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Drop the Scorecard

Welcome to January, one of the longest and certainly the coldest month of the year.

During these long days of January chores can become burdens. How often are we adding “scorecards” to our marriages, work relationships, and friendships?

In our home, we all like to walk the dogs on the beautiful sunny days, but when the wind is whipping, the temperatures drop and the days are grey we start up with the “scorecard.” I have been know to exclaim to anyone who wants to listen “It’s your turn to walk them, I walked them twice already today”.

 

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Who wants to walk the dogs when it’s cold out? If you have the ability, be the one!

 

Sincerely, Trish…Because folks, what else matters but love? Listen here.

Poor me. Recently, I heard my friend say..”this is it, I’ve had it with entertaining. I have hosted this person several times and she has never reciprocated. That’s it.” Keeping score. Yikes, made me think, who has invited me places that I have not reciprocated?

Folks, keeping score is petty. There is no such thing as 50/50.  Keeping score holds us back. Keeping score pits person against person. Be on the same team. Be the person who does more and that is your greatest reward. When you invest in your relationships, you invest in love. What else matters? Who cares who empties the dishwasher and hangs up the coats? If you have the ability, do it. You win by giving. Love is an investment. There is nothing out there more important than love.

 

Sincerely,

Trish

 

One is Silver and the Other Gold

      We are all familiar with the childhood song “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  I found myself singing it a few times over this past weekend. You see as much as I enjoy the nostalgia and truly cherish visiting the same places we did as a family with Natalie, I find myself wanting to push myself to experience more out there. Not long ago in a previous blog of mine, I mentioned how special it was to visit Chautauqua, a place where our memories with Natalie are felt throughout. This week, I wanted to share the beauty of finding a new place, instilling a peace of mind combined with the absence of constant reminds of what we should be doing; the endless work calls, the dinner that needs to be made, house that needs to be cleaned. I mean the list goes on. The irony is, what we should be doing is taking care of ourselves and one another. One way to do that is to spend time seeing the beauty in this world, not only in familiar places we love and cherish, but also in new places to inspire us and open our minds. I’m not sure how to adequately explain what stirs inside me and, I am certain many, many others. For one, it’s an urgency to appreciate life and one another. It’s a desire to explore beautiful things in life and keep feeling alive. Just as I enjoy reminiscing and appreciating all that we were, a family so strong that I believed nothing could ever happen to us, there is a need to keep seeing the good out there and not to lose heart. “Make new friends, but keep the old” can relate to any scenario, cherish memories of vacation places as they are, without a doubt, part of what makes us who we are. Such is the urgency to learn more, see more, do more. There is the realization of the fragility of life and not to waste a minute. You simply yearn to keep living, loving and making a difference everyday.

      So, this summer, we discovered Skaneateles, prompted by a gift certificate by dear friends to Mirbeau Inn. Let’s face it, we can all say we want to go someplace till we are blue in the face but there’s nothing like an expiration date on a gift certificate to get you moving. We started the summer going there and just returned for another visit as a way to wrap up the summer of 2015. There is confirmation on how much we like this place; returning with no gift certificate. We took the mail boat cruise on Skaneateles Lake, dined at Elderberry Pond serving certified organic food in the lovely rehab barn with beautiful beam ceilings, went to a farmers market, shopped, walked and simply enjoyed the picturesque town.

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You cannot beat the gorgeous setting of the Mirbeau Inn dining view. Elegant dining. Beautiful Spa. This is how we kicked off the Summer of 2015.

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This picture may look fake yet it clearly exists. It’s all inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. You feel like you just set foot upon a fairy tale. We both want to return.

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The mail cruise ship is not impressive until you set sail. It’s the smaller one on the left. It seats 34 people. It is run by Mid-Lakes Navigation tours. The cost is $26.00 per person. It leaves promptly at 10 am and returns at 1:00 pm. You can order lunch or wait till you get back.  Since it delivers US Mail, it’s not going to wait for you.

We set sail on a “picture perfect” day

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Appreciate life and one another. If you are fortunate to be alive – love one another.

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This is Pete delivering the mail. It’s heartwarming. The Lordes Camp run by the Catholic Diocese at the 10 mile point is the biggest customer. 6 bags of daily mail in and out and a can can dance from the campers on the dock to boot. The camp had let out for the summer when we cruised on August 28, 2015. It was all fascinating to watch. Crawling onto the boats bow to hand and receive mail to the Lake residents. 

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If you are looking for a charming and delicious restaurant tucked away you should visit Elderberry Pond. We had a delightful dinner and night there.

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Skaneateles Lake is 16miles long and has the highest elevation of all the Finger Lakes. It’s water is so pure that the City of Syracuse and other municipalities use it unfiltered.

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One of the beautiful million dollar plus mansions on the shore of Skaneateles Lake.

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Anyplace that has been around this long has to have staying power.

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One thing we noticed right away is the amount of public benches available for use. Another reminder that small acts change the world.

 

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Tucked in behind the Sherwood Inn is this hidden gem of a bakery. Evan could not get enough of the flakey pastries. Why look, there is Evan entering the bakery right now. 

      Now we are certainly not Skaneateles experts. I mean, I keep checking to see if I have spelled Skaneateles correctly. We have only spent two different weekends there. We cannot believe how refreshing it is to get away and how close it is to Buffalo. (2 hours and 15 minutes) But we are both a little confused about the beach access. We love the village, the shops, the restaurants, and the bakeries. The charm of this town is off the charts. We loved seeing all the glorious beach front property on the waterways. But we were looking for the ever popular “long walk on the beach”stroll. We still can’t figure it out but we will. Is there beach access at Skaneateles? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Comfort Zone

 

 

     Maybe the timing of this blog is off. But the message isn’t. It’s the end of the summer. School is approaching. Money is tight. Stress is in the air. Schedules need to be made. The last thing you are thinking about is going away for a week. We all seem to be pulled in so many directions. We need to organize and get the house in order. I have caught a few of my closest companions exclaiming “I need a cleaning person”,and “I guess I am the only one that does anything around here!” We all need comfort. I bet we all miss those days when we were carefree as children and felt complete by being comforted by our families and friends. Our ages have changed, but our souls have not. We are still renewed and comforted by the love our families and friends give us. I just want to remind us all to stop and reflect. Our life begins in a blink and ends in a blink, although some days seem unending and agonizing long, it changes before you know it. Changes happen inevitably, but that is part of the beauty of it. Although it seems crazy to go out, get school supplies for the twelfth year in a row, to clean out the closet one more time, and vacuum when you swore you just did it yesterday- – enjoy it, as life won’t always be this way. It is all part of the beautiful life we have been given. The kids will grow up, our parents get older, and life as we know it takes on a new look. There are countless good things happening, but the reality is, everyone on this earth will suffer challenges and difficulties too. There is no escaping it. Nothing prepares us for the absence of a loved one. It changes our world and it changes us. There is no textbook way to adapt to change, but when you believe, and you look back at the beautiful moments of your life with an open heart, you can find comfort in all the wonderful memories you have as well as ones you will continue to make in your life. This summer, I have found comfort in returning to the Chautaqua Institute just remembering how much Natalie enjoyed it there. It is a quiet assurance that “we did right” vacationing here for just a week each summer. Comforted, by the memories, the feeling I felt when I stepped onto the grounds as we did for so many years ago, knowing that we had the most beautiful memories there. We loved and laughed here. We made countless practical jokes here. We vacationed here with all generations of parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I left feeling inspired, nostalgic, and compelled to share the comforting messaging that life will be okay, even when the unthinkable happens. And sometimes all you need is just the comfort to go back and remember even if it’s just for the day.

 

Here she is... Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011.

Here she is… Natalie!! She is enjoying the rocking chairs at the Athenaeum Hotel in 2011. I just want to reach out and touch her hand.

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Father Tony Rigoli, OMI invited us down to Chautauqua Institute on Thursday, July 9, 2015 where he offered the 12 noon mass for Natalie. It was extra special knowing Father Tony was assigned to St. Rose of Lima parish when Natalie was a student there.

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua

Hello Dad. I am so glad you started the tradition of coming to Chautauqua even thou there was always work to do. The practical jokes we played there keep you alive in my heart and give me comfort. If you don’t have one, start a tradition of going away. It doesn’t have to be far. I am so grateful that our father did.

 

The Athenaeum Hotel. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things seems to n

The Athenaeum Hotel. Picture taken in late August 2015. There is so much comfort in knowing that certain places and things never seem to change. Things will be ok but never the same without Natalie and my dad who really contributed so much to our happiness. 

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Here is Caroline braiding Natalie’s hair at an outdoors concert at Bestor Plaza at the Chautauqua Institute. Take time to be together. No one ever wished that they worked more.

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It doesn’t matter where you go..create a tradition of returning to the same place every year for a week was comforting to us. When you love and cherish each other, and take the time to be together, you have fewer regrets.

 

      My last picture on this blog post is a picture that Natalie posted on her Instagram account. It was taken at the Chautauqua Institute and gives me such comfort that she chose to use it on #tbt (Throwback Thursday). It makes me think that “we did right” and gave Natalie joy in spending a week in a familiar place with the comfort of her family who loved and cherished her so much. This is what life is all about..living, loving, giving and being together. Knowing we had all of these wonderful experiences…now that is my comfort.

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One Gorge-Ous Day

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One new adventure a month. It’s our new goal.

      Maybe it’s this incredible appreciation we have now of being able to breath, walk, live, and love. Or perhaps it’s life itself and having each other. Maybe? No, it is just that. We are not the same and the message is urgent to experience life and love each other. We have set out on a new goal of experiencing a new adventure each month to push ourselves to live life to the fullest and never waste time putting things off. Nothing extravagant. Just something new to heighten our senses. This past Sunday we went to Seneca Lake and hiked Watkins Glen and I’m hear to tell you the tale. First, let me confess, despite living in Buffalo all my life…I am embarrassed to say I have never been to Watkins Glen. What the heck is wrong with me?? They say it’s one of the top 3 State Parks in the USA. Again I repeat- I have never been to Watkins Glen and my husband has never been either! What?! We decided that we both thought of it as home of NASCAR races and that wasn’t our thing. But it is so much more! There’s a Ben & Jerry’s! And it’s so close! And it should be experienced. It’s the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks. Now, if you go on map quest and the driving distance to Watkins Glen from Buffalo is 2 hours and 28 minutes….why do we all look at that and think we somehow failed if it takes us longer? Who cares? What’s the rush? Don’t travel with us. We stop and smell the flowers. But, we do tend to speed things up on the way home.

All the talk of geology went over my head. Keep it to a 5th grade level. This is Greg . tour guides are free. They add to the experience.

All the talk of geology went over my head. Keep it to a 5th grade level. This is Greg. The tour guides are free. They add to the experience. How can you not dig their passion for the formation of the Finger Lakes?

     When we arrived at the South End of Seneca Lake we decided to “fuel up” at the Seneca Harbor Station. It’s a delightful little nautical theme restaurant over looking the lake that serves some darn good ribs. From there we went to the TOP of the gorge path ($8 dollars to park) so we could simply walk down the 832 steps. Who’s counting? Oh, I did. The 2 mile path descends 400 feet past 200 foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of the Cavern Cascade with spectacular views of the gorge. The guides are free and available at 10 am and 1 pm. I like free. I like to learn about the steps along the trail that were built compliments of FDR and the New Deal money. The guide lost me a bit on the talks of erosion, Arcadian mountains, super continent, glaciers, sandstone, shale and a famous deer. Heck, I just wanted to take pictures and not slip. Mission accomplished. My two cents- they should have made the trail wider when we had the New Deal money.

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I was fascinated by how damp and wet the trail was and all the ferns and moss that grow in the rocks.

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The sign read “No Swimming” but did not say “do not dip your feet in the running water”

     I will now list several observations that were not included in the guided tour. 

1. No dogs allowed. Thank goodness. You are not going to find many hand railings on the trail and you don’t need your dog pulling you off the slippery path down a waterfall.

2. No swimming allowed. That did not stop people from doing so.

3. I saw way to many people who should not be on the hike. Older folks, babies, and those limping. Not to mention all those wearing flat flip flop sandals! Hum, I wonder if people thought I should not be on the trail.

4. The only wildlife I saw was a chipmunk.

5. Have a nice dry pair of shoes waiting for you in the car.

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This hiker found himself looking at my camera instead of one of the 19 waterfalls.

     It’s such a great feeling to complete the hike. We got caught up and gave each other “High 5’s!” It was not a great feeling having wet feet and not bringing another pair of shoes. Most people start on the bottom at the main entrance and walk up. Take it from me, start at the top and walk down. There is no need to walk back up to get your car. Why walk up and down? An hour and a half is plenty. We started at 1:00 and ended at 2:30. There is a shuttle bus for $5.00. That’ll do the trick.

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We went on the Stroller IV at Captain Bill’s for the narrated boat cruise. That will set you back $16.00 a person.

     We ended our day with a narrated sightseeing cruise on Seneca Lake which gave me all new information. The lake is fed by underground springs giving it little chance to freeze over in the winter. The lake is named after the Seneca Native American tribe. Salt manufacturing is also done at the lake and US Salt and Cargill manufacturing plants can be seen from the boat cruise. That was all we could do in one day. We hit the open road and headed home and both agreed we were so glad we hiked Watkins Glen and did not buy a single souvenir item despite being tempted by the “you’re gorge-ous” t-shirt.

One Year

Natalie lead the way. A natural leader by the way she lived. Here she is opening the gates for us at the Virginia House. Natalie was a history buff and loved teaching us all about the Capital of Virginia - Richmond. Natalie loved nature and was a natural beauty.

Natalie lead the way. A natural leader by the way she lived. Here she is opening the gates for us at the Virginia House. Natalie was a history buff and loved teaching us all about the Capital of Virginia – Richmond. Natalie loved nature and was a natural beauty.

 

It still doesn’t seem possible. It seems unreal. There is no possible way this could have happened. I still don’t want to believe it. Natalie. Our beloved Natalie. We just celebrated your wedding engagement. Yet, everything changed with one phone call. One unbelievable phone call. Natalie was in trouble. The hot air balloon she was riding in had hit a power line. We went numb. And we prayed. Not Natalie. She was never in trouble. She followed every rule. Natalie was a sure bet for a long and beautiful life.

Somehow the impossible came true. Natalie, the golden one, is gone from this earth. We were stunned. We fell to our knees and thought we could not get up.

Inside my narrow vision, I search for answers.  I don’t pretend to understand but I try. A dear friend sent me the book “Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?”  I did not read the book. I know. I lived it. It’s to develop deeper compassion, deeper understanding, to become more sensitive, more caring and more tolerant. You flaunt less and live with the realization that everything in this life is temporary. News stories and death of children hit you hard and you understand their pain. You realize every second of every minute counts. That we are on earth for something greater than ourselves. We are all filled with potential to make this world better and we have an obligation to do so. 

Natalie left such an impact. It’s no wonder. We are all in great need of quality people who have the ability to lift and encourage others. Natalie was so incredibly valuable to so many. And she valued herself and had the  confidence to encourage others by giving you that “you have it in you” feeling to accomplish anything you wanted to do. Suddenly you started to believe that you could win the Atlantic 10 Championships in the 100 freestyle, that you could lead the team in re-bounds in the basketball championships, that you could land that job you were dreaming of, that you could host and prepare a gourmet dinner or that you will find someone special in your life.

We can’t begin to express to you how much we miss Natalie. She was such a giver. Natalie gave and gave and gave. Her gifts were endless and she shared them with all. I used to to ask her all the time “how are you so good?” I still can’t believe how much she accomplished in 24 years. Natalie was so selfless, so disciplined, so joyful, unspoiled and loving.

I read this bible passage In Hebrews 1:3 Continue to love each other like brothers,and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

That’s when I pause and realize that Natalie was truly an angel. Natalie showed us how to live. We truly were indeed touched by an angel.

We search for answers and always will. There is no doubt that our Catholic faith has sustained us. Gathering together for the rosary each night brings us such a comfort. Instead of counseling we attend daily mass. We feel closer to Natalie there. Heaven and earth come together and our faith supports, nourishes and gets you through the day. I imagine the joys in heaven. I believe nothing can separate us from Natalie. Mostly I believe in God’s love for all of us. I believe in Gods promises of everlasting life. Natalie said yes to Gods’ will. It’s a scary thought and I know most of us want to be in control. We plan. We try to control everything. But if you say YES to God’s will you will be eternally happy in paradise.

Natalie always so joyful and happy. She realized all this life had to offer and that you need give to get. You need to love and be loved. I took pictures of her constantly because her smile and was so contagious.

Natalie always so joyful and happy. She realized all this life had to offer and that you need to give to get. You need to love and be loved. I took pictures of her constantly because her smile and was so contagious.

Our family gains strength from each other. Natalie meant so much to us and we all struggle without her. We never would have chosen this life but trust in Gods plan. Our marriage and family unit is sacred. I love my husband more than I ever realized. We are not meant to go through life alone and this sadness has made that crystal clear. Do you know how a team feels when the star quarterback is sidelined with an injury? We feel like our QB is out and we have to all step up and keep going onto victory in her honor. We feel like we have a lot more good left to do on this earth. We all make a difference. We all have no idea how we touch people each day. Natalie taught us we all have the power and the ability to lift others up and the ripple effect goes on and on.

This Mother’s Day I will imagine Natalie with the Blessed mother in heaven. I will pray for all the mother’s out there who have lost their children before their time. I will pray for our dear friend Ginny Doyle and her family. I will hold all of our friends close in our prayers for showing us so much kindness.  I am inspired to be a better person by the outpouring of cards and gifts sent to us. Our family will hold each other tight and I will pull out one of the homemade cards from the box I have over flowing with cards that Natalie has written to me. And I will read it over and over and remember what an honor it is to be Natalie’s mom. And what an amazing honor it will be to have Evan Jr and Caroline along side of me.

Oh Natalie. Your beautiful homemade cards are truly breathtaking. Show kindness. Show appreciation. Show love. Thank you for showing us the way.

Oh Natalie. Your beautiful homemade cards are truly breathtaking. Show kindness. Show appreciation. Show love. Thank you dear sweet Natalie for showing us the way.

 

Lead by example. Live to inspire. Love and be loved. Love conquers all.

Dear Natalie

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Sisters are a blessing. 

 

A Letter to My Sister:

My dear, loving, beautiful Natalie,

Happy Birthday. 10/10 will always be reserved as your day, a perfect 10 as a sister and the most perfect 10 of a person.

It seems like just yesterday we were goofing around on the phone about silly inside jokes and ending our last phone call with an “I love you” But at the same point, though that seems like just yesterday, the heaviness in my heart and the sadness of losing you has not subsided. Not at all. Though these past five months have been an absolute blur, I have read many letters about you. All are beautifully written and all are full of the most genuine love for you. Every single letter says that you had a light that shined so bright, that you encourage people, telling us what YOU did for THEM, and how your faith, positive attitude, and selflessness made you one of the most remarkable people any of them would ever meet.

I often wonder about how you thought of yourself while you were here. Did you have any idea how incredible you were? Did you have any idea how many people love you? Do you know how many sleepless nights have been spent thinking about you, with thoughts consumed with how this cannot make sense, that Natalie- the one who was so reliable, so dependable, so responsible, is gone? Do you know how comforting it was to know that I could always call you and tell you anything? Did you know that you were the one thing in life that I was 100% confident on to be with me through anything life threw me?  I bet you know now, and I can guarantee you do not like seeing the tears and hearts that ache for you. You were the one to offer such good advice. You were the one that no matter how much the world did not make sense, no matter how upside down everything seemed to turn, you offered comfort and reason. But we are all different because of you. We are all better because of you. Do you know how many lives are changing because of you? Did you ever have any idea, that by you simply thinking of yourself less, in turn made others think more of you? Do you know how many people tell me that every day they think about how “Natalie would handle this”, I mean seriously Natalie did you have any idea just how much your smile had an impact on everyones day? I can say with confidence that if you were here with me today, and I told you that this many people love you and care about you and want to live like you, you would say something nice about each person. You would probably have a story about each person, a “Remember When”, or you just simply would not believe that you could change people’s lives just by being you.

If I told you that people were making positive changes with you as the reason behind it, you would just be happy to know that more people are being kind, you would be excited to hear about everyone’s accomplishments. You inspire all of us, Natalie. So many people look up to political figures and label those who run companies “leaders”, but unknowingly, you are the best leader we all know. There are not enough leaders out there like you. There are not enough leaders who are advocates for caring, not enough leaders in kindness, not enough leaders who lead us to be better.  There are simply not enough people to remember birthdays, to send notes to cheer people up, to support and truly care about another. You could have done anything, and you did. And everywhere you went, you made an impact. You changed people because you believed in them. If everyone in this world had only 10% of the confidence and faith you had in each one of us, we would all be the best version of ourselves. You are inspiring people all over the country, people that do not even know you. How lucky am I to call you my big sister. How did our little humble family in Buffalo, NY end up having 24 beautiful years with such a wonderful person? You absolutely are an angel, and although it cuts deep down to my core when I think about how I cannot see you and call you and hug you and just be in your presence again, I feel a passion in my soul to carry out what you would have if you were here.

They say time makes it easier. It does not. There is nothing easy about losing my best friend, sister, role model and confidant wrapped up into one. What time does is it makes it less immediate. But, Natalie, I want to keep you immediate just as you would be if you were around. I will do anything to keep your spirit alive. At your funeral, I made a promise to you that I will live out your generosity, your selflessness, your smile, and your love. You are in every breath I take, every beat of my heart, every choice I make, every kind deed I do, every smile I wear, every sacrifice I offer up, every tear I wipe, and every hug I give. You are the motivation to do better, you are the will to do and become more. You are the most beautiful person I have ever had the privilege of knowing and although I cannot physically give you a birthday present every year anymore, I will give you a gift everyday as everyone who is changing their lives because of you will as well. We will give you the gift of showing you a world as you envisioned it. Seeing the glass half full instead of empty, finding beauty in small things, going out of our way for those we love, sharing words when encouragement is needed, and reminding each other that “we are all human and doing the best we can”. No matter how old I get, I will never stop looking up to you. I love you so much, and miss you and your excitement for life, and the feeling of completeness you gave me. We are all praying for you and thinking of you every single day, and we will never stop. Our family is missing it’s leading light. We are all trying to be the best we can be. Thank you for everything you made me, and everything you are allowing me to become through you.

Your little sister,

Caroline

 

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“It seems that life is always ready with a challenge just when we think everything is going along fine. Please know that whatever comes along, I am right by your side… When you are strong, you will have my admiration… When you are weak and afraid, I will hold your spirit in my heart and send you all the prayers and love I have… When you are overwhelmed with choices, I will be there to support the decisions that only you can make… When you have doubts, I will acknowledge them and  then relight the candle of hope with you”