November is a weird month. It’s a shift in the seasons, the gateway to the holidays….and the looming New Year.  November is also the month we lost Brooke and, while this marks the first one, I’m certain that all Novembers from now until forever will be difficult.

The last morning of Brooke’s life,  we sat on the sofa and drank peppermint tea as sunlight streamed into our living room. We talked about her school’s Cotillion the night before, about the dance numbers she was rehearsing and the birthday party she was to attend that evening. We had no idea this would be our last conversation. I’m so glad it was a good one. Within one hour,  the ambulance would arrive and she would never come home again. I often wonder how it’s possible that someone so young, so healthy, so vibrant, could be gone in an instant. In fact, I wonder about it almost all the time.

I’ve spent most of this year asking the same questions again and again. Why? How? Of course there are no answers. But I know I’m not alone. Children die suddenly all the time. Adults do, too. No one is invincible and life is a precious gift. That’s all I know. That’s all I need to know.

So this November as we remember Brooke, we cherish what we had, and what we still have.

The three of us went to the Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel. And we remembered her laughter.

We attended another baseball tournament in Las Vegas. And we remembered when we rewarded her with a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity for being such a great sister.

While chaperoning Blake’s week-long field trip to Outdoor Science School, I took the same paths Brooke walked just two Novembers ago. And I remembered how much she loved her experience there.

We’ve been remembering Brooke all month, with many tears, but also with laughter. We’re finding that when we talk about her, the heaviness lifts from our hearts and the room lights up just a little. Sometimes we even have beautiful dreams.

November will never be easy. But this one, in particular, has been difficult… and that goes beyond Brooke. As I watch people tearing each other down for their beliefs, for their conflicting opinions and overall disagreements,  I want say two things:

1. Your biggest fears and  worst nightmares aren’t the ones you worry about. They’re the ones that sneak up on you when you least expect them.

2. You never know when the conversation you have with someone will be the last one you’ll ever have.

So speak kindly. Listen intently and tread lightly on everyone’s heart. In the end, there is only love. Love and memories. Everything else fades away and doesn’t matter anyway.

The last morning of Brooke’s life, in the middle of that remarkable conversation when we were oblivious to the  aneurysm that would burst in her beautiful brain,  she stood up and gave me her version of the The Lorax.

“A tree falls the way it leans,” she said. “If you lean towards bad, you fall to the bad. But if you lean towards the good, you fall to the good.”

So lean towards the good. Because Brooke, most certainly, always did just that.