What could have been.
My aunt asked after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, "What if I was tested? What if I knew I had one of these mutations?" A full hysterectomy, they said. How could you not think about what could have been?
Sometimes I like to think of all the things that could have been for Mandy.
She would have tenured at South Harrison. She would have found her perfect grade, watched her favorite students move on to middle school, high school. She would have been that elementary school teacher who was invited to college graduation parties. Today, my sister's 7th and 8th graders are among the last students Mandy taught and she's caught off guard when one reiterates the legend of the bumblebee. Mandy's impact is still there.
She would have watched her nieces grow up to be amazingly smart, graceful dancers and caring, beautiful personalities, each totally different. She would have spoiled them, bought them the girliest dresses, learned the latest game and engage them wherever she could.
She would have met someone, someone great who would have loved her crazy loud laugh and her nipple-less foobs. He would have surpassed all those who came before. He would have spoiled her, traveled with her around the world. And he would have given her the one thing she wanted more than anything else -- a baby.
She would have been such an amazing mom. She would have had her moments like any of us do, but she would have raised any child with overwhelming love and encouragement. I try to channel her when I'm frustrated or stressed out. I hear her inappropriate jokes or her laugh and I try to redirect my emotions.
It hurts to think about the what could have been. It hurts to think about what should have been. She should be here, endlessly telling us her birthday is tomorrow (nearly today). She should be an aunt, a mother, a godmother. Instead she's an angel and a namesake.
But she's here. I see her in her sisters' eyes, her nieces' laughs, her mom's sarcasm, her dad's strength and her brother's way with kids. She's there in the innocence of her namesakes, in the comic that is my second baby. Her spirit touches us when the bees start to buzz right around this day each year.
What could have been hurts only because of the beauty that was Amanda Beth. Happy birthday, my friend.