It’s been a long time. Almost four months. It feels like an eternity.

Do you know that we had a BBQ for Labor Day? It was only about two weeks after you passed and it was very sad but, we had a BBQ. I made the flank steak you loved so much on the Fourth of July – the one with the pineapple juice and the onions.  It was delicious. The kids swam and the adults mostly talked about you.

Do you know that we went to Chrissy’s for her Fortieth Birthday a month after you passed and had a party? We were all there and so were her closest friends. We saw her new deck (which you would love) and we sang and ate cake and missed you. But, we had a party, because it was Chrissy’s Fortieth Birthday.

Do you know that a bunch of my girlfriends, Lori, Chrissy and I went to the vineyards at the beginning of September. You weren’t even gone a whole month, I don’t think. Mimi came, too. We all thought about you all day. You would have LOVED it. We had a limo and we drank and we laughed and talked about old times. We had a delicious lunch and we have lots of priceless pictures of us smiling and hugging and loving each other. Chrissy had a hard time that day, because she knew how much you would have loved it, but, she came and we got her to smile and laugh, too.

Do you know that almost exactly two months after you passed, we flew to the new condo with friends and went to Halloween Horror Nights. I was able to spend time with friends that I have had since childhood (the usual suspects – Randy, Mike Eger, EJ, Muzzy). The power of old friendships is something that I am always grateful for. I don’t need to explain to them how close our family was, the history, etc. I can just be me. We laughed a lot on that trip. Chrissy did, too. She really laughed, for the first time. It was hard to pass the luggage carousel that we were at when Daddy called to tell us you had just passed away. We all cried then, especially Jack. But, you know what? It was still worth it. We laughed more than we cried.

Do you know that we went pumpkin picking at the end of October? You had been gone a little over two months by then. We took Lorenzo with us and we watched Gavin run around and play on the wood playground and we ate roasted corn and bought useless jams and jellies that are delicious but, we won’t eat. We took lots of pictures and we posted them to Facebook and we picked out pumpkins, of course. We also apple picked.   I didn’t cry until Lorenzo said, “It’s sad without Mimi but, Gavin makes it fun..”  I only cried for a minute, though, because then I had to make the kids stop their giggle fest over a green pumpkin they found and named the “pickle pumpkin”.

Do you know that we went to the annual Halloween Party at the beginning of November? The boys were sad that the tradition of you sleeping here that night wouldn’t happen but, they slept at Daddy’s house and had a great time. And, so did Chrissy, Lori and I. Again, our friends and laughter saw us through. I don’t remember any tears that night, as a matter of fact.

And, do you know that we went to Chrissy and Jay’s for Al and Jay’s birthday? You were gone almost three months by then. Chrissy had gone to the psychic Glen Dove and we listened to the tape. We cried as we listened. Most of the things he said seemed spot on but, you know me, your daughter, the skeptic. I doubted even when he said “who is Nicole?” out of nowhere. After we cried, we sang, ate cake and laughed. Gavin ran around singing and the boys, as always, made him happy.

I went to Daddy’s house the day before Thanksgiving and cooked. Daddy picked up the fresh turkey and when I got to his house the next day, it smelled like heaven. He cooked it perfectly. Although we didn’t take down your decorations or your “Thankfulness Tree” (a tree where every year, we write something on a construction paper leaf what you are thankful for and add it to the tree), we did decorate with some stuff we bought at Party City and we made every single dish that we usually have. We took pictures and we ate until we were stuffed. Lori and I were talking about how well we did and how proud we were of ourselves as we were doing dishes when suddenly Daddy’s new sink crapped out and I had water all over my feet. Luckily it was fixed in just a few minutes by Jay but, we joked that it was you saying, “Oh, really? You did that good without me? I’ll show you!”. And, we laughed. Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike and the kids came, Amy and Neal came. There was a home filled with love. Your home, filled with love, like there is every holiday.

Yesterday was my first birthday without you and, I got up, I got dressed and did my make up, I took Chief Brody to the vet and then, treated myself to a massage and a new bag (well, Al treated me to that). We had a nice quiet dinner at home and watched movies as a family. I cried on and off but, I did more than just “get through” my day. I lived it. We are having cake for Lori and my birthday this Sunday at Lori’s.

I have been having a hard time trying to think of a way to put into words how I am feeling after your sudden and tragic death.  As you know, you are my hero, my inspiration and my role model. You are everything I aspire to be. Just because you are not here with us anymore doesn’t mean that those things are still not true.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I can cry for hours if I let myself but, you know what Mommy? I don’t really do it. Everyone grieves in their own way, so they say, and, it’s not for me. I break down, talk to Al or call one of my many friends, daddy or one of my  sisters, they talk me through and I move on.

I wrote this to you so that you would know that we honor you every day, not in how much we cry or in how sad we are but, in what we DO.  You were so vibrant and full of life. You have left a void in this world that is felt by so many. But, we think of what YOU would do and try to emulate that. Because you had some secret, some magic, that made you such a happy, fulfilled person in spite of all of your trials and tribulations. Your life was not always easy – it was often more than most people could take- but, you lived with such wonderment and took joy in so many things, many of them little things.

So, that’s what we do. We have a BBQ on Labor Day, we see friends, we work, we laugh, we carry on your traditions. Chrissy, Lori, Daddy and I are on the phone constantly, talking to each other, lifting each other up. We’ve never been closer.

I have such a large circle of friends because of the person I am, I hope. I am the person I am in large part because of you. Like so many other things, I thank you for that.

I hope you are proud of us, Mommy.

I am proud of us.