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Happy Birthday

Many of you know that I lost my dear friend to breast cancer in 2010. She is who “Losing Faith” is loosely based on. Her loss is one of the main reasons I stepped out from behind my fear and decided to give this writing thing a try.

Had she lived, she would have been 47 on May 23rd. She was the baby of our group of friends, and loved reminding us (frequently, I might add) how much older we all were then her. She was outspoken, vivacious, and passionate…about everything. She was a wife and mother of two. She was a police officer. She was a daughter, a sister, and a friend. She was someone I admired; the polar opposite of me in every way.

She and I met one another when our girls were in the 1st grade. We were both actively involved in our kid’s lives and as such got to talking one day while waiting for the school bell to ring. We clicked instantly, and though our girls weren’t close initially, their friendship grew just as mine and hers did. We realized almost instantly we had a lot in common; we were hands-on moms, our husbands had the same names, and we were die hard Steelers fans.

When I became PTA President, it seemed only natural that she would sit on my board. Our meetings became all about the laughter and snacks, and less about all the politics involved in school issues. We had fun with the other parents and we bonded as a group. There are so many wonderful memories I have of us at school events that I will cherish forever.

She was one of those people who had a lot of friends. She never met a stranger, never hesitated to strike up a conversation. Her infectious personality made you want to be friends with her. Yes, we were close with one another, but she had plenty of other friends who she was close to as well, which only made her diagnosis and death so much more tragic.

She was 37 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I won’t go into all the details about that, but let’s just say there was a lot that was missed. Would it have made a difference in the long run? Probably not. She had the most aggressive type of breast cancer, so it’s hard to say. Regardless, she fought like hell. She fought until she couldn’t fight anymore, and when she took her last breath she was surrounded by an entire group of friends and family; just as she was in life.

I’ve made my peace with her passing, but I will always be angry about it. I will always, always, mourn the fact that her kids have to go on and have life experiences without her. Her kids are exceptional human beings and I’m so very blessed to have remained close to them, as I have her husband. The three of them have shown extraordinary courage and strength since her passing.

The last birthday party we celebrated with her was her 40th. She was three weeks post craniotomy, but she was not about to let a little brain surgery slow her down. She got dressed up, had herself a cocktail, and for a few hours she was that same vivacious gal she’d always been; the life of the party. Unstoppable.

So happy birthday, my sweet friend. I hope, wherever you are, that you’re celebrating like we used to; with a good meal, a few cocktails, and a lot of laughter. I hope you know how much we miss you, but that we have been able to go on….because that was what you would have wanted. I hope you know that we will never forget how infectious your laughter was, or how we appreciated your firm, warm hugs. Celebrate big, up there on your puffy cloud. Celebrate the remarkable woman that you were and the wonderful life you had. I know we’ll be celebrating you just like we always have….with a few chili dogs (because they were your favorite)…and a whole bunch of sweet memories.

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