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Mom at Shell BeachLate in the evening of March 13, 2009, time stood still for our family. After two courageous battles with cancer, seven years apart, Hazel DeMurl Fenley Pender followed her parents and older family members into God’s arms. For those of us standing by her bedside at home in Arroyo Grande, life would never be the same. Especially for her forever love and husband of sixty years, life lost much of its sparkle.

Life continued for the rest of us, of course — even without her guiding hand and sunny outlook — but the hole in our hearts was a big one. This past five years has flown by…and it has crawled by. It seems like just a little while since I’ve heard her ask, “And how’s my Big Girl today?” Or perhaps it has been decades. When a loved one dies your perspective changes, your sense of time alters. “Has it really been five years?” we say to each other. Or “Has it only been five years?” But we know we have missed her for far longer than that.

What do you do when your mother, the woman you love most in the whole world, dies? You do what you know she wants you to do. You keep living, and you honor and cherish the things she taught you are the most precious gifts of all: your family and your memories. You continue to work hard to be the best mother you can, and try your hardest to come close to being the amazing grandmother she was. You tell stories so that people who never really met her feel as though they have. And you take better care of each other than ever, make more time to be together than you did before.

Because there is never enough time to be with the ones you love. And you can never tell them often enough how much you love them.

I miss you every day, Mom. I hope you’re sitting up there in Heaven reading Trigger’s Horse with Grammy, knowing how badly I want to call you and read you each post before hitting the “Publish” button. I hope you watch your great-granddaughters playing together and realize that you and Aunt Betty are the reasons that they each love their sister the way they do. It is your legacy, yours and Aunt Betty’s, Aunt Enie’s and Grammy Buffington’s, Melody’s and mine.