Okay, so I’m back. We are all moved in, and officially back to only owning one house. I was going to use this to post pictures of our new digs and tell you all about the joys of moving, but it will have to wait until next week. First I need to tell you about Jen. Jen is my sister-in-law, and she died from a pulmonary embolism the second night we were in our new house. It has been incredibly sad and such a shock to all of us, that I just couldn’t go about telling you any funny stories when all this sadness is going on inside me and the rest of my family.
When I met Dave in Mrs. Brick’s art class, I only knew I sat by a cute boy that I hoped would ask me out. I had no idea at the time that he came from a family of people who would accept and love me as one of their own. A group of people I am happy and proud to be related to, even if it’s only in marriage. Marriage or birth, they are my family and have been since the day we walked down the aisle. Before that, actually, seeing as Dave and I started dating as infants.
And not just Mom and Dad DeGroot, brother Jay and sister Wendy. But aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends – an entire new tribe. It could easily have been intimidating but I was always made to feel welcome. Jen was Jay’s wife, and has been a part of that welcoming family for the last 16 or so years. I have a hole in my heart now from the place she used to live, that I didn’t even know was occupied by her until she was gone. Now it’s just this emptiness and I want her to come back and fill it again.
I won’t hear her laugh or see her make that funny face when something struck her as off the wall or eat one of her cheesecakes or listen to one of her many stories or hear her tell Madison to stop goofing off and eat her dinner. I won’t laugh with her over Ursala the Sea Witch or ask her what they are getting Dad for Christmas (he is the hardest person to buy for because he already has everything) or see her driving Madison to McDonald’s.
I will remember Jen as a person who didn’t take crap from anyone. Who loved her family and friends and would have done anything for them. Anything. Who loved to stamp and make handmade gifts. Who loved to go home to the farm and visit her parents and brothers. Who had strength of character and an actual backbone to stand up for what she believed was right. Who laughed often and liked to talk, which is good because I wasn’t always a great conversationalist and she made it easy for me. Someone who was generous – the first time I met her, she was helping us move to our house on Weatherstone – ironically, the one we just sold. Seriously, she comes to meet her new future in-laws on moving day – now that’s a generous heart.
Jen – I will think of you every time I cuddle under the Packer blanket you and Madison made for us, every time I pull out a bracelet to wear from the glass jar with the jelly beans stamped on it, every time I choose a necklace from the flower dish you helped Madison make, and every time I put up my Christmas decorations because so many of them are from you. This Packer season I will be cheering extra loud to make up for you. Please put in a good word for us up there.
I will try to be one of Maddie’s stand-in mom’s, but you know I don’t have a spine. I’ll try not to be the one who let’s her go base jumping or get her tongue pierced or get a tacky tattoo, but I’m not making any guarantees. But I do promise to love her, to be involved as much as she will let me, to let her know she can come to me any time. Thankfully, you have so many people who loved you, and love Madison and Jay, that they will both be surrounded with support. But it won’t be the same. They have holes in their hearts too.
When I see you again, I will throw my arms around you in a big hug. Tell you I love you and how much I missed you. And then I might kick you in the ass for leaving so early. Of course, that might get me booted out of heaven, so I might have to rethink that. Please give Amanda, Nana, Shorty, Aunt Darlene, Grandma and Grandpa DeGroot and Uncle Chuck hugs from us. And save us a spot at the big table.
Love and miss you,