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A Life Well Lived

Today is our girl Nicole’s birthday. It seems impossible that she made me a mama 39 years ago. But it seems even more unimaginable that she left us over 21 years ago. How can that be? She was 17 years old when she died in an off-roading accident.

But on this day, May 22, I force the thoughts of her accident out of my mind. Today, I push my attention toward the memories of her beautiful, wild and free life. She drew people to her from the beginning.

Some years are harder than others and I have to say, this is a hard one. Maybe it is the fragile condition of our culture because of Covid 19 and social distancing or so many other of the current circumstances of my life. I just miss her. In a world that is experiencing so much darkness, I miss the light she brought to our world.

As I often do when I am missing her, I open her cedar chest to try to reach out and grasp a tangible part of her. So many memories are contained in such a small space. Photos, awards, letters from her friends and even her bright orange backpack that she carried every day. There is a photo album filled with notes from her friends to our family. They tell of sweet memories of Nicole and how she touched their lives. I can’t help but weep as I read the words written there. The words “best friend” are mentioned multiple times. How can one person be the best friend to countless people?

I’ll tell you how. She loved loyally and fiercely. Her smile made each person she came in contact with feel special and valuable. She cried with the broken-hearted and she intentionally approached the un-approachable. She was tough and soft at the same time. Fearless and brave. Her faith in God was the powerful force that drove her. She invited Him to literally empower her choices.

Nicole loved her family well too. She loved me in ways that even today bring comfort to me. Her silliness would usher hysterical laughter until our sides ached. Her cedar chest also contains notes written to say hi and remind me that she loved me. Hand-written notes were her specialty. I’m so thankful for the words she took the time to write on whatever was handy at the time. One of my favorites is written on a paper towel. It says “To Mom, I love you very, very mucho. I miss you, do you miss me? Love, Nicole”.

Oh yes Nicole, I miss you. I miss your sparkly blue eyes, contagious laugh and the way you loved to cuddle. Every moment of every day.

Her name means “Victorious Heart”. The definition of Victorious is “having achieved a victory; conquering; triumphant.

I would say she definitely lived up to the meaning of her name. She conquered a culture that said the most important thing was to fit in and conform. She was triumphant over the tide of division and judgmental thinking by loving unconditionally.

She was not perfect, but the the way she loved others far outweighed her faults.

All these years later I still grieve, but as I savor the wonderful days I had with her, the sorrow is blanketed with a stunning peace. In that I’m comforted and encouraged. Her life was a life of unflinching love. Now...that is a life well lived.

Love pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end.- Bob Goff

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