Her life was and is a vibrant force that will never be squelched. Here are a few favorite pictures that perhaps somehow, on some small level, communicate the vitality & sheer joy that she had for life, her children, her friends, her family.

And because there were so many wonderful pictures, and I couldn’t resist, I also created an additional photo album called “Remembering Mama” — here’s the link.

The Beautiful Life of Sarah Denise

pic106With her mother on the porch of their apartment in Dayton, OH… such a little, chubby baby girl!

saluteLittle sailor girl

pic91Family snapshot… a laughing Denise with her tongue sticking out

pic82-editLove her haircut & headband, the suit, the shoes. Their family moved from Dayton, OH to Tazewell, VA soon after this picture was taken.

pic88I’ve posted this picture before, but am including it again because I love it so. Denise was 19-years-old when she married my dad. A hippie at heart, she picked her daisy bouquet that morning in the meadow near her house.

pic18My mother & me — a mutual love affair

pic12-editAt the zoo — I was 3, Mama was 23.

pic47Jennifer and me meeting Susanna for the first time. I love how Jennifer’s examining her so intently.

family-editEaster morning before church, probably 1990. Mama was a stay-at-home mom — cooked dinner every night, kept a garden, tended her flowers, and taught smocking classes. As we got older, we were “too cool” for homemade dresses, so Sue is the only one wearing smocking above.

amy4After Susanna started school, Mama went to work as a teacher’s aide at a local elementary school. She was in the self-contained class, and became like a mother to many of those children.

Sarah and Mom EngageThis picture was taken the day that Bobby and I got engaged in 2001. My mother was absolutely thrilled… she had dreamed of her girls’ weddings for years, and FINALLY, it was time to plan the first one!

File0097-editIn September 2004, Mama was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was devastated at the thought of the chemo taking her hair, so we decided to schedule a family portrait before starting treatments. I have no idea what we’re laughing at in this picture, but I’m so glad that the photographer captured it. Laughing in the face of adversity — that’s what Denise taught us to do.

IMG_1198The treatments were completed and she was pronounced “cancer-free.” We walked in Charlotte’s 2005 Relay for Life in her honor — we were so, so incredibly proud of her.

New Image10Jennifer & Tom got married in June of 2006, one day before Mama & Daddy’s 30th wedding anniversary.

November 2006 197-editAnd in November 2006, we were told that the breast cancer had returned. The four of us — Mama & her girls — headed to Charleston for the weekend. This was the last picture taken before we fully understood our battle… I remember feeling so hopeful and secure in Mama’s love. I knew, really knew, that nothing was strong enough to take her from us.

To all of you whose mothers are still with you, please squeeze her a little tighter today. If you aren’t with her, please be sure that she knows just how thankful you are for her — thankful that she gave you life and the opportunity to become who you are.

To all of you who have living children, I hope that you feel appreciated and honored today, because you truly are the center of your little ones’ world. I hope you (and know you will) give your babies extra squeezes, and love them so hard it hurts.

To any who have lost your mothers, I hope that the joy of your memories is stronger and more poignant than the pain of your loss.

And to all of you whose babies aren’t with you, I hope that you’re able to see a ray of light glimmering through the pain and sadness. I hope something makes you smile today, even if only for the briefest moment.