May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand


Three years ago on Labor Day, I struggled to finish my summer reading, "A Lesson Before Dying."

Three years ago on Labor Day, my sister and parents had another dreaded college talk.

Three years ago on Labor Day, my uncle Steve, amazing husband and father of two, collapsed and died.

September 3, 2012: For the first time, I experienced true shock, heartbreak and a total realignment of everything I previously believed.

I come from a big, Irish family that's always loud and always laughing until you get call on a gorgeous summer day that one of you is gone unexpectedly, never coming back. An amazing part of human memory is that we remember things of great pain. I remember this entire day, and the few that followed. I remember my mom getting the call, getting the news, my world changing. I remember having to going with my sister and cousin to pick up my other cousin at soccer and tell him the news. I remember seeing my aunt who had just lost her husband, sitting on my grandparents' steps, having to call other family and friends, reliving the pain over and over. My grandpa, in tears, at a loss for what to do and what to say. Worst of all, I remember the cries and screams of my two little cousins who had just learned their daddy was gone forever.

But then there’s another amazing part of human memory, remembering the good things. I remember the way me and the older cousins rallied around each other; growing up together, we could communicate with just a look. I remember going to field hockey practice that night, not stable enough to practice, but just being embraced by my coaches and teammates. I remember going to my grandparents house Tuesday and Wednesday nights with my whole family, technically to plan services, but really to laugh and reminisce. I remember my whole team, old friends, and my cousin’s entire football team coming to the wake to show their support. I remember the whole church singing “This Little Light of Mine” at the funeral, with my younger cousins smiling and holding candles, then later our family releasing balloons to this tune in the cemetery, still smiling, knowing Steve was watching. On what should’ve been the most painful day, I remember two after-parties filled with friends, family, music, food and of course, laughter.

That was one of the things my uncle Steve did best, laugh and make people laugh. He also loved to watch sports, play guitar and listen to Irish music. Most of all, he loved his family. And we love him. I miss him everyday. I miss him for me because he was a great time, always fun to play with and talk to. I miss him for my aunt, she lost her best friend, but she gets up everyday and carries on as an incredible mother. I miss him for my cousins. At 18 years old, I remember how much I loved my dad at six years old, and how my love for him has only grown with me. My heart breaks to think that they’ll live more of their lives without him, than with him.

October 15, 2015: My uncle Steve would’ve turned 50 years old.

I miss him. But I also know losing him made me realize how damn lucky I am to have such an amazing family. Through all the chaos, we’re there for each other in our darkest and happiest times to lean on and support. I thank God every day for blessing me with such strong role models to lead me, and I pray to Steve everyday to continue to bless and watch over us. If I could wish him back tomorrow, I’d do anything to make it possible. But I can’t. I do know, though, that one day our entire, crazy family will be together once again.

And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.