I had no idea that it would be my last cherished adventure with my dearest Theo. But I am so immeasurably comforted to know that I made our adventures a priority in life. So many incredible memories that I will never be able to share again with him. We so enjoyed each other's company and thrived on the thrill of travel to expand our minds and celebrate the diversity of the world.
In recent years we had traveled to The Caribbean, England, Mexico, and Cuba. This year it was England with my brother Steven and nephew Evan to visit my dad in Kent, and then Germany to visit just some of the dozens of German relatives from my mother's side, for a weekend of celebrating her life. She had left us five years ago, but Covid prevented us from gathering since then. It was two days of Bavarian family parties and catching up. It was a huge impression on Theo to meet so many like-minded, kind-hearted family members.
My favorite video from Germany. Theo was in his element, loving his newly found cousins and aunts. About halfway through he looks at me with the camera and gives me the most wonderful smile. He knew this trip was so important and loved every minute of it.
The last part of our journey from Germany was a trip to Kenya to visit old family friends and enjoy the epic vistas and abundant wildlife in Kenya. It was a long-held dream of mine to take my family to some of the places I had been so lucky to have lived in. Theo had recently changed his college major from computer engineering to environmental studies and was fully immersed as a biologist and botanist. Along our trips to England and Germany, he was often stuck in a bush studying bees and flowers. He was interested in so many things.
Our host in Nairobi was the preeminent authority on African butterflies, Dr Steven Collins. Steven was a long-time family friend from 60 years ago. My mother was adored by Dr. Collins. Together, Steven and Theo geeked out beyond my understanding of entomology, botany, and zoology, (my father's specialty). Dr. Collins had arranged a dinner with some of Kenya's foremost zoologists and naturalists, just to meet Theo. He was so excited that Theo was clearly in love with natural history. He and Dr. Collins were giddy. It was so cute to watch. They shared their Natural History social media apps and a bunch of other resources.
The ABRLI African Butterfly Research Institute is Dr. Collins's pride and joy. It is literally the largest collection of African butterflies as well as a very active organization using DNA sequencing to map and collect data on the current populations of butterflies in Africa. A subject so undocumented and ancient censuses. As pollinators and marker species, butterfly research is so much more important than the public understands, It is also not as sexy for media coverage as Polar Bears, Pandas, and Gorillas, so funding is difficult. The research center needs 10 million US dollars to set up a permanent center to protect both the collection and continue its important research into the future, after Dr. Collins, now in his seventies, eventually passes on. Theo and I had already started plans to return and find funding for the project.
Please visit https://www.lepsocafrica.org/
Many people spend their whole lives with an African safari on their bucket list, I was lucky enough to have been brought up by a zoologist in Africa, so I feel a little bit like Obelix the Gaul, I fell into the cauldron of magic potion when I was a kid. Raised on Born Free and the music of John Barry, Theo and I were blessed to be guided and driven by Martin, himself the senior guide and driver for The Born Free Foundation. So Theo, Martin, and I spent a week on safari in two major national parks, Masai Mara and Amboseli. It was more than epic. It couldn’t have been more epic for Theo. So many awesome memories. Probably my favorite was of him chatting with a Masai herdsman and telling each other about their love of goats (pictured at the top of the page). I have an abundance of pictures and videos that fill me with such pride and joy.
I really thought this might be the last and only opportunity for me to get back to Africa with my kids since age was creeping up and it was more expensive than I expected. But I am so immeasurably comforted knowing that I put our adventures ahead of other priorities. Theo came away from Kenya so wanting to help Dr. Collins's organization. He was a buzz with an eagerness I’d never seen. We both promised to get involved and be back more often.
It took me 6 months to pay it all off, but I could not be more grateful that I made that happen The same way Theo and I went to Cuba to take music lessons a few years ago, or scuba in Cozumel. So many rich rewarding memories for the kindest, gentlest, smartest, most loving, gracious, un-judgmental, considerate, friendly person I ever knew. He would be 22 on June 6h this year, 2023.
I am completely lost without him.