I never thought how hard it would be to write to you today – my birthday.
My thoughts take me back to my birthday – 2004. Here we are celebrating – so much more than your mother aging another year. It was an evening of celebrations – you had traveled that week to Michigan for orientation, the scans showed no signs of cancer, we were all rejuvenated from our month at the shore and life was wonderful again. You even designed a personal card – just for me . . .
July 16, 2004
Happy Birthday! I know that you are approaching that time in your life where you no longer wish to celebrate your birth. However, I believe we should not just celebrate our birth, but each and every day. We should celebrate each new and wonderful day that is given to us.
I hope you continue to live each day to the fullest. I am so very thankful to have you in my life. Your unconditional love and support
has made you more than my mother, but my best friend. I wish you all
the best today, tomorrow, and forever. I love you!
In my fifty-second year, I intend to embrace your words and truly celebrate each and every day . . . thank you for your present!
I spent the afternoon with Deric’s family – his wife Kinsey and beautiful daughter Kya. It felt like yesterday, when 15 years ago, I decided to hire a college student for the summer to work in the business.
Our relationship had nothing to do with “summer” employment – it was more about sharing our lives with Deric – who quickly became part of our family. And now, our love has expanded to include his family – and they too share a similar journey of life, love and loss.
Although Kya is only ten months old, she will never meet her Aunt Katie. In the same way that Lauren has never met you – her cousin. Kya will only know her mother’s younger sister through heartfelt spoken words, photographs or snuggled in that t-shirt quilt — all to keep her spirit like yours vibrantly alive for all to know.
I started thinking of today’s date — 07/07 and its significant meaning. It was seven years ago today, when you met Dr. Lackman. We all thought the pain in your shoulder and back was caused from an athletic injury — but then these words were spoken, “it could be an osteosarcoma aka bone cancer.” And you then, passed out.
I don’t think on that day or days to follow we ever asked “why.” Instead we prayed for a miracle and began to face our deepest fears – the unknown. On July 7th, 2003 – our lives were about to be changed forever.
I believe life presents us with choices including our fears. But it’s how we choose to respond that makes all the difference. I only wished you had many more choices.
June – the milestone month for you and your brother securing your driver’s license. Remember the day . . . you finally passed on June 13th, 2002. You were so happy! While Jamie got his five years ago today.
After many months of driving practice, lessons with the driving school instructor and two previous attempts with some very minor driving errors – you passed the test with new-found confidence! Lots of perseverance, with some trials including the times you hit the curb, slightly tapped the fender and endless practicing of exit ramps – all in hopes of passing the test.
Getting your license gave you much happiness. I remember the days after your passing, we were all feeling so sad and broken – that your brother had quietly claimed your driver’s license and Michigan ID.
I knew then and know now that all he wanted was to hold on to your happiness – seeing you happy. It was during those final weeks that you refused to let any of us hold on to a memory less than your vibrant, happy and fun self. This included your brother, for whom you had the most desire to see happy.
Amazingly you have challenged me to pursue the highest of all goals – happiness. The end toward which all other ends lead.
“Of all the means to insure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.” — Epicurus
Want a more satisfying life? Invest time and energy in your friends and family. For those who knew Jodi – know she committed everyday in the practice of sharing her happiness with others.
The other day, I read a letter written by one of Jodi’s friends. In the letter Anna captured the essence of Jodi. Here’s what she wrote —
These words that Jodi stated to me so many times will forever stick in my mind as words of wisdom I will forever live my life upon; to always be yourself. To never accommodate your feelings for others. Always do what will make you yourself happy. Never settle for less. Always be the person you know you have always been. Don’t change who you are just to impress others.
Words spoken and commandments lived between two friends, who fiercely committed to their happiness and friendship many years ago. And now their lifetime friendship is a new lift of happiness shared between a friend’s mother and her daughter’s friend — now that’s truly important. What impact are you having on your friends?
It’s Father’s Day! We shall celebrate Father’s Day in a way that honors and thanks him for being so important in our lives. What I know for sure is that your Dad — was and is your biggest fan!
His adoration for you started the moment you were born – and has never seized. There were times during water polo games and swim meets, when he’d cheer, coach and even cry for your success. He knew you were capable of so much more – in fact my Dad believed the same in me, too.
I have realized that you both shared a part of each other and rightfully are truly his daughter. Let me know if I missed anything . . .
Your natural athletic skills, talents and strengths.
Your competitive spirit.
Your relentless work ethic.
You put others before yourself.
Your trip to the Olympic Swimming Time Trials.
Your creativity for Halloween costumes.
Your love and knowledge for all sports including football.
Your dreams for college life in “The Big House.”
Your appetite for Philly Cheesesteaks, pizza, wings and The Sopranos.
Your sense of humor and love for practical jokes.
Your back aches and muscular strains from workouts.
Your chilling out time watching TV or floating in the pool.
Your love for a deep tissue massage.
Your humility to speak from your heart and not about your accomplishments.
And it was your Dad who – sat with you during chemo, carried you when you no longer had the strength, spent endlessly long days and nights with you in the hospital, tirelessly massaged your feet, and deeply cared for you when his own heart was breaking. And then on January 29th, 2005 he too had to face our hardest challenge and “give you back.”
What’s true even now is that your Dad “never let the urgent get in the way of the important” — a beautiful way to live.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss
A few days ago, I called one of the people who mattered to Jodi – her friend Katie. We talked about my new project, LetterstoJodi.com and my passion to collaborate with those who knew Jodi – as a way to help us discover life’s jewels along our way.
Katie shared a special moment with me – as she quoted Jodi’s instructions to her in the form of those Seuss words.
To those who knew Jodi, cancer did not change her essence, instead she now had another chance to lead, love, and live fully. She was able to look at the people closest in her life and tell them what she felt and who she was becoming.
And for us who feel this loss deeply in our heart and soul, we have been changed – and that is what really matters.