Precious girl,

I didn’t get to say goodbye … now I can’t bring myself to say it, Jill.

I still look in on you at night; I wander around your room; I touch the covers and all the teddy bears that sit there on your empty bed; I listen over and over to the one that has a record of Jonathan’s voice inside saying. “I love you with all my heart, Gillian Marie Sabet.” I caress your things; I look up at all the pictures on your bulletin board for a little while … and remember.

Sometimes I sit a few minutes in your chair or just stand there in the quiet. I make sure the candle is always is always burning. It’s like a prayer … but also a light to help you find your way back home. I still whisper, “Goodnight precious girl,” the way I always did. I probably always will.

I promise you I will remember everything, sweetheart. Every moment with you is written permanently upon my heart. I have the memory of how rare and beautiful a life you lived. What a spectacular young woman you had become, what a legacy of love you left this world in your short time. I have the memories of all the fun we’ve had together, all the laughter and the heart to heart conversations – our mother-daughter-best friend talks.

I had planned for us to have so many more of those.

I tell myself that I will try to think of you the way you lived … with all the passion and joy that made you such a beacon of light for us. And then the awful ache comes back. It is a part of me now, separate but right beside the wounds that still remains from when your brother, Jonathan, died.

I look for you everywhere. It tears at us to feel all that is now missing in our house, the cruel awareness of not seeing you curled up on the couch with your blankets on Saturday mornings, your neat and tidy bedroom and the bathroom always spotless now. We want the clutter back, the gaggle of girls that showed up in droves whenever you were sad, the birthday breakfast “kidnappings” at 5:00 a.m. We’d give anything to once more hear the constant ringing of your phone, the music of your voice singing whatever popped into your head, asking for some money, or how come we never have anything good to eat. We miss the way you danced around the house, always blowing kisses and making faces. We never realized how much we loved the drama, the girlfriends, the boyfriends, the look on your face when you sat daydreaming – the absolute mystery and enchantment in a young girl’s life.

I lie in bed each morning now and wait for the sound of your alarm clock, the radio playing while you get ready for school. At night I listen for the sound of your car coming up the driveway, your keys in the door. I miss not being able to fall asleep for the surround-sound of scary movies that you and your friends would watch downstairs late at night. Now, I can’t sleep for knowing I won’t ever hear those sounds again. I miss how we would so often find you later, all propped up in bed, fast asleep with the light from your laptop still glowing across your face. Mostly I just miss your hugs, your little kisses and the sparkle in your eyes.

I could not have been more blessed, nor had a better daughter. You were my treasure and you came in such a perfect package. I am more proud of you than there are words in all the languages of the world with which to tell you. I love you beyond any human capacity to understand or express. I cherish every moment that you were here with me in this life and called me “mom.”

I am so grateful, Jill, for the incredible intensity and closeness that shaped our beautiful relationship, for all the times you lifted my failing spirits and made me laugh. I am proud, sweet girl, for the leader and example that you became, for the way you always made your own choices and for your determination to find your own way in everything, your own answers. Your strength of heart made you such a hero to me … filled with compassion for others, the courage to live according to your convictions, always with an adventurous attitude that would never let fear or insecurity keep you from your goals or from following your dreams. You grew up into everything I had hoped for, and so much more.

I am just so sorry and so heartbroken that all those things you longed to do must now remain undone – that so many hopes and dreams and wonderful life adventures are left unfulfilled and unaccomplished.

It’s such a little time since you have left us, Jill. But I have been floundering for so long, adrift in the perilous ocean that all bereaved parents must find their way across. I had just begun to see the other shore where we find “acceptance” and the will once more to look forward to the future. I had come to that place where I could stop crying all the time for your brother … and instantly I found myself transported back to the beginning – a mother whose worst nightmare had come true, twice.

How will I find the strength to make this crossing one more time?

There is no such thing as “healing” or “recovery” for a parent who has lost a child. Those are concepts only the inexperienced imagine could be possible. There is only adaptation. The only “cure” for a parent’s grief is to be reunited with the children they have lost. So, I will do my best to learn how to live again with this adaptation, Jill, for your dad and for Jason, who love me and still need me … and because I know that you would want me to do it also for myself.

I hold you in all the secret places of my heart and I will love you to the end of my existence and far beyond. I will paddle for my life back across this deep dark ocean, precious girl. I will tell your story to anyone that listens. I will build upon your legacy and see that you are not forgotten here. And I will hope continually for that moment in which I may once more see your loving smile and pull you close against me finally and forever.

Be happy, daughter. You know that’s all I ever truly wanted for you. Be happy there … with both of your Jonathans … and with the God you now understand far more than I. Remember always how very much I love you.