February 27. A day that will never be just any ol’ day to me. Today marks the anniversary of my younger sister Julie’s death 17 years ago. She was 12. I was 16 (a few months shy of 17). This year is poignant because now I’ve reached the point where half of my life had her in it (in physical form), the other half has been marked by her being gone. (Above is one of my favorite pictures of us. It hangs in my office.)
Some days I feel like she died yesterday. Other days it feels like she passed on a lifetime ago.
Losing someone close to you is just plain weird. I’ve found this to be true whether that loss is from a death or a relationship ending. From an emotional perspective, not only does your heart break in a million little pieces, but mentally it takes so long to wrap your head around the concept that one day they are here and the next day they aren’t. Processing this “here today, gone tomorrow” fact is the excruciating journey called grief … and everyone goes about their grieving in their own unique way.
If you are grieving now from the loss of someone you love, I send you strength and comfort and the knowledge that the sun will shine again (it may just look different). I hope you find peace and inspiration from my story …
The sun is a fitting metaphor for my sister Julie. She was the embodiment of JOY and LIGHT. For the longest time, my mom had hanging on her refrigerator a note my sister had written that said: “Out playing.” That was her, someone who knew how to enjoy life.
The world was her carnival. My dad shared with me that he had a dream about Julie a few days ago. They were at an amusement park. She ran ahead of him into a big building with lots of people in it. He told her to wait for him. When he went into the building, he couldn’t find her. To me, it was just another reminder that she had found her heaven. It was time for her to spread her wings. Her work here was done. But ours wasn’t … and that’s why we’re still given the gift of being alive.
I’ve spent the last 17 years healing from the loss of Julie. It’s been a JOURNEY. For the first few years, I felt like I was running a sprint. I ran from the pain, poured my energy into achieving, working hard and partying hard. I did some destructive things. I did some amazingly constructive things. All the while, I ran … and wondered “why me?” I tried to find the answer to those BIG questions: “who am I?” and “why am I here?”
It wasn’t until she had been gone for 8 years that I realized how exhausted I was from running from myself (it’s a race that can’t be won). I remember this day of my awakening so vividly. It was close to the anniversary of her death, which is typically a bizarre time for me, and I had a breakdown in my cushy office in Manhattan. The pressure of my life and my job and my past was too intense. I literally couldn’t stop crying. I knew something had to give.
I needed a break. I decided to honor my sister by taking a half-day off of work (baby steps – a full day off from my high-pressure job seemed to bold at that point). On my afternoon off, I decided to do something nice for myself: I got a manicure. You can imagine my surprise when I looked at my manicurist’s name tag: Julie.
It was from that point forward, that I realized I wasn’t alone. She was with me … EVERYWHERE. All I had to do was tap into this knowledge, her energy, the memories, the connection of sisters. She always was rooting for me in life (fond memories of her cheering as I “beat” Super Mario Brothers!), and now I had this profound knowledge that she was STILL supporting me from the beyond. Yes, I have an angel on my team.
Since then, I’ve continued on my healing journey doing everything I can to become strong, healthy, compassionate and grateful … and encouraging others to do the same. I appreciate life. I see it as full of opportunity. Full of grace. Full of challenge – yes – but full of immense beauty when you are open to seeing it.
One year ago, something spectacular happened: I figured out how to turn Julie’s life into something that will positively affect young people. Along with my parents, I created the Julie Amon Dolphins of Strength Scholarship. This college scholarship is for stellar high school seniors who have battled health issues in our hometown of New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
I know Julie is CHEERING up a storm for these kids. She feels their pain (Julie was a straight-A student who lived with cancer for a year before her death). Last year we awarded two $1,000 scholarships to two young women who have had more of their fair share of adversity. Their applications were beyond describable. Puts life in perspective when you know what some people deal with on a daily basis.
This year, we plan to give even more. This is Julie’s legacy … and this is mine. Honing in on my legacy has inspired me to really step up my game in my business … so I can give to these students who deserve some help in creating a FULL life. It brings me much joy to give a portion of sales from my business to the Julie Amon Dolphins of Strength Scholarship. Giving is one giant loop of love.
Leaving a legacy is a deep desire that we all have. What kind of legacy do you want to leave in this world? Once you tap into this, you’ve found your “WHY” in life. This is the gift you’ve been given … and the gift you will share. Almost as amazing as the people, places and things you help is that your giving comes back to you in spades …
If you’d like to support Julie’s legacy and make a difference in the lives of students who have defied the odds and deserve help in fulfilling their college dreams, please do! Even a dollar will make a difference. You can send your tax-deductible contributions to:
Please make check out to: New Smyrna Beach High School
Write in the memo line: Julie Amon Dolphins of Strength Scholarship
Send to: Susan Proffitt
PO Box 1545
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170
*If you do contribute, let me know so I can thank you personally.
Today and always, connect into your legacy, your why, your purpose. Give to something greater than yourself and you’ll never “work” another day in your life.
**Would love to hear what your legacy is. Share your comments below and I’ll see you there. Much love!**