Letter from Vashti

Dearest eldest daughter,

Darlin’, we talked so often when you were in the hospital. Many times we talked when it looked your time had come, when you were so tired, or so hurting, that the battle looked a lot bigger than you were. Times like that we would talk quietly on the phone, and I would say, “It’s okay honey. Let go if you want to. Don’t go through this for me… or for any of us. You are the one hurting and you know we all love you. If you feel like it’s time, just let go, ok?” And you would usually say ok and drift off to sleep and I would hang up the phone and cry. I always did my best to never let you see me cry, or hear tears in my voice, and I kind of wondered if you maybe thought I didn’t care because of that. But knowing how deeply connected we were, I feel sure you knew.

I’m so glad we had our visit in September. It truly was a miracle that I got to come there. To get to put my arms around you was bliss beyond belief for me. I was terribly afraid I might do something that would hurt you, so I pretty much just held your hand. You looked so small, and so fragile I literally thought you would break if I hugged you like I really wanted: fiercely, deeply, madly. So I tried to be as gentle as I could. It was beyond wonderful to get to talk with you. Not that we actually said much, but what we did say counted. I loved seeing your eyes shine when you spoke of your beloved Alaska, and hearing you tell me of your plans to see the bears one day. I never doubted for a minute that you would do it too.

I am so very, very proud of you, my dearest eldest daughter. My firstborn child, the one that taught me so much. It snowed the day you were born, so I guess you were destined to one day be called “Snowdaughter”. Through the Internet you have reached out and touched hearts and lives all over the world. Even today, people are talking about you, quoting you, telling each other stories about things you did, things you said, or the time you booted them in the butt through cyberspace and told them to stop whining and get the day underway. One of the things you said to me reverberates in my heart often: “Never judge a day by the weather. The weather just is. It is up to you to make it a good day.”

Being with you long-distance through this struggle has been so hard. It tore me up that I couldn’t be here with you so that I could possibly help more in some way. Thank goodness for the telephone line. And thank goodness you got the computer so we could be in touch through cyberspace the way we were. It was so great getting to see you in Live Chat New Year’s Eve. And it was so great to get to talk to you New Year’s Day. You sounded so happy and so full of yourself, I guess that is why your passing came as such an enormous shock to all of us. At first I felt like I didn’t get to say goodbye. And then I realized that you have been telling me goodbye with love every chance you got ever since you got your diagnosis.

Your daddy and I named you Virginia Marie when you were born. Then, as you grew, we called you Ginger. Your daddy often called you punkin. Then Ginger evolved into Ginny. Then you chose to be called Jackie, after the song lyrics to “Jackie Blue.” Online you were called Snowdaughter. And even that often got shortened to “Snow.” At some point I have called you by all of those names, but in my heart, I have always thought of you as my Ginger baby.

Saturday, when we were in traffic, I noticed a Seventh Cavalry Regiment sticker on the back of a white van in front of us. That was your granddad’s regiment, and those regimental colors were on every uniform I ever saw him wear. In almost the next instant, a beautiful bald eagle soared up from the trees to our right, dipped toward our car, then soared up until we lost it in the sun. A moment later I realized the symbology that I had just witnessed. My Ginger baby was with her granddad, and she was soaring! For the first time since I got the call that were gone, I felt a sense of peace wash over my ragged spirit, and I cried fresh tears. Tears of relief, and tears of gratitude.

Always remember…

Your mama loves you.

Be at peace my dearest eldest daughter. You will never be forgotten. People all over the world donate blood in your honor now. People all over the world now conduct their lives with a determination and strength and courage that you showed them they had. And by the way… people are also throwing snowballs.

I knew you would like to know.

Bye Jackie. It’s all blue and gold from here, with endless horizons and easy riding. I just know you are having a grand adventure from where you are now. And I also know you are guiding our lives just as you always have.

You are loved. And you are missed.

Love always,