Mom and Bridget (I guess Liam does look like me as a toddler.)
Boys visiting Nana Judy's grave this summer
Liam has a simular puppy shirt that he wants to wear every day. Hmmmmm.
Today is the 17th anniversary of your death, and the seventh year I have written this memorial letter. It is really crazy to think that in four years, you will have been gone the same amount of time that you were a part of my life. (I was 21 when you passed away and we are four years away from the 21st anniversary.) That scares me a little as I feel like the memories will fade, but I know that will never happen! Even though it was so unfair to lose you at such a young age, and a time of my life where I needed you so much (heading into my last year in college)-- I am also appreciative of the time we had together. I hear so many stories of tiny little kids losing their moms and it truly puts things into perspective for me. I at least have many memories of you and was an adult (well close at 17) when you first became sick. You shaped my teenage years and helped me grow into a young woman.
In each of my letters to you, (this is my eighth) I have had something new and exciting to report. These milestones ranged from meeting Joe, getting engaged, married, then one child and two. I know that you are here with me and watching over me as I go through all of these life changes, but it helps me to write these letters and imagine you smiling as you read them. This year, my news to report to you is about a personal goal of mine. In the Spring, I studied for my Personal Training certification and passed. This summer, I just got a job at the YMCA as a Personal Trainer. I started a week ago training and I will be taking clients this fall. I will keep my classes and add on Personal Training two days a week. I am very excited about this new adventure; this has been a life goal of mine. I have you to thank for all of my hard work, dedication and passion. You taught me that you can have a family and go after your own life goals. You also taught me how meaningful it is to be in an industry where you can make a difference in lives. I remember when you were a Pediatric Nurse, I would always get stopped by people who would tell me how awesome you were and how their kids adored you. I have carried that with me over the years. I too, hope to make a difference in people’s lives by showing them how important fitness is and by helping them achieve their goals to live healthier and happier lives. I have always wanted a career in a field where I can get to know people one-on-one and be a part of their journey. I really love the interpersonal relationships with people, so combining that with my love for passion for fitness feels like it's meant to be. I wanted to start now to get some experience so by the time the boys are in school full time I can dive in even more.
Speaking of the boys, I know they haven’t met you before (along with Joe) and that truly breaks my heart. They are going to be four and two. I think about how active you would be in their lives (probably weekly at the least), but I try not to focus on that too much. At night, I tell Braden stories about my childhood and all the awesome memories I have. I show both Braden and Liam pictures of you and we go to visit you at the cemetery. Braden has a lot of questions about where you are, and he told me he wants to see you. I of course tell him he can only see you in his dreams right now, but that you can see us all the time. I can’t imagine he understands the concept of Heaven, but he takes my explanations and thinks them over. This Friday we were out to lunch and a lady walked by and out of the blue he said, “There’s Nana Judy.” My heart skipped a beat. I looked at the lady for a minute and by that time I could only see the back of her. I have no idea what made him think it was you, but I truly BELIEVE that you are always around us playing little jokes on us to keep your memory alive. What timing you had, the day before the anniversary of your passing (and Joe’s bday). When we see cardinals and butterflies I also laugh and know that you are saying “hi” and that you are telling me you are OK! This comforts me. I am thankful for Shawn and I living so close so we can constantly talk about memories. We laugh about how you are constantly living through us in the things we do.
In a past letter, I asked you how you were able to spread your love between four kids as I was about to have a second child and was worried. You always knew how to make each of us feel special and I never felt slighted or denied of your love. Now that I have two boys of my own, it doesn’t even seem like a question to me. I just understand that there’s enough of Mom’s love to go around to both. I try my best to make them both feel special in their own way. Being a Mom is the most amazing thing I have experienced. I now understand how you would look at me with those adoring eyes and then you would ask if I knew how much you loved me. I of course would tease you for being so sappy (I was a teenager!) Now I get what you felt in that moment and believe that a Mother’s love is something you cannot explain or understand until you are there yourself.
It was the hardest thing I had to go through losing you, but it has taught me so many things. I have gained a new perspective in life. I try to really cease life and make time for fun and memories- with Joe, the boys, our family and with my friends. I let my boys be kids and take them on adventures. I also try to teach them to be good people and treat people nicely. I work so hard on trying to be healthy for my boys so I can be around as long as I can. Obviously we all know that can change and illnesses can come completely out of the blue, but at least I know I did everything I can to be healthy for my family (food, exercise, sleep, doctor appointments, etc.) I work really hard so I can run after my boys. I will continue to work hard so I can still run with them as they grow older and get faster (I hope to be faster than them for a while longer- ha). I also want us to enjoy being active as family.
I could go on and on about all the valuable lessons I have learned from losing you, but the last one I want to share in this letter is my empathy for people going through a hard time. Although I cannot relate to some circumstances specifically, I do know that losing a loved one leaves a mark on your heart and soul forever. It makes me really want to reach out to those going through a hard time and give them a smile, kind words, a hug or anything to know they are supported. Sometimes they just want to talk and be heard. You don’t need to give advice, but you need to give them your time and your friendship. It can truly make a difference. A lot of people don't know how to react when others have bad news or are going through a hard time. I am thankful I am someone that can comfort and listen. I am not sure if I would be like that had I not gone through something heart wrenching myself. I immediately revert back to those difficult memories of my own when someone tells me some bad news. I hope to raise my boys to show compassion, sensitivity and love in moments of difficulty.
Thank you for being an amazing angel to me and my family. I know as years pass on, I will have more “Nana Judy” sightings with my boys. Please keep us always guessing and you are so very missed and loved!
Your Pina Colada