We were driving along Highway One. It was one of those picture perfect days on the central coast. Green hillsides laced with wildflowers flanked us on one side. The other was an endless vast ocean of blues and grays.
They sat in the back seat, my son and her, laughing and chatting in their own unique friendship language. The swagger in the country singer's music changed to a slow, melodious love song. Both broke out in laughter ~ youthful glee bursting forth in gut-splitting, can't-breathe euphoria. I remember how she caught her breath and attempted to sing along in animated fashion, as fits of giggles she couldn't repress would catch her mid-phrase. And I remember thinking to myself, "I love their friendship!" And I loved her, this vibrant, amazing girl my son had befriended.
She accompanied us on multiple vacations. We were always happy to have her because she was such a perfect fit for our family. Always agreeable, happy, easy going, kind, respectful, and appreciative.
It wasn't just vacations. Her presence became a regular occasion in our home ~ a welcome breath of sweet, fresh air. How she suited her nickname, Breezy.
This is the girl I remember, the girl I quickly grew to love.
As her illness settled in, I saw less and less of her. I ran into her one day a year or two ago. We hugged and spoke briefly. I remember looking into her eyes. Though her outer appearance had changed, I could still see the same gentle soul inside. And I thought to myself, "No illness can rob her of the inner loveliness that still resides here."
Her passing was like a kick in the gut, the kind that leaves you panting in agony and wondering if everything will ever be the same. Since I heard of her last breath, always it's the same. There's this vision ~ this glorious, beautiful vision ~ of her. Laughing! Smiling from ear to ear. Running like a child through a vast field of color and light. Throwing her arms up in childlike wonder. Head back, soaking it all in. Healed. Whole. Finally, her truest self. And the fact that she's left this world hurts just a little less.
Too young! Who wouldn't agree? Yet she gave us so much ~ taught us, stretched us ~ made us laugh, smile, weep. You are so very loved, and you will be missed more than you can imagine. But I am confident of this ~ you are there, waiting to see us face to face again. That radiant smile awaits us, and oh, how much fun you will have giving us a heavenly tour!
This I know ~ you won't be forgotten. You see, you left quite a mark on all of our hearts.