Words can not express how much I miss you.
From the time that I was born, you weren't just my aunt, you were like a second mother to me. I smile every time mom tells the story of her being unable to nurse me, so you did. That's how very much you loved me.
3 years ago, our family made the EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL decision to let you go home - To love you enough to free you from this earthly pain even though it broke our hearts to do so.
In those final days I kept thinking about how glad I was that Kate and I had made the sporadic decision to come spend time with you a few years before that. As a child I remember the trips we used to take to Bloomington to visit you and Uncle Eric. Playing with all your Avon make-up, sleeping in your spare room in the daybed (it was such a special treat), and you always making us buttered mashed potatoes (I've still never mastered your recipe). But the trip with Kate was different. I was an adult. The quality of time I got to spend with you was unlike any other throughout the course of my life. Some of our conversations that week would cement parts of who I have become.
Little did I know in those deep moments of grief and fear that a few short weeks later, I'd be facing a breast cancer diagnosis too. That somehow, in the gut wrenching despair I felt over losing you, that I'd feel you with me more strongly than I ever had. That in those moments when I didn't think my body could possibly take anymore, I'd hear your voice telling me to stay strong.
June 2010 started the beginning of a long road for our family. A road to the acceptance that even though you were physically gone, you will always be with us in spirit. A road to Healing.
In 2011 I decided to honor your memory by embarking on a 3 day journey. Walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer. I was shocked when I was chose to participate in Survivor's Circle, because only 8 survivor's get picked for this honor. I knew you had a hand in it when I received the email letting me know that the flag chosen for me to carry was none other than 'Healing'.
Opening Ceremony. Atlanta, October 2011.
And so I started 'our' journey into the world of the 3-Day. A world of pink. A world of hugs, tears, laughter, and joy. A world where there are other's who understand the pain of the loss that I feel. A world where there are other's who dedicate their time, their money, and their energy into doing something bold in the face of this ugly disease.
You and I...we are traveling the US together.
One step at a time.
We honor lost loved ones in the Remembrance Tent.
Chicago. August 2012.
Tampa Bay 2012.
It's true...some people think I am just a little crazy for putting my body through months of training to walk 60 miles, but they come to understand when I tell them about you.
I'm not the only one who walks for you... Anastassia and Tonya carry you, too.
We've made some good friends these past couple years, you and I.
Mike took you to Dallas with him in 2012.
And just this past weekend, you were on the west coast.
In San Francisco with Kamie and Larry.
In October, we're headed to Philadelphia.
Steph, I feel you so close to me in every facet of my life...including my marriage. I know you've been watching it all unfold, and I know you had a hand in leading me to Bill.
One of your favorite things was collecting shot glasses from different cities you visited. You had so many of them. And out of all of them, the one I was given was from Charlotte.
I went to Atlanta to honor your memory, and I met him.
The man from Charlotte.
I just didn't figure out what you were trying to tell me for awhile.
He is the man who understands my pain, and loves me despite the scars.
The man who, the first time I walked in his living room, I got goosebumps because atop his mantel set a lighthouse. A lighthouse that probably meant little more to him than a piece of decor, but I knew in some cosmic way, it was your sign letting me know that he is 'home'.
You lead me home.
We took a moment of silence to remember you and Bill's lost loved ones at the wedding.
He wore a pink boutonniere - at the suggestion of our wedding coordinator who had NO idea about our history at the time of the suggestion.
And you were my something blue.
I'll carry you with me until my last day.
Today, I saw a picture of you, and as the tears started flowing, I could barely catch my breath.
What I wouldn't give to hear your voice, or see your smile just one more time.
But until then...I'll take comfort in knowing you are in a place where sickness, and fear, and hurt seize to exist. And that you are watching over all of us.
I love you so very much!