“If you want to change the world go home and love your family.”- Mother Teresa

We have that sign in our home, and by looking at Etsy and Pinterest, so do many other people (yes, I Etsy) .

It is a famous quote by Mother Teresa. Or so I thought. When you look it up you may find that she said this quote instead:

If you want to bring peace to the whole world, go home and love your family.”- Mother Teresa

But in reality, they seem to both be paraphrases from her Noble Peace Prize speech:

And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world.https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1979/teresa-acceptance_en.html

Ashley lived very true to this. Along with her motto “Choose Happy”, she would let everyone know she loved them. (If you ever ended a conversation, email, text, or phone call with Ash; she ended it with “Love you, Mean it!”

Ashley was a firm believer of showing her family love. She loved me more than I will ever be able to describe and everyone knows how much she loved Fischer and Baker. Despite cancer, despite cardiac arrest, despite having bad days, Ashley made sure we knew we were loved. But Ashley took that love to her friends, her neighbors, her community… That love has come back to me and the boys tenfold. I can’t even begin to describe the people that have come into my life, the relationships that have gotten stronger, the changes I’ve made, all because of the love Ashley showed others.

Today would have been Ashley’s 39th birthday. Anyone who knows Ashley, knows that she made a big deal about her friends’ and family’s birthdays. But when it came to her own celebration, it was more low-key. Ashley’s birthday almost always fell on Gwinnett County’s Spring break. I would always try to plan a trip or vacation, but Ashley most of the time turned it down. She didn’t want to do anything big, she wanted to be with her family, and wanted to do something with her friends if she could.

4/5/18 we went to the Tampa Zoo had a great day with the boys and then ate Portillo’s for dinner (one of Ashley’s Chicago favorites that had a location in Tampa. We were down in Tampa for Ashley’s neurolysis. This was a procedure to “deaden” the nerve that was causing her a lot of back pain. The procedure would be the following day and then we would spend the next few days in the hotel to let her recover before making the trip back home.

4/5/17 Ashley and I had spent the days leading up to her birthday in Asheville, NC enjoying a weekend alone. I asked if she would like to stay longer and she said “No, I’m not going to be away from my boys on my birthday.”

4/5/16 Ashley went shopping with her mom and sister while I put shelves up for her and then made her dinner. She read books to the boys and fell asleep snuggling them in bed.

4/5/15 Spent it at home. It was Easter Sunday so we went to Church, hosted our families, did Easter egg hunts and celebrated with a cookie cake.

4/5/14 I don’t recall but according to pictures Ashley spent the day monogramming. I’m pretty sure we got dinner with Ashley’s parents at Chick Fila.

“Memories Bring Back Memories”

Skip a few birthdays back to 2005.  This is actually from a week before celebrating my birthday.

4/5/05 My first time celebrating Ashley’s birthday with her. This was a period of time when we were still just friends and she was dating someone else. I had planned to take her to lunch and leave her to whatever plans she had with her “boyfriend”. It was a warm, beautiful day, pretty much like today. We had lunch at Johnny’s pizza by the mall (which is no longer there) and enjoyed hanging out.

As our check came, I asked her what her big plans were for the night. “I don’t know, he hasn’t called me, he had to work so maybe we’ll do something this weekend.”  This led to a conversation that would change Ashley and my relationship and more importantly my life, forever.

It wasn’t the only conversation we had about our relationship (there would be several conversations, walks in the park, a “come to Jesus meeting”, hugs, arguments and some doorway poster signs, a’ la “Love Actually,” to get our relationship figured out).

But during our birthday chat Ashley got a text. (I’m thinking it’s her boyfriend. Great now he’s gonna say happy birthday through a text, and he will get credit for that while I’m taking her out to lunch).

But it was our friend Analisa inviting Ashley to her lake house. Ashley, not wanting to be alone on her birthday wanted to go (I’m sure DotDot would have rescued her). Ashley then said “Wanna go?” At first I declined, I had to work the next day and Ashley didn’t because she was on Spring Break (I was still working at a PT clinic that first year). But then I thought if dude calls and we are at the lake house, Ashley will have spent the entire day with me and not him.

We had a great time at the lake and had a great talk on the way back home. I realized I didn’t want Ashley to date him or anyone. I was still figuring out if I wanted her to date me. (At the time, I was still planning on moving back to Chicago and had not yet applied to teach at Mill Creek). Every birthday since for 14 years, we spent together and only a few involved a big party.

We didn’t know that April 5, 2018 would be Ashley’s last birthday with us. (I definitely would not have let her plan a procedure her birthday week.) But if we did know, Ashley would have planned an activity that she could do with her family like going to the zoo, or park, or just grill out.

Fast forward to this quarantine birthday in heaven, it’s not much different from Ashley’s normal birthday routines. She would want to spend the day with her family, especially her boys and just love on them. I know she is here in our hearts.

Today we spent the day how Ashley would have wanted. The boys were up early and doing what they do most days, go down to the basement, set up an obstacle course, turn on American Ninja warrior, try to “beat” the ninja’s time.

(It’s so fitting that Ashley introduced Fischer to this sport and it has been such an awesome outlet for him and Baker.)

We ate lunch from Papa Jack’s with Ashley’s parents (carryout). Then the boys wanted to go for a hike so visited a park near ou house and ran into some friends and visited Ash at the cemetery. Tonight, I’ll get to Zoom with Ashley’s sorority sisters and have a toast to her.

Ashley wouldn’t have planned it any different (other than going to a cemetery).

I am missing Ashley today, but we are all missing someone right now. There are family and friends that we can’t be with. We can’t get hugs, can’t celebrate birthdays, we can’t live our “normal” lives…

In her speech, Mother Teresa wanted us to start with prayer, work on loving our family, and be compelled to serve others. If we all come out of this quarantine with a better appreciation of our families (probably the hardest part) our friends, our community, our country and our world for that matter; we might all become a little better version of ourselves than we were before…

I think Mother Teresa’s advice, whichever iteration, is so important in 2020. We are forced to be at home with our family. We need to work on actively loving our family. We need extend that love to others.

Ashley changed my world, all just by loving me.

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