A Remembrance - Julie

Julie, my bi-centennial baby, would turn 40 this year.
4 - 8 - 16
multiples of four mark Julie's 40th birthday.

I try to imagine what Julie would be like at 40.
I asked Amy what she thought she would be like.
"She'd be the same," she said.

I had a dream not long ago about Julie.
In my dream, someone asked how old Julie was.
I said,
"She has no age.
She is ageless.
She now belongs to the ages."

Julie is no longer bound by time.
She is timeless.

We, in this earthly realm are still bound by time.
We, in her family, mark time by such remarks as:
"Julie would be 40 if she were alive."
"Julie has been gone nearly six years."
"I saw 8:08 on the clock today and thought of Julie."

Time has moved on since our dear Julie left our midst, but she is never far from our minds.
She remains so very dear to our hearts.
She lives on in our memory.

On her birthday, we celebrate the life that blessed our lives when Julie was born.

When Julie turned 33, I wrote a blog post about her birth and early years on our private family blog.
On Facebook that year, I wrote, "Julie celebrates her birthday tomorrow."
She responded with this:
did i get a 17 paragraph blog post smile emoticon

Seventeen paragraphs would not begin to describe Julie.

In my memorial service tribute, I tried to describe Julie this way:

Julie, my free-spirit with a soul that was as rich, full-bodied and interesting as her hair, was born on a spring morning on April 8, 1976. My springtime pixie, born while the daffodils were in full bloom entered this life like a fire cracker during the bicentennial year of our nation’s birth. She seemed to be all sunshine and laughter as a young child.

Julie had such a sense of fun throughout her entire life.

That impish quality that was so evident in her early life was a quality she always had.

She was clever.
She had such wit.
And her cleverness allowed her to be quite creative in most things she did in life.

She was energetic.
She loved to dance, to hike, to ski, to run.
She ran marathons and was on the track team in high school.

She was playful, spontaneous, active, dynamic, enthusiastic, graceful, outgoing, and adventuresome.

Julie was nurturing.
She love babies and children.
Babies and children loved her.
She loved being an auntie.

Reading with Hannah

Julie was smart, imaginative, logical.
She was a very hard worker and was a valued employee.
She earned a B.A. in English.
She loved to read.
Her favorite author was most likely Virginia Woolf.

She kept journals.
She liked to write and was an excellent writer.

Julie was interesting, friendly, inventive, logical, confident, and big hearted.

She loved being with family.

Julie loved her dog Phoenix.

Julie had such style.
She had good taste in decorating, and in dressing.
Clothes always looked good on her slim, athletic body.
Julie modeling my old coat from the 70's
Julie had great friends 

Julie & Jason
Julie was courageous.
When she was eighteen she had her first bout with severe depression.
She fought a battle with depression her entire adult life.
Her mood disorder caused her to be
moody, distant, troubled, detached, insecure.
Many never knew how much she suffered from depression.
At times she could be so annoying.
Her moods were overwhelming to her and others.

Still, she showed up.
She was independent, and wise, and trustworthy.

Julie had such physical strength and balance.
She always seemed to be the one we leaned into for balance in family dynamics,
or when we decided to kick up our heels in fun.

I always think of her as the lynchpin.

On the day that would have been Julie's 40th birthday,
I want to remember her as she has always been to me:
my beautiful springtime pixie.

My heart broke when she left us.
It will always be broken.
Between the broken pieces in my heart, my love for her, and her love for me, allows me to   remember clearly and  see her beautiful blue eyes and her smile.

I think of her sense of fun and of whimsy.
I remember her wise beyond her years intelligence.

I remember her arm around my shoulder.
I remember the special bond that we had.

I am blessed because 
Julie Ann Christiansen
was a special gift God sent to me on
on a beautiful spring day in April when the daffodils were blooming
forty years ago today. 

My life was so enriched because she graced my life.
She remains my treasured daughter.

The Mundane - Scrubbing the Floor

My days are consumed with:
moving things from one place to another, 
 trying to find out where an item fits best.

Adding to the stress of moving things around,
I've thrown in the Christmas boxes
that now 
lined up in dining room
where the other boxes 
all used to

The Christmas tree is up.
It is naked, except for the lights.
It is a pre-lit tree.

Every piece of furniture needs to be
The carpets need to be
The wood floors need to be 

It is the laundry room that is catching my attention today.
The laundry room is
the entryway from the garage,
the place where the dog is 
and where he messily
laps up
 bowls of water.
The laundry room is
the place where the dog is 
when we are not at home.
The laundry room is Boston's room.
The floor is
with dog hair.
It is
muddy and dusty.
No matter how much I feel 
to unpack 
to decorate
the Christmas tree,
I am more 
to scrub 
the laundry room floor.

And so, I 
sweep up
the dog hair that covers the floor.
I then find some floor cleaner, and a rag.
I get on my hands and knees and begin to scrub the dirty floor.

Then, I

Julie was not yet two years old
 in the memory I have of her as I 
the floor on my hands and knees.
On that day, now 36 years ago
I was also 
the floor on my hands and knees
Christmas had just come and gone, and
the other children were back in school.
I was very, very
 with my last child, my fifth. 
Jonathan was born on the last day of January that year.
As a mother of four children under the age of ten,
with another soon to be born,
I was
very tired,
but the huge kitchen floor was very dirty.
On my hands and knees, I
and worked 
my way around the room, 
getting every corner sparkling clean in preparation for the birth that was imminent.

the task of cleaning accomplished,
I headed downstairs to do a load of laundry while the floor dried.

while I was downstairs,
went into the newly scrubbed kitchen.
I remember thinking she was way too quiet upstairs.
That was never a good sign.
When I came up the stairs,
my arms full of clean, neatly folded towels and sheets,
I heard pots and pans banging together.
I went to other side of the kitchen island to investigate.
There was
She had been very busy.
She had taken all the canned goods out of the lazy Susan and put them on the newly cleaned floor.
She had then taken out all of the pots and pans and placed them by the canned goods.
She had then taken eggs and broken them over the cans of food, and the pots and pans.
My floor was a mess.
Julie was happily playing house.
I wanted to cry.

Today, I 
as I 
that long ago day when I had gotten down on my hands and knees
 to scrub
the kitchen floor.
It was a mundane chore then.
It is still a mundane chore.
It is also a chore filled with treasured memories 
of a tiny,
curly haired,
little imp,
my little pixie,
always so busy,
always so inquisitive,
always so creative,
whom had made a mess on newly cleaned floor so many years ago.

I may have been exhausted,
I may have been overwhelmed,
but those feelings are forgotten.

I remember 
 while I
the floor.

Today, the mundane task of 
the floor brought back golden memories. 

I miss you Julie.
I love you.

Small Mementos

The time spent in my classroom teaching international students is truly priceless.  No price tag can be attached to the healing that I experience as I teach.  Even when I am teaching grammar, I am happy.  I get excited teaching such topics as the one we covered today:  past progressive.  I'm in my element when I do this.  I explain.  I draw charts to show the concept.  I give examples.  I ask for the students to give examples.  I wear myself out.  It feels good to teach again.

When I am teaching, I laugh a lot.  I listen to my students making their first few sentences in a classroom that is taught in a language that is not their first language.  I learn about their cultures.  I learn about each student as an individual.  I see growth.  I experience healing.

My mind is not on my loss.  My heart does not feel quite as broken.  I see the future that is in my students' eyes.  I am a part of something that is bigger than I and my sorrows.  It does feel good to teach again.

On a day like today, I leave my classroom feeling upbeat and happy.   I walk across campus to my car grateful for times of peace, joy, and accomplishment .  Our class had just had a small Valentine's Day Party.  As I walk to car,  I see a young mother approaching me.  She has her darling sleeping daughter in her arms.  The young toddler is dressed so cute in a little hat, coat and boots.  I wonder if she can even walk in those cute boots.  She seems so small.  Suddenly, I find I am weeping.  Babies still do that to me.

I think of my darling Julie.  I see her in her dressed in her cute little pink coat and her Raggedy Ann hat.  I see her impish little smile.  I think of how many nights I walked the floor with her because of her persistent earaches as a toddler.  I remember her finally falling asleep in my arms only to wake when I put her down because of the pain in her ears.  I remember what a sweet baby and child she was.  How could I have ever imagined that one day she would take her life.   She was a such a sweet, fun-filled, vibrant, loving child. I want to go back to those days when I could hold her in my arms and make whatever was bothering her all better.  I want to hold her.  I want to carry her.  I want to have her curly head tucked on my shoulder.

After the wave of sorrow washed over me today, I came home and made a hot cup of tea.  I drank the warm comforting brew from a tea cup that Julie gave me a number of years back.  I have not been able to use that cup since her death.  I have been afraid that I would somehow break it.

I've always loved that cup.  Julie knew that I like to drink my tea from china mugs.  She found the perfect one for me.  I always think of her when I use it.  After losing her, I just couldn't risk losing the cup that I loved using.  It is the special tea cup that she had picked out just for me.  Today, I knew I had to use this small memento.  It seemed that the only comforting thing I could do was drink some hot tea from the cup that had been a gift from Julie.

I brought the tea up to my study, settled into my favorite chair, and sipped the tea.  I looked at the rainbow rock that has always been on my reading table.  Julie painted the rock when she was about four or five years old.  She would paint rocks and try to sell them to the neighbors.  She gave her rainbow rock to me.  It has been one of my favorite treasures ever since.  It has always kept its place of honor beside my favorite chair that I have used for reading.  My Julie rock painted with rainbow colors always makes me smile.

My favorite family photos, books and keepsakes are found in my study.  That is where I also have my favorite chair.  This place is the place where I go for relaxation, reading, and reflection.

Julie smiles at me from the photo made on Amy's wedding day.  She smiles at me again from the photo of her, Amy and me that was taken just before a Christmas season parade in Lafayette, Colorado a number of years back.

I then looked at one of Julie's small wallet sized senior pictures.  The photo shows my dear eighteen year old Julie.  She looks so happy.  The truth is, by then she was already suffering from depression.  Usually she was the life of the party.  She had loads of friends who adored her.  She was successful in school.  She ran track and cross country.  She also was just beginning the long, difficult struggle with a disease that would haunt her until her death.

Not long after Julie's death, I decided to reframe this particular photo, one of several that were her senior pictures.  The old frame had become tarnished.  I found a frame that I thought the photo would fit.  It had hearts on it.  The photo was just a bit bigger than the frame, so I trimmed a small amount from each side.  That is when I noticed writing.  Quickly, I turned the photo over and realized she had written on the back.   She had written:

This is one to show my happiness & I would like you
to show it to me when I'm down
to show me that a smile
lights the world.
Even though you make me feel better just being around.

Thankfully, I have these small mementos.  I can pick them up and remember the beautiful child that gave them to me.  I won't ever have new photos of Julie.  I won't ever receive another card with her sweet message written inside.  I won't ever be able to make it all better for her like I tried to do for so long.   I won't ever see that smile again, but I promise you, that beautiful smile did light up my world. 

All I have now, are those mementos, many photos, lots of cards, and my precious memories.