My daughter was only one when we traveled to Buffalo, New York for the first time. It was also the first time I met my husband’s side of the family. And the first time his family met our daughter. Ironically, meeting them was not the real reason behind our trip. Instead, we were going there for his youngest brother’s wedding. Meeting the family was a byproduct of the wedding celebration. This is where I met Val and her daughter, Julie. She was my husband’s step-sister.
We met during the rehearsal dinner. I remember how sweet she was and how her quiet and calming persona put me at ease. It was exactly what I needed as I was a stranger to most of the people attending. Val sat at our table and spent time talking to me. And even though it was a brief meeting, I will remember it forever. I never saw her again after that. But we communicated through Christmas cards every year. The cards became our connection.
One day, we received shocking news. Val had cancer. We were in utter disbelief. It was an unfortunate reality. As Val started her fight with cancer, my husband started volunteering and raising money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. An initial dedication that became a pilgrimage for a sister who was sick and lived far away. It was the only way we can show our support and love for her at a very trying time in her life. Slowly, her cancer started to spread and she lost the fight. But it was not a sad defeat. She was prepared. Her body may have been weak but her faith was strong. She faced death with open arms.
Before her death, she took the time to prepare everything for her funeral. She selected the music, the passage she wanted read and how the program should be conducted. She instilled strength in her four children who braved her sad passing. She truly was a remarkable person. Even in death, she was a champion!
After the funeral, I couldn’t get Val out of my head. That usually happens with the passing of someone so great. And I knew I wanted to do something. So I decided to make a book that paid tribute to how special Val was. I selected a Picaboo Victorian Book because the soft velvet cover reminded me of Val. I also scanned in all of the Christmas cards she sent me. They were our connection and each one featured a handwritten note about the past year and the fun things her children had achieved. To keep the colors consistent, I used the Eyedropper tool to match background colors with the holiday cards.
When the book was finished, I made five copies and sent four to her children. Then I kept one for me. Val was important to me. And even though I didn’t see her often, we kept in touch through words and stories. In that way, it’s fitting that I captured her memory in a book.