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Jessica LeBrun, Sheila Barnett

Hey mom,

It’s your birthday! If you were here, you would be saying “It’s just another day”. I have been trying to tell myself that same thing all day, but when I burst into tears helping Kai put his shorts on I realized it wasn’t working.

Today IS your birthday, whether you ever liked it or not, and you deserve to be celebrated, honored, and now…remembered.

We should be eating cake and singing to you against your will. You know, cake that you actually made yourself, ’cause none of us can bake like you.

You should be here. And to be honest, as you know I have to be, I am really angry that you aren’t.

I know I can’t get you back, but if I could send you a message, it would be that I’m not angry at you. I am angry that you were born into this world as the daughter of someone who didn’t treat you the way that you deserved to be treated. I am angry that the abuse you endured all of those years taught you that you had to look for the bad first, and made you always second guess if you were loved. You were, and still are, so loved.

Looking back, I remember being angry when I was a kid and you were suffering from depression. I was angry because even though I understood what you had been through in your past, I didn’t understand why we as your children and family NOW (or then) were not enough to make you want to live. And if you ever realized I was angry, I apologize, because now I can see that we were always enough for you, but you never felt like you were for us.

When we were going through times when you were really depressed, I would think about you all day at school, and I would walk down the driveway so slowly with a pit of fear in my gut. I was always afraid that it would be the day that we would find you. And sometimes, during those times, I wished that my mom could be more like my friend’s moms. You know, the ones who would drive us to the mall, talk to us about boys, get dressed up and go out with her own girlfriends or their husbands. I am so sorry that I ever wished you were like them or that some other mom would have been the perfect mom for me.

You were exactly the mom I was supposed to have. The perfect mom for me. If it weren’t for you being you, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I thank you for sticking with it all those years to be my mom. I know it was not easy, but even though you never believed it, you taught us so much just by being you and fighting the battles you were handed.

After all that we went through, ups and downs in our own relationship and lives, and in the past 4 years we had really become closer than ever. Sometimes I want to say that I’m sorry I called you at least 3 times per day and made you listen to me rant about groceries and toddlers, but I know you really loved it. I was so happy when you guys moved back here. I wanted so much to share my children with you as they grew, and I loved to see how you lit up around them.

I’m sorry that we were so close yet I didn’t realize that you were at that point. I am so sorry that after all of those years I somehow thought you had just “gotten better”. Turns out, you just got better at hiding what was going on. Knowing you, it was because you didn’t want to be a burden on anyone else. If I had to guess, you knew the ups and downs over the years had worn us all down and you didn’t want us to go through the downs with you anymore.

I wish you had known that I would have gone through the lowest lows with you to the end of time, and it would be worth it to keep you here with us. I wish you had known that you were worth that to us, and no amount of sacrifice would have been too big to save you.

I’m sorry I didn’t drive to your house and pull you out of there, take you for a walk or something. I knew you were in some sort of “funk”, but also knew you pulled back from me in those times and within a few days everything would be fine again. I had no idea it was that bad.

You would hate this so much and probably kill me, but I had to hack into basically every account you have to help Dad figure out bills, etc, and I saw that you had a list of to-dos. On it, “Research mental health facilities I could check into…”

Reading that was a knife in the heart. You put it on your to do list?! You know I would be yelling at you, like I used to yell at you about not eating breakfast, if I could right now. You didn’t tell any of us that you were at that point, yet you put it on your to-do list as if you needed to pick up lemons at the grocery store. You really didn’t want to burden us, and I so wish that you had.

You see, those people who say that you are at peace now, I appreciate the sentiment and pray that you are. Yet I know you, and I know this is not what you wanted. I saw the list of things to pack for our Easter cookout sitting on your desk. I gave the kids the Easter baskets you made for them. I saw the list of to-dos. I read the email you sent me about what time we were meeting that day. I know you, and I know that you wanted to be there for all of it. The kids’ 2nd and 4th birthday parties the next month, Kai’s first day of preschool, his soccer game the next morning. I know you planned to be there.

We honored you at the Out of the Darkness walk this year. The speaker at the walk told us that 100% of the survivors who have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and miraculously lived through it have said that the very first thought they had after jumping was regret. I know you would be with them there, and as strange as it sounds that makes me insanely angry and oddly comforted at the same time.

Knowing that you didn’t actually want to make that choice, believing you would take it back if you could, it rips my heart apart and holds it together at the same time.

That split second decision, it has changed our worlds forever. I hope that you can see us, hear us, and find peace in finally knowing how much you are loved.

As for me, this is part of my story now, but I am going to make it a part that brings some good to this world. I am going to show you that you were put on this earth for a reason. And I know that my sisters will too. Your mother, your sister, your brother… you. It stops here.

I know that you always struggled with knowing your worth and purpose. You had so much worth and still so much purpose. Trust me when I say that I will always strive to live my life in a way that inspires, empowers, and uplifts other people to find their worth, love themselves, know they are loved, and never get to the point where they want to do anything but live this life they were meant for.

I miss you so much every day. I don’t know why this is our story, but it started on November 19, 1959 and it’s still being written. For your birthday, this year and every year going forward, I will give you the gift of working hard to spread love and encouragement to all in your honor.

I love you. Always did and always will! Happy Birthday, Mom!

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