As I sit here on the eve of the day when you would've been turning 17, my heart and my thoughts are turned to you once again. I can't help but wonder what you would be like right now if you had been permitted to stay. Would you be boy crazy with a line of suitors just waiting to take you out? (Knowing your mom's dating history and your dad's charm, I believe it's entirely possible that you would.) Or, would you be more the quiet type who likes reading and having fun with friends instead of going out all the time? I won't ever know, so it's left up to my imagination.
I have something so exciting to share with you, beautiful angel. This week I finished my first year of grad school! What an incredible journey it has been, truly one of the hardest and yet most rewarding things I've ever done. I've learned so much, been challenged in new and exciting ways and have made some wonderful new friends who also happen to be my classmates. I'm not sure exactly where this journey will take me, but I do know that it's absolutely the right decision.
I'd love for this weekend to be a celebration of both your birthday and of the completion of my first year of grad school. Since you're not able to be here, though, I guess I get to celebrate on my own and trust that you're looking down on me and are proud of your aunt for her accomplishments. You should be proud of your uncle too--he and I started grad school at the same time, and he is now finished. He and his wife moved to Texas for his new job a month ago. I miss them, but I'm so proud too.
Sweet angel, your family went on a great trip to Yellowstone this week, through somewhat miraculous circumstances. I hope you were able to be with them in spirit, to enjoy a special family place. I'm certain they were thinking of you too and wishing you could've been with them. The ache of losing one you love never truly goes away.
It's been a tough year for the family, beautiful girl, and I know of at least one time for sure you were near. Did you get to come and help take Aunt Judy home when she passed away? Or Grandpa EJ? I hope our loving Father in Heaven continues to allow you to administer comfort at the times it's needed most, especially for Grandma in her new living situation, Grandma and Grandpa who bear a lot of burden in caring for her and our cousins and uncle who mourn their mom's passing. You are, after all, our angel in heaven.
I miss you so much, beautiful Ashley. I miss your sassy smile, your teasing personality and most of all I miss your hugs of unconditional love. I'm still so glad you're at rest, but sometimes that doesn't take away the ache of losing you, especially on days like your birthday where we would be celebrating you.
A very happy 17th birthday to you, beautiful angel! I will be doing all I can to honor your memory this weekend.
P.S. Here's me with all of your cousins recently. They say hello and that they love and miss you too.