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To My Julianna

This is the letter I read to my daughter Julianna at her Tea Party Celebration of Life. I am usually a nervous (i.e., avoid it like the plague) public speaker. This time, it was not an issue. (J would have said “Don’t freak out!” or “Relax, princess.”)

As I wrote this letter, I felt her presence and the peace of God.

Michelle and Julianna 17 June 2016

Dear Julianna,

My darling girl, how I miss you. I can’t believe you are gone.

I sit here in your princess room, in the familiar chair. It has all of your things, the stuff I once thought of as clutter and now consider treasure, because you loved it all. If there is a way to truly love inanimate objects, I believe you did, because your love is just that strong.

I knew this day would come. I tried to deny it for the longest time, but I knew, early on, that my time with you on earth would be way too short.

Even before your CMT declared itself to be the beast that it was, even as we planned a long life with adapted everything, I worried. There was this gnawing fear I tried to shove deep down.

You see, I believe that children whose time on earth is short are special. It’s not just a platitude, or something I say to make myself feel better. It actually made me feel awful. I recognized very early (after the nasty colic stuff went away, that is), that you were not an ordinary child. And it scared me.

What kind of a child never feels sorry for herself? Or refuses to pick favorites because you don’t want people (or things) to feel left out?

I described it this way in an email I wrote in October 2014:

If you have been around Julianna, you know that she is one of those kids – her spirit is incredible and resilient, and she is wise beyond her years while being delightful and funny at the same time. She is exceptional.

I recognized this, and it scared me. If it had been up to me, I would have made you more ordinary, so you could be with us longer. It’s selfish, and not very wise – but it’s the truth. That’s how hard it was to imagine a life without you.

So now, we are here. I was right to be afraid of this, because it hurts – more than I can describe or even think about for any length of time. That’s the price I pray for loving you so much. But it’s OK, because the love you gave me was epic. I’m still coming out ahead – by an enormous margin.

And this, my sweetheart, is your greatest gift, your legacy. More than anything else, you loved. Your love was so expansive, so thorough, it gave you a lightness and joy that was otherworldly.

You said it best, darling girl. Love is a superpower.

Just look at what it’s done:

It made an introvert bare her soul to the world – via CNN.

It let a little girl who had a hard time just going out of her princess room be known — by the world.

It made the laconic very, very verbose – this would be Steve, in a 1,115 word-count Facebook post about Making a Moment.

It makes converts out of pinka-phobes – because it was your favorite color. (Steve again…)

And love is the only thing powerful enough to get us through life without you: God’s love, manifested so obviously in every fiber of your being. I believe you took His greatest gift and shared it with all of us.

Love is a superpower. It is the reason and the answer. It keeps broken hearts beating; it turns judgment into kindness, fear into courage, grief into joy; despair into hope. It is the greatest.

My sweet Julianna. You have taught me so much, but this is your most important gift: that the thing I feared most has happened, but I will survive. Because of your love.

You will always be my baby.

With all my love, and a million zillion kisses – until I see your beautiful face again…


Michelle and Julianna
Photo credit: Charles Gullung

This post originally appeared on Michelle’s blogRead Michelle’s first story on The Mighty: My Daughter Wants to Choose Heaven Over the Hospital.