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 They told me one day that the pieces of the moon that hung in the sky on the days we were born, seven years apart, make a full one. Of which I took a deep breath and knew to be true, because we are part of one another.

I knew the moment she entered the world and fell in love within the span of a heartbeat.

The days following her birth were touch and go. Her heart the size of your big toe, with a hole in it the size of your pinkie one. A lot of prayer and a very brave doctor, brought her through the first of several open heart surgeries.

Doctors implanted a stint in that little heart and gave her the ability to live, and thrive.

She entered the world a warrior.

On September 11th, 2001 she underwent another major open heart surgery in Tampa, FL. My mom wouldn’t let me join the trip because the odds of her making it out of surgery were so limited.  Years later I am still so humbled by my single mother’s bravery to face that day on her own,  protecting the rest of us from what may meet us at the end it.

That day unfolded in tragedy for our country, and as I sat in my 2nd period class and watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers, I could barely breathe. I just kept saying, “Jesus, please let her live”. Shock of what had just happened in NYC and the hours spent anxiously waiting to hear if she would spend more life with us, are still some of the hardest I can remember.

But, Gina warrior-ed.

I still believe she was a gift of light to us on that day of great loss. Odds not in her favor, but the world needed her, and so her heart kept beating.

So, I talk about her alot, and something radiates like the sun when I speak of her. This is why:

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She is joy. She is light and goodness and the embodiment of love. She is so many parts of my heart I hope live fully alive.

Gina recaps every day as “The Best Day Ever” and thinks you’re “smart, beautiful, and funny”—and have the best eyes” If you have brown eyes like hers, it will remind her of our sweet, but long gone shelty named Cookie, and if you have green eyes like our sisters, then you will remind her of mom’s kitty, Bailey.

We’ve watched My Best Friends Wedding, Mighty Joe Young, High School Musical, Ever After and now Twilight, so many times, we can nearly recite the entire script and soundtracks for all of them.

When Benny Hinn was a hit, she used to lay her hands on Andrea, Sarah and I mumbling fervently til we “fell out in the Holy Ghost” . She would then lay a towel across our lower half, as to provide modesty, and continue on to the next sister, evidently feeling very accomplished. [ It took us a few weeks of her standing with her hand on our foreheads mumbling to realize she was praying for us]

Gina, loves you. Truly, wholly, purely. She sees you. If you have more darkness than light, she knows that too and immediately won’t want to spend very much time in your presence. She is the best gauge of character and truth.

She dances to the music she hears, most often not any that’s playing. Let me tell you, that girl can dance, and the ultimate dream is to be a rockstar. My sister has a gift for creating mini-dramas in our world where everyone is heartbroken, broken up with, in love with someone else etc……in her defense it’s a family of six dynamic women, and she grew up with soap operas playing in the background. [ mostly, my fault]

Her world has very few filters and she moves through life the way we all wish we could. With easy trust, boundless joy, appreciation for the simple yet sincere, and telling people how we truly feel about them.  I long to see the world through her eyes– she challenges me to slow down and listen.

If you’re handsome, she’ll tell you. If you’re being a bad daughter, she won’t mince words. Forgot your friends birthday? Offensive. Want to grab a cheeseburger w/ french fries – you’re her favorite person. Remembered her birthday that’s coming in 9 months—well, that’s a cause for celebration!

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She also possesses a strong knack for re-gifting your own things that she somehow managed to sneak away. But! –Just for safekeeping so it can be re-gifted to you later. She loves, love more than anyone I know and on the daily wants to discuss my lack of current boyfriend — she says “Sue, you have zero boyfriend, but hey, you have me!”. Yes, sweet girl I do.

Loving, kind, sassy and brave Gina is my hero. Always has been, always will be. My sisters and I have such a special gift in this sweet girl of ours. The ultimate reality check and measure of kindness.

She is an angel, warrior, sassy dancer, wanna-be rockstar and one of the greatest gifts of my life. Last year she took two solo trips on an airplane to visit me in San Diego, absolutely out of her comfort zone and safety net. All in the pursuit of quality time with her best buddy and being “A Free Woman”, because, people, she is an adult.

I hope your life is graced with a Gina. There is no one like her, but I hope that you get to experience a light like hers for it carries on, endlessly. You will never be the same.

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