This morning, I began cleaning the top of the bookshelf that sits beside Jim’s favorite chair in our living room. He had loose papers with bagpipe notes on them, books on golf, an old bow for one day playing your grandfather’s cello and the book your dad made after you passed, Updates on Andi.

I have read this book before, just a month or two after moving in with Jim, back in 2011. I remember reading it in bed, and being moved to tears at the way you shared yourself with courage and honesty during the most difficult time of your life. It wasn’t just that the book was compiled after you died, and reading your words meant an unhappy ending was on the way. It was that you were so very human, thoughtful, compassionate and brave, at a time that could have been filled with fear and darkness. Also, you were a mother.

I read the book again, today, now 8 years after your father died, and 11 years after you died. You were 35 when you died, with an almost 3 year old and an almost 5 year old. I am 38 with a 5 year old and a 6 year old. Your loss is all too real to me, and it was much harder to read your email updates on your diagnosis, prognosis and continued treatment. I ached for your 4 year old daughter, my niece, because I have a daughter who is very much like her. I wept for your 2 year old son, my nephew, because my own son was once 2 and oblivious to his mother’s challenges and pain.

I so desperately wish that we could have known each other, and after reading your words, I am sure we would have been fast friends. I married your brother 4 years after you died, almost to the day, and I would have loved sharing family life with you.

I walked around my house for an hour after reading your father’s book filled with your words. I thought about good luck and bad luck, coincidences and everything having meaning. I thought about God and fate and life and death. And Andi, I thought a lot about you.

Because even in death, you came to me this morning, and you reminded me to have faith, to have gratitude and to turn toward the light, always and again. Since my chronic injuries and pain began, I have lived with so much fear and anger. I have resented and blamed God, my choices and most of all, myself. I have felt unforgivable, and I have believed myself incapable of healing. I have been a victim and a survivor and a martyr and a warrior. I sometimes get lost in these identities; in these roles. But you came to me this morning, and you delivered to me a very important message, which I do hear loud and clear:

Be filled with love.

I so often forget to be thankful for this life I have been given. I so often forget that death is inevitable, and that the present moment contains everything I need. I take for granted my existence. I take for granted my very real ability to still heal and to still grow. I forget to say thank you.

Thank you, Andi. I needed this reminder, and I’m certain you were determined to give it to me. Even though we never met, I feel your love around my family, and your compassion for my husband, your brother. We have had our challenges in our marriage, and it has been hard to see the forest through those burly and overgrown trees. You would tell me to have faith. You would tell me to listen to my intuition. You would remind me to be filled with love. You would encourage me to pour my anger and grief into God. You would tell me to love and to be loved.

I wish we could have met, but somehow, I believe we know each other. Thank you for loving my husband, and for having so much compassion and empathy for him (I am very aware that you definitely did). Thank you for being his little sister. Thank you for being kind and loving and generous. Thank you for Reagan and Luke. Thank you for Peter. Thank you for living a life that leaves the kind of marks behind that cannot be erased, that can never be covered over.

I will do a better job of watching over our family, and I thank you deeply for watching over mine. We are mothers, and you are my sister. I will take care of your brother, and I will make sure he takes very good care of me.

With love and faith,