(c) 2008 Christiana Lambert

We all have anniversaries of the heart—some declared and some secret. A certain kind of weather, a date on the calendar, or anything else that brings back difficult memories can give us pause and remind us how much we miss certain people or how close we came to losing others. Often memory grabs us in ways that don’t even make sense.

Why do I frequently think of losing my neighbor Jenne when I type? Is it simply because she was good at typing and I wasn’t? Maybe, but it’s really because she is just that irreplaceable—she mattered to me. The years stretch out, almost 26 later this month, and yet from time to time she appears in my thinking unbidden, especially when I’m confronted with milestones she never met.

Of course, by now, she’s one of many who are gone who can’t be replaced in my heart—some connected by blood and love, and others by love alone as she was.

However, Decembers no longer just point to saying goodbye to Jenne anymore, but now they also remind me how someone I love felt so replaceable to some that it didn’t seem to be enough to her at that time to know she was irreplaceable to so many more, including me. While I cannot forget those dark days, I also do not fail to remember how grateful I am that light did return for her.

In any reasonably functional family, none of our family members is replaceable, not a single one—no matter if others beyond our homes act as if it is so.

I cannot shield those I love from the cruelties of the outside world any more than I can from the cruelties of mental illness, but for the rest of my days, in both good times and bad, I will declare that you are all irreplaceable.

Never stop believing you matter—there is only one of each of you. Your names are written on the only heart I have, just as Jenne’s name is.