To my Joe-Gi - Thank you for the memories you gave us of your last Thanksgiving with us. I have sweet, warm memories of you wanting to help cook and me trying to find some things for you to do that would not be an infectious risk to your brand new baby immune system. You were so diligent and sincere as you stirred butter into the green beans and seasoned them for us and as you melted butter in the microwave and used the basting brush to coat the rolls. You wanted a turkey leg on your plate and you got one, about a half pound of meat there I suspect, and you took maybe two bites, but I recall the look of peace, pleasure and satisfaction on your face as you looked around at your family. I don't remember what we laughed about, but I remember the sound of our laughter with you, your dad, your brothers, Joe and me. Thank you for giving me such warm, happy memories of you. I will do my best today to remember the happiness of when you were here more than thinking of the sadness that you aren't anymore. Your time here with me was a gift from God and I will be thankful for that time.
To Stewart - Thank you for being a wonderful father to our sons and for being a strong, worthy partner as we navigated both Alexander's illness and Joseph's and now the fallout in our family from our loss. Not many people can get through a divorce as well as we have, and I recognize you have worked hard to make that possible. I am grateful for your efforts to keep us all a family despite the differences that caused us to part. I am thankful for the memories you have given me that are filled with the sounds of laughter from our children, particularly from Joseph at times when I am sure he didn't feel much like laughing until you brightened his day. And thank you for the times you have made me laugh too. I am grateful that you are such a wonderful parent to our sons, co-parent to me and a friend to Joe and I. You are one of a kind and I will always pray for your happiness.
To Nick - Thank you for being such a sweet and tender soul. You are stronger than you realize and so smart it stuns me at times. You are always there with a hug or a hand to hold and you are always ready for family time, ready to share laughter and intellectual conversation. You are just starting to figure yourself out and watching you grow has been a blessing to my life. I am proud of the man you are becoming, proud of how you face your shortcomings, proud of how you do not give up despite the struggle life and school are at times and proud that you are such a pleasant young man who makes others feel good about themselves, who honestly wants to do right in the world. You amaze me with your attention to current events, politics, the world, the arts and your life. You are a gift from God to me and I love you.
To Alex - Thank you for the laughter you bring to me. Your wry sense of humor and ability to add depth to the humor of every day life is such a blessing to me. I love the way that you so openly love me, how you will hug me spontaneously and how you always want me to play games with you, to share in your achievements and the things that you find fun in life. You always are ready to help out without complaining and you show so much self motivation for such a young man. The fact that you had a brain tumor so young and have turned out to be so courageous and driven makes me so proud of you. I am thankful for your life, your love for me and your presence here every day. You too are a gift to me from God and I love you.
To my Joe - I do not know how to begin to categorize how thankful for you I am. It is just too massive to define. You saw me through the darkest years of my life and because of your love, your encouragement and your boot to my ass on many occasions, I am doing better than I would have ever given myself credit for being capable of. You make me better than I would be without you and you make me think better of myself. Thank you for the laughter you bring to me every day, for the security you have given me financially, emotionally and spiritually, the passion you fuel between us and the tender love you protect and care for me with. Thank you for letting me take care of you, for sharing your foibles, your self percieved failings (I never see them the way you do), your worries, your dreams and your goals and thank you for letting me run beside you as we strive to make life as good as it can be. Thank you for providing us with this home and for making it a place I want to be more than anywhere else on earth, for working on it so diligently even when it isn't fun. I am grateful for the way you make me feel like the most beautiful and sexy woman on earth, for your playful side that makes us both feel young again and for the way you work so hard with me when we are irritated, frustrated or perturbed with one another to bring us back together again. Thank you for forgiving me for being difficult to live with at times and thank you for being so patient with my grief, which I know is unpredictable and painful for you to witness. I am so grateful God brought you into my life and I want to live the rest of my life with you. I will take care of you all of my days.
To Mom - Thank you for raising me, caring for me, developing so much of my character. Thank you for reading to me so much. It is an activity that gives me so much pleasure even today. You make me feel good about myself, particularly when you want my advice on decorating or choosing your clothing. I am proud of the woman you have become, particularly since Dad died and I admire the way you attack your personal demons and work so hard on being a good person. Your laughter always makes me laugh, your smile is burned in my memory and the time we get together is precious to me. You are never afraid to say you are sorry and you are always willing to forgive me when I tip off the deep end for a while. You loved me when I was not very lovable and didn't hold it against me as I grew out of the worst of it. You are supportive and kind, fun to be with and understanding. I have a wonderful friend in you and I don't know what I would do without you. I never want to know.
To Nessa, Amy, Tahiya and Felicia - You are some of the best friends a girl could ask for. You give me perspective when I am wiggy, tell me I am lovely when I don't like myself very much and laugh with me when I am a weirdo. You listen when I need to talk, love me when I am grieving and share your lives with me in a way that makes me feel like I still have something worthwhile to give. I cherish your friendship and am so grateful for your presence in my life.
To Heather - You have stayed so close to my heart all through this horrible time. It is true that you find support where you do not expect it when life deals its hardest blows and this is particularly true in you. You have been a faithful fan of my life, a nonjudgemental support in my grief and a wonderful sounding board as I adjust to no longer being single. You share your own challenges and relationships with me and make me feel like I still have valuable insights to give. You have been one of my most avid supporters as I strive to get into nursing school and give me such wonderful, realistic ideas of just what I am seeking to get myself into. Your spirit is so giving, so honest, so strong and so real. I don't see you nearly as often as I would like to and am grateful when our lives settle enough to let us get together. I am so thankful to have had your friendship. You bring things to my life that nobody else does.
To my Phenomenal Women Online Imaginary Friends - You also are a source of support that I would not have expected and on whom I lean a great deal. You are proof that the Internet is not solely the source of evil that so many think it is. Though many of us have not ever met face to face, I have had years now of correspondance, shared accomplishments and shared challenges. You have sent gifts, money, support, meals, cards, encouragement, insight, perspective and prayers throughout Joseph's illness and passing and I will never forget those of you I looked up and saw at Joseph's memorial and funeral both. Your place in my heart is so deep. You amaze me both individually and as a group and I feel humbled to be part of such an amazing group of women who tell me all the time they think the world of me.
To Mary Ann - Thank you for opening your heart to me and to Joseph. I am humbled as well that someone as accomplished, educated and amazing as you would seem to think so highly of me. You are special to my heart, not only for what you have done for me and for Joseph but for all the wonderful, funny, sweet memories that Joe shares with me of your growing up years together. I am grateful for you and hope life brings us all together soon.
To the men in the armed forces who protect and sustain our country, thank you. I could not do what you do and it makes me doubly grateful that YOU do what you do.