A letter to our dear friend…

Dear Maria,

You see, we had this assignment of sorts to write you a letter for your ACTS retreat this weekend. Well, I was never very good at homework, so of course, I’m doing this last minute, but I’m doing it up big. For the whole world.


You have been such an integral part of our lives since the day we met. You have been there for every step of our relationship, from the starts and stops when we first started dating, to standing in our wedding, and to being a wonderful Godmother to Rachel.


When we first found out about your cancer, we were almost paralyzed. How could someone so vibrant and full of life get a disease that is so terrible? However, though it all, you handled it as you handle everything – with strength and serenity.


I don’t know how you do it, how you remain so positive in the face of everything that is so potentially devastating, but you do, and in the process, you make all of us feel like everything is going to be OK.


A couple of months ago, you called us to come over to distract the two of you for a while. I think you and Gregg were going a bit stir crazy, and you needed some different people around besides yourselves. We were more than happy to come over and chat, hang out, whatever we could do to help. Later that evening, your brothers showed up, then your cousin, then Andy and Cindy, and a few more folks, and we ended up having an impromptu party. I told Monica later, “That’s exactly what they needed. Their house has always been the place for people to get together, and Maria looked so happy tonight to have all of her friends around her.”


I think that is what we love most about you. That you are a friend to so many people. That you always welcome people into your home. That you are such a positive influence on everyone around you.


You bring people together. Your strength and courage has been an inspiration to us all. We love you.


The Laleman Family

Two years, eight months

Dear Rachel,

I’ve been working on this for a couple of days now, so I really didn’t forget, I’ve just been busy. This week you turned 32 months old. You are quickly approaching the big 3, and even more quickly leaving your “toddler” status in the dust.


It has been an incredible journey with you over the past month. You’ve got some mad language skillz and it’s been a lot of fun watching you slog your way through the minefield that is English. You do really well, considering how difficult the language is, and when you get things turned around, we try to help you sort them out.


Your imagination has really taken off this month. When you play you become other people and characters. Your favorites are from “Cars.” But your imagination is showing in other ways as well. A few weeks ago, you got up on a Saturday morning, and went to your closet to pull out a diaper. I asked what you were doing, since you were wearing pull ups during the day, and you turned to look at me with a sad expression on your face and said, “Andy peed in his diaper. I need to change him!” We then proceeded to take off Andy’s clothes so that you could change his diaper. You also like to play as if you’re a dog, making Nana and Dodd put the dog’s leash on you to take you for a walk.

Panting puppy

Speaking of diapers, the only time you’re wearing them now is when you sleep. You wear pull ups almost all day, and haven’t had an accident in weeks. You’re do a great job of telling us when you have to go potty, and you’re even getting into the whole privacy of going to the bathroom now. Most of the time, when you have to go, we’ll help you get everything situated, then you’ll look at us and say, “Get out, please.”


Something else fun this month has been you figuring out relationships. You play with the words and tell us who everyone is now. To Nana: “Dada, is Nana your Mom? Are you Nana? Are you Grandma Connie? Are you Daddy’s Mom?” You’re getting that each of us has different roles in life, and different names for our roles. You also know what your mother and I do for a living. Mommy teachers the kids at her school and I help teachers fix their computers (if only my job were that easy).


Your Nana and Dodd have become such an important part of your life, I don’t know what we, you, or they are going to do when it’s time for them to go back to Illinois. We will certainly miss them being around to help out with taking care of you, and I know that you will miss having them around to play with, go for walks, get pushed on the swing, and all of the wonderful things they do with you.


You are so quickly becoming a big girl, and while it’s sad for us to see you lose some of your dependency on us, it is also such a joy to watch you learn and play and grown each and every day. We know that you will be a strong, smart, independent little girl, and we can’t wait for you to pass on some of those things to your little brother or sister. Things are going to get very interesting in the coming months, but I’m sure that you will adjust like a champ.

We love you very much.