Though it’s been awhile since we exchanged our final goodbyes, I have yet to stop thinking about the memories you left for me to hold on to.
You were the spark in my life that drove me mad with laughter and mesmerized me with charm and unconditional love.
Every day, I dream up different topics I wish I could talk to you about and wonder how you might react or respond.
I imagine what you’d be like now -- your style, your hair, your hobbies and how you’d adapt to the revolutions of the last 13 years.
I can assume, just like Dad, you’d be horrible at sending the most basic text message; although, you, too, would get the hang of it eventually.
At just 8 years old, losing you was a tragedy for which I was not prepared; the term “cancer” held too complex a meaning for me to comprehend.
But, as I reflect on my life since then, I am confident and unquestionably assured you did not just leave me with eight years of memories, but rather, a unique perspective that has shaped every aspect of who I am today.
No, we didn’t get to talk about sex; you weren’t there to weigh the pros and cons of each college to which I applied, and I couldn't employ your shopping expertise to help me search for the perfect prom dress.
You were, however, there to form the basis of why I began to see life for what it truly is.
So, now, I aim to express why you’ve always been, and always will be, my all-time greatest inspiration:
You weren’t afraid to be your goofy self
How could I forget the day Alyssa left for school without her clarinet?
I sat on the big yellow bus that morning as if it were the start to a regular day of kindergarten.
But, after we circled the neighborhood and headed back down the hill past our house, I noticed something far past the boundaries of a typical bus ride.
There you stood, on the side of the road, wearing a horrifying Halloween mask with neon orange hair (despite the fact it was the middle of February).
You waved the chunky black case in the air and motioned for the driver to stop. I watched my older sister make her way toward the front of the bus to retrieve her forgotten instrument, red-faced and mortified.
A ruckus of laughter broke out on the bus as the kids applauded your much-too-silly behavior. “Your mom is so cool,” someone leaned over to say to me. I smiled and said, “I know.”
You had a sense of adventure that never failed to amaze me
My absolute favorite activity was walking the beach and searching for sea glass. After one of our quests, your pile of colorful findings exceeded mine by a landslide and I was endlessly jealous of your keen eye.
Desperately searching the sand for a small piece of vibrant glass, I always hoped to find something that would make you proud.
“Look, Mommy! I found one,” I’d say with excitement. After running to my side and examining what was likely to be just a broken beer bottle, you’d laugh, “Great job, Jenna Benna! We’ll add this to the collection.”
I may never have found anything particularly special, but I loved every second of that time with you and continually looked forward to those wonderful days.
You always wanted to experience the most basic yet gratifying things about the world and I guess that’s why I always tagged along.
Where you led, I followed. You were everything I wanted to be.
You never let your illness dull your sparkle
I remember when you started losing your hair and shamelessly decided to shave it off completely. That same day, you picked me up from daycare sporting a completely hairless head without the assistance of a hat or a bandana.
There was no mention of what you had done and no discussion about the obvious transformation.
While the other kids laughed at the peculiar image of a woman without hair, I admired it. I thought about all the other moms I knew and how they had blatantly average hairdos. To me, you were so much more than them.
There was no greater sight than watching you and Dad dance around the living room to the sound of your wedding song.
Although your white gown was replaced with leggings and a baggy sweatshirt, you shined to me like Cinderella, smiling and laughing in a way that kept my eyes glued to your every move.
Selflessly, the last thing you wanted was your world or anyone else’s to slow down as a result of something you couldn’t prevent.
You lived in the moment and experienced every second as if time weren't at all the enemy.
I could not have asked for a better role model
You cheered me on at every soccer game, ballet practice and horseback-riding lesson I ever attended.
You rode the opposite side of the seesaw when I insisted on having a playmate, and redecorated my room when I switched my favorite color from pink to blue.
You creatively invented strange myths to teach me simple life lessons and hugged me tight when I discovered harsh realities about the world.
Despite what you were going through, you provided me with more love and support in just eight years than I could have ever dreamed.
Although I would surely give anything to have you still here as my mother and best friend, the time I was able to spend with you is the most valuable thing I have today.
I’ve adored you since the moment I became your daughter. In my eyes, you were an angel long before you left us.
Love you forever,