Happy Fourth of July in heaven, Mommy. I miss you so much that there are no words to do justice to the way I feel justice. I know that this was one of your favorite holidays. You were so proud of your father, the Marine, and how he fought valiantly at Iwo Jima. You were also proud of the fact that Al followed in his footsteps and enlisted in the Marines, as well. One of my favorite pictures of you is when we went to see Al graduate at Parris Island and you and his mom are standing with him. You have a big straw hat on with the eagle, globe and anchor emblem and you look so proud and happy. I inherited that hat and am so grateful to have it.

So, if you were here with us you would have bought the boys Old Navy 4th of July T-Shirts (Al bought one, I didn’t have the heart.) Your nails would have been painted red, white and blue, as would your clothes. You would have baked some sort of sweet concoction decorated with stars and stripes.

It’s not nice today in New York. I have to say I’m glad. I feel as though the world ( or whoever you touched in it ) is mourning your loss. I always knew that your story had inspired many people who were diagnosed with this terrible disease called cancer. As an aside, whenever someone says the word “cancer”, I think of how we laughed when we went to see “The Help” with Aunt Carol and Angie (I think?). Anyway, is was set in the deep south and when they would say “cancer” they would whisper it as though it was a bad word. For some reason, we thought that was really funny. But, I digress.

What I was saying was that I knew that you inspired and touched so many people with your survival story but, It was only after you passed that I really realized just how many people loved you. Deb, for example, who was your client, and who you really respired and respected, felt the same way about you. I hope you hear it when I read out loud her posts about missing you and how she felt a special bond with you because of your similar backgrounds. I am happy to report that you two really are alike, As you know, she suffered the loss of her beloved husband and, instead of crawling under the covers, she is spending time with friends, vacationing, and even taking surfing lessons. See, Mom, she loved you, too! She felt the same way about you that you felt about her.

And poor Aunt Phyllis.. I’ll never forget how devastated she was when I called to let her know that you had passed away. I think she had the most devastating reaction. She screamed, cried, and couldn’t believe it. She loved you so very, very much. She calls me, Chrissy, Lori and Daddy to check in on us but, we invariably start to cry, because she does, too.

So many of our friends have let us know that they felt so welcome in our home. Trish, I think (or maybe it was Liz Turner) was saying that they felt like misfit toys and that they were happy at your house, spending time with you and that you were compassionate and caring and non judgmental.

Lorenzo has a picture of you, Jack, Mike and him as his profile picture. Sometimes I think he misses you almost as much as Mike and Jack do. And, God, do they ever. It’s so difficult to see them tear up when they look at your picture or when they tell a story or relate a memory. They are doing well, though. They make the honor roll at school, they have wonderful friends and good heads on their shoulders. Thank you for helping me make them into the young men that they are. There is no doubt that you were instrumental in that, Mommy. They have both told me that they felt as though you were a second mother to them. They are so lucky to still have Chrissy and Lori. They are wonderful Aunts and influences on the boys. Everyone teases us because when one of us goes somewhere, we all go. We are about as close a family as you can get. That is because of you also, Mommy. And, we truly LIKE each other and not just love each other. We make each other laugh, like always. We may be a little bawdy at times (like a certain other family on TV that I get made fun of because I watch) but, we ALWAYS have each others’ backs. And, we always will. There is nothing that can tear us apart, ever. Bible – LOL for the people who got the TV reference above.

I am so proud of your work ethic, your strength and your true generosity with everyone (and in many different ways.)

So, I’m glad it’s raining on your favorite holiday – which also happens to be the last one you ever celebrated. As you would often say we were so lucky to live in “the best state in the best country in the entire world!”. I spent the day reflecting on how wonderful you were and, although I don’t live in a state of constant melancholy, I think to spend a day to reflect on how wonderful you were and how much we miss you now and again is perfectly alright.

But, don’t worry. I am your daughter through and through. Tomorrow there will be a big BBQ with all of the regulars. We always talk about you at these events and we laugh – not cry. I do feel bad for Maria – she is still a little lost without you at the parties. You can see how much she misses you at all of the holidays. I love her for it.

So, God Bless America, God Bless my Mommy in heaven (who was one of the proudest Americans I have ever known) and God Bless all of you fighting for our country, fighting your own battle with any life threatening disease and God Bless the family and friends who are there for you, helping you fight for your lives.

In my Mommy’s honor, live your life to the fullest – no matter how difficult your situation may be. Do as much as you are able to. If you can work, work. If you can’t, volunteer, if you can’t get out of the house, do it on the phone. If you can still function “normally” then, take any opportunity you can to help others, to see friends, to work, to love.

Count your blessings, both big and small and a very, very Happy Fourth of July to all!