First, I am asking for your understanding.  As most readers of this post know, my life was turned upside down at the end of July.  On May 17 I retired — a welcomed and joyous occasion.  In mid-July, my plan to buy a house and retire to my favorite place in Florida became a reality.  Big move after 17 years, but like I said, it was welcomed and joyous.  And then, in the last weekend in July, the earth seemed to open up and swallow me into a dark hole.  Trauma like I had never known was my reality.  Unfortunately, my other reality was that the legal and practical wheels were in motion for the rest of the changes in my life that I had meticulously planned for.  I had no choice but to keep moving forward.  I won’t lie.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done or ever expect to do. And, it isn’t over yet.  Grief doesn’t care what else you have going on.  It is with you and will hit you from behind at any time.  It will knock you to the ground and incapacitate you, but there is still so much to be done.  While I would never rank grief by who you lost, I know for a fact that anyone who has lost a child of any age would say it is a pain in a whole separate category from other pain.  It was the ultimate trauma to my otherwise strong constitution.  The reason I ask for your understanding is that I know I should be writing personal thank you notes to about 100 people.  That is no exaggeration.  But, my heart won’t let me go there just yet.  I did not even get all the thank you notes written for so many lovely retirement gifts.  So, I am asking you to accept this as my thank you to this incredible community called BRI.

I wish I could list every single act of kindness, generosity, love, time spent, and everything else that my BRI family has showered me with.  From cards, calls, and texts that continue to check in on me, to responses on Facebook to the people who reached out to others to help cover some of the unexpected expenses involved — not to mention those who were able to travel long distances to celebrate Ginna’s life with us in Tennessee.  I was overwhelmed by the love.  “Thank you” is simply inadequate.  Please know that I love all of you, and I could not be more proud to be a member of this family/community.

Speaking of community, make no mistake — that is what we are.  We have all the good and not so good traits of that concept, but, when push comes to shove, we circle the wagons and take care of each other in whatever way we can.  I lost a child.  Andy lost his wife.  But this community lost a valued member.  I have said many times that my biggest fear about inviting Ginna to BRI when she went from the law to nonprofit was that she would come and be in my shadow.  I knew she didn’t like the spotlight, but I didn’t know she would quickly show everyone that she was her own person, and would gain the respect and affection from others that she so obviously had.  I was thrilled by that.  It made me happy because I considered her my greatest gift to the world.  I had grown up in a family with unconditional love and acceptance.  That is what I tried to give her.  It seems to be something members of our community embrace.  We love our children.  We sacrifice for our children.  We accept our children, and we encourage them to be exactly who they are.  Don’t complain about long talent shows.  It is part of the way we let our children know they are valued.  One of our first YLA’ers definitely marched to the beat of a different drum.  But we embraced her, and encouraged her, and accepted her, and loved her.  I happen to know that this weekend she is displaying her artwork at a very cool art show just up the road from me.

So, wherever we meet, let’s keep doing what we are doing, and be an example to all of what a true community is.  Yes, we are community problem solvers to our individual locations, but we are a community unto ourselves.  I know it now more than I ever have.  We are the place where the “cobbler’s children” can be cared for and nurtured, be they young or old, member or BRIG, or little BRIG’s, or even the light and sound guy!!!

By the way, if you happen to encounter the ghost of my mother, please, please, please don’t tell her you did not get a handwritten thank you note from me.  You probably won’t though, because I know she’s busy celebrating and loving her oldest granddaughter’s presence.

I love you all, and I thank you all.