I've never been someone who believes we become angels after we die or that we can look down upon our loved ones from heaven. That doesn't mean I don't strive every day to make my Grandma proud.

She was the strongest woman I ever knew. Her laughter was contagious and she believed any day could be made better with a puzzle or a round of cards. Grandma didn't put up with any crap, she was "the boss" and most definitely the glue that held our family together.

She passed away from a long battle with lung cancer when I was in fifth grade. I distinctly remember waking up that January morning and learning that Grandma had gone to heaven. Little did I know that I'd miss her more and more with every year to come.

During Grandma's last year with us, I started playing the flute. I remember playing little songs and recitals for her and how much she loved it. If she only knew that now I'm finishing my second year of college and on my way to becoming a music teacher.

Grandma was tough. She really wasn't one to cry or get upset or angry. To this day, I can confidently say that I know if she saw me crying she'd tell me, "wipe your tears and let's play cards." Grandma, I promise you that even though I cry a lot, I'm trying my best to be as strong as you were.

It hurts to know she won't be in the crowd at my college graduation or sitting front row at my concerts or even watch me walk down the aisle. She was my role model. The kind of woman I want to be. She was incredibly patient, compassionate, and so full of grace. There isn't a day that goes by when she doesn't cross my mind.

So Grandma Mary, even though you probably can't hear me up in heaven, I love you endlessly and I'm living my life unapologetically. I'm doing lots of big things and I know if you were here you'd be cheering me on. I miss you always.