We have been spending our spare time pouring our heart and soul into making Julia’s Grace Foundation a success. Time spent setting up the framework for the foundation, working on building a website, spreading the word through Facebook and of course, planning events. There is nothing else that seems so important.
John and I found ourselves instantly thrown into an empty nest. It is so barren, so lonely. We miss Julia more than I could ever express. We trudge through each day. Then we remember to take our cues from Julia’s life and her message; you get more happiness out of doing something that will make someone else happy, by giving someone else “a hug”.
The Foundation board met recently; we sat around the table looking at the website and reviewing all the pages. One of our Board members, John, brought to our attention that we needed to include “Julia’s voice” in our mission. After all, she was what drove us to do this. She is our “guiding star”, Julia is the one that makes the Foundation different, makes it special. How do we take a website and make it feel like someone, make it Julia’s site?
So, I set out this month to try to find a way to bring her life and her “voice” to the pages of the website. I reviewed the blog and scoured my memory for an example or a story that I could add to the pages. It has not been easy. How could I find the words to describe her unselfishness, her generosity, her love for everyone?
I thought back to the time we went to eat at Max & Erma’s. As we waited to be seated, Julia asked if she could try a chance at the claw machine. John and I both said we didn’t have change, so Julia asked Pop Pop. How could he resist those big blue eyes? So off she went with a dollar in hand to try her chance at winning a stuffed animal. As Julia put the money in the machine, two other children, a brother and sister, came to watch. Julia carefully guided the claw and with her first try, she pulled up a teddy bear. Taking her new blue bear out of the machine, Julia grinned as she tried her luck again. Skillfully, she dropped the claw and another stuffed animal was pulled up in the machines giant claw. Two for two; Julia turned holding both of her prizes and without hesitation, she handed her “audience” each a new toy to take home. The little boy and girl ran to their parents, excited to have a new friend to bring home. Julia walked back to us, not asking for any recognition for what she had done, but simply saying “that felt good”. I knew she was not referring to the feeling of “beating the machine”, but rather the feeling you get from giving something to someone, doing something to make them happy.
But that was only one story. Julia lived a life of stories like this. How can I find the words to share all of these stories, to bring Julia’s generosity, her love, her unselfishness to the life on the pages of a website? How can I find a way to describe Julia and have people that never met her understand how special she was?
So this is what I wrote to bring “Julia’s voice” to the pages of the Foundation website. This is what I wrote to speak for Julia since she is not here to speak for herself. This is what I wrote to describe why we started the Foundation, to tell everyone about Julia’s Grace.
“It all started with Julia; a little girl with big blue eyes that sparkled with each smile, an infectious giggle that made you laugh along with her, and enthusiasm and an outlook for life that was contagious.
It all started with Julia. A little girl with unbounded optimism who was not afraid to sing out loud because she knew the sun would come out tomorrow.
Julia had the ability to give hugs that would make a friend feel appreciated and a stranger feel loved.
Julia had a generous spirit. She not only cared about others, she took action; giving away her presents to other children with cancer and raising money to help doctors that were working to find a cure.
It started with Julia; an eight year old that loved life and taught us all how to live.”
So, I sit here on Easter Sunday missing the family rituals – dying eggs together, leaving a carrot and a note for the Easter bunny, the egg hunt early Easter morning; the rituals that end with an empty nest.
But most of all I miss my girl, my Julia. I miss the one that brought my life such joy and happiness, who taught me how to be a better person, a better friend, a better parent.
And then I think back to that night at Max & Erma’s, as Julia walked back to us after giving away her prizes to that anonymous little girl and boy. I think of Julia’s joy in always thinking of other people and once again she makes me smile.