17 Limericks for Mack Day

Grief is a humorless companion; and life without humor is grim. While I am often unsuccessful, I do try every single day to find humor in the world, because I know it is the thing that Mack would most want me to find. Mack laughed and chortled and giggled her way through nearly every day she lived. For her, laughter was as essential as the air we breathe. She was the source of a great and wonderful abundance of the laughing I did for the twenty years I was lucky to know her. Mack’s joyful sense of humor was one of her greatest gifts to me and to everyone who knew and loved her.

Therefore, on this Mack Day, March 17, 2018, in honor of the twenty-fourth birthday of my happy and funny little leprechaun, I offer seventeen limericks. A couple of them are really good, some of them are OK, and most of them are pretty terrible. But I know Mack would love them all, especially the terrible ones. She would have laughed her ass off reading each one (out loud and in a goofy voice, of course), congratulated me on my ridiculousness, and then written a couple of her own. I think she would be happy to know that I laughed a little more than I cried while writing them. I also think Mack would appreciate, and maybe even take full credit for, my decision to pen so many damned limericks in the first place. So please, read the limericks along with me and with Mack and laugh out loud, especially at the terrible ones, as we all remember our silly and sweet, cheerful and magnificent girl.

Note: Each limerick is linked (on the heading) to the previous blog post that inspired it, so that readers might revisit old stories of Mack’s beautiful life.

Candy

There was a girl with cravings for candy

always keeping it close and quite hand

Loved the sour and sweet

Always needing a treat

And campaigning that sugar was “dandy”

Clothes

Mack found sweatshirts to be the most comfy

Tucked-in tails were so painfully lumpy

Shorts and soft tees

Free toes and bare knees

Were important for not being grumpy

Cool

Well liked and admired without trying

Mack gained friendship and fame without vying

Confident and cool

Goofy fun in school

Quirky, genuine soul, no denying

Food

Ordering Asian food was quite common

Mack loved her sushi, pad Thai and ramen

Spicy she’d order

Thai folks adored her

Loving their food with such happy abandon

Freckles

There once was a daughter McDermott

on whose face there was spot after spot

“Freckle monster am I!”

she cried out with a sigh

“Guess I’ll love all the dots that I got”

Friends First

Best friends were her favorite collection

Making careful and worthy selection

Not judging her buddies

but thwarting their studies

With much laughter and goofy distraction

Golf

She preferred flip-flops over her golf shoes

Comfort and irreverence was her excuse

For her golf was fun

Just a walk in the sun

A time to chill out with friends, win or lose

Hair

Most of her life Mack wore very long hair

Shimmering with sun, so fine and so fair

But never too keen

To primp and to preen

Finally cut it to suit her own flair

Jeep

She had an old blue Jeep that rattled

with a terrible clutch she battled

But she loved that old heap

only making her weep

on nights she was late and it tattled

Laughter

Mack always stood way out for her humor

Of which everyone was a consumer

She would chuckle and giggle

Tell bad jokes and would jiggle

Make you pee your pants along with her

Lazy Days

Mack loved to watch her TV for hours

Eating Funyons and sucking on sours

Glee, Parks, and Buffy

nothing too stuffy

because Sponge Bob’s the one who empowers

Lincoln

A girl from Springfield always shrinkin’

from sharing her town with that Lincoln

Mack decided that fate

gave her no choice to hate

the man who consumed Momma’s thinkin’

Mack-Like

To be like Mack is a damn worthy goal

Making best friends is so good for the soul

Relax, enjoy life

Be brave, cut the strife

And always laugh, chuckle, giggle, and roll.

No Worries

Mack wasted no sleep or time in fretting

About things there was no use in sweating

Preferring to chill

things happen that will

Besides, nothing should be so upsetting

Spiders and Insects

Mack detested all spiders and insects

Even lady bugs to her were rejects

She’d scream in fear

When they came near

And flee fast like she had mental defects

Wild Child

A tomboy, and crazy athletic

Her pace as a child frenetic

She would bounce off the walls

Never playing with dolls

and giving her parents a headache

Writing

Mack was a good feminist writer

Who wanted the world to be brighter

She had plans to create

Female leads to abate

Sexist bullshit and bias around her

Leprechaun

Mack Day Pledge

Just three months after losing Mack, I made a pledge to honor her by being more Mack-like. I made that pledge, in the form of a New Year’s resolution, in the early fog of my grief; and it proved far too ambitious for someone struggling just to breathe. But today, I am a stronger, less devoured by my sorrows, more resilient against the anxiety and hopelessness and self-pity that settle deep within the bones of a grieving mother. I am not now, nor will I ever be, whole again without my Mack, but I am a million miles away from the place I was in January 2015.

Therefore, today, March 17, 2017, on what would have been Mack’s 23rd birthday, my third Mack Day without her, I am renewing that pledge to be more like her, to emulate her best qualities, and to honor her life by living a better life. Happy Birthday, Mack. You are missed. You are loved. You are an inspiration.

The Be-More-Mack-Like Pledge:

Enjoy life: Mack possessed a happy and joyous spirit. She lived in the moment, never letting worries or doubts interfere with living. She cherished time with her friends, saw humor in the darkest corners, and always experienced her favorite pastimes with the enthusiasm and wide eyes of a young child. She delighted in life’s simple joys like food, for which she was always appreciative, paying her special kind of homage with a perfect, memorable last bite. Her philosophy was to slow down and breathe in what you love, never wasting a moment that might turn out to be your very last one.

Be a good friend: Mack did not just make acquaintances and good friends, she collected amazing people who became best friends. I think that people were, in part, drawn to Mack because she exuded a quiet, unpretentious confidence, but I think they held on tight to her because she accepted people for who they were. Once you were in Mack’s heart, you were in there forever, and she never judged, second-guessed, or questioned your worthiness to be there. She made good use of her beautiful open mind, her tender and open heart, and her capacity for a whole lot of unconditional love.

Try something new: Mack was fearless, and she either hid all evidence of her doubts or she never harbored them in the first place. At six, she played tackle football with boys. She signed up for discus in middle school track unconcerned that her noodle arms might fail her. And in a final act of courage, she moved all by herself to remote Burgos, Spain, where she knew no people and absolutely no Spanish. Mack was brave and bold, unafraid to put that fresh, freckled face out into the world.

Relax: No one who ever took a nap in the history of the world was better at relaxation than Mackenzie. She wrote the book on kicking back and taking it easy, and she suffered no serious. Why worry when you could lay flat on your back, eat junk food, and watch Sponge Bob? Mack was calm, cool, and collected by nature; and she passed out prescriptions for her own medicine like candy. Her presence in a room kept the nervous and restless demons at bay for everyone. Mack always told me to “simmer down and chill out” and frequently reminded me that it is hard as hell to enjoy spicy Thai food if your insides are riddled with ulcers.

Laugh: Mack laughed, chortled, snorted, chuckled, cackled, tittered, hee-hee-ed, and guffawed constantly. She was a professional giggler who understood that laughter is nature’s tonic for almost anything that ails the human heart. She was a master of the bad joke, she saw humor where most might only find tears, and her goofy wit was an important quality of her charm. Her laughter cured the world around her, medicine to all who had the privilege to hear it. I believe that laughter, more than any other gift that she left us, is the one she would most want us to keep.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I have survived to take another stab at my pledge to be more Mack-like because I have my sweet Savannah to give me peace, perspective, and perseverance. I have my supportive husband and family to give me love and strength. I have my dear friends to nurture me, my puppy dogs to calm me, my writing to ease my suffering, and the scholarship at Truman State to carry Mack’s legacy far, far, far into the future. As well, thanks to Mack’s best friend Justice, I also have the gift of Project Mack, which makes being Mack-like look so damn easy…and fun. Just like Mack.

Mack would call me lucky. So on that good note, you good people, I am celebrating this year’s Mack Day by renewing my pledge to be more Mack-like. I am asking all of you to be more Mack-like, too. Go ahead, now; make a pledge to enjoy life, to be a good friend, to try something new, to relax, and to laugh. Concentrate on one or two of those plays out of Mack’s own good-life playbook or dive right in and tackle them all. Mack would call this an easy-peasy request, and Project Mack would agree. And if you find being more Mack-like makes you feel too good to keep it all to yourself, free to make a donation to Project Mack to spread the love.

For my Springfield, Illinois, friends, there is also an opportunity to combine your own Mack Day pledge with a special “2K17 Mack Day Celebration.” On March 25, from 2-4 p.m., Project Mack is hosting a party at Southeast High School to recognize thirty high school students in District 186 who are making a difference and living a life of impact. There will be music, cake, and a memorial balloon launch. I will be there to honor my girl, soak up the health-giving love of Project Mack, and publicly acknowledge the pride I have for my Mackenzie Kathleen—my joyful, impish, dancing, Irish leprechaun—and the breathtaking imprint she left on the world.

Mack Day Celebration

Mack’s Best Friends: Justice

By the time Mack was ten and fully immersed in competitive basketball, she knew every player her own age and she was very aware of all of the best older players in the region. At tournaments, she enjoyed watching elite older players, and on the drive home she talked about them, analyzing their shooting styles, ball-handling skills, and prospects for playing at the college level. But after one tournament in the summer of 2006, in Bloomington, Illinois, it was a younger player who caught Mack’s attention; and all the way home she could not stop talking about her. Mack was in awe of this younger player partly because her approach to the game was so different. Mack was a pure point guard, a methodical executor of an offensive game plan and a skilled passer, who was more tickled by a slick assist than by hitting her own deep, three-point shot. In contrast, this younger player demanded the ball, relied on her athletic instincts, and was fast and fearless; and Mack respected her athleticism and full-throttle style. But mostly, Mack connected with this player’s joyful exuberance, as she saw a kid who shared her own passion for basketball and for life. Mack not only wanted to play ball with this player, but she wanted to make her a friend, too.

That player’s name was Justice; and little did she know in the summer of 2006 that she was in Mack’s sights, hand-picked for Mack’s impressive collection of best friends. But when Justice arrived at Franklin Middle School as a seventh grader in the fall of 2007, Mack—the big, confident eighth grader—immediately scooped up the new kid in her long arms and “collected” her right away. Justice probably did not know what had hit her; and it took about two minutes before those crazy girls became two peas in a pod. Mack made friends effortlessly, but I never saw such a fast and easy friendship as the one between Mack and Justice. They were soul sisters from the start and had more fun than any two girls in the history of American middle school. Together they were loud and joyful, took advantage of every second to breathe in and experience the world around them, and left a trail of mischief and merriment in their wake. Some of my favorite life moments were spent driving between our house and Justice’s house on the opposite side of Springfield with those high-spirited and noisy girls in my backseat.

In that first magical year as friends, Mack and Justice were still very different basketball players, but that was about the only real difference between them. They were both confident and mentally tough, cheerful, unfazed by popularity and preteen drama, smart but lazy students, witty and sarcastic. In the hallways at school, on the volleyball, basketball, and track teams, and after school and on weekends, Mack and Justice were joined at the hip. Justice became a part of Mack’s eighth-grade friend circle, and Mack spent time with Justice’s group of seventh grade friends as well. And, finally, those girls got to play some basketball together—at Franklin basketball practices (although Coach Bitner would not let them guard one another because they giggled way too much) and on a winning Gus Macker team one summer.

gus macker champ

Mack, Mariah, Corrine, and Justice

But most of the growing-up memories Mack and Justice made together had absolutely nothing to do with sports. They teased and pushed one another, looked out for each other, and accepted each other unconditionally. They were just kids together, acting like fools, making messes, and laughing…so much laughing…loud, hysterical laughing. I could fill a dozen or more blogs with Mack-and-Justice stories, but I will now offer three that reveal something of the nature of the relationship between these special kids.

Good-natured teasing: One weekday evening as I was preparing dinner, Mack came rumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen. She called for my attention, turned around, and bent over slightly, sticking out her rear end. She pointed to her butt, wrinkled up her brow, and asked: “Is my butt big?” I chuckled and told her that she had inherited some booty from my side of the family. Mack smiled and said, “Dang, I guess Justice is right. Today she was behind me going up the stairs between classes and super loud she yelled ‘Mack! You got some cakes!!’” Mack and I then laughed our big asses off; and Mack forever acknowledged that she did, indeed, have some cakes. It was a favorite expression she employed whenever she was shopping for a new pair of American Eagle jeans. Mack and Justice were always able to engage in such teasing, and I always admired that about them.

Well-placed loyalties: After just one year of attending school together at Franklin, Mack went to Springfield High School; and a year later, Justice went to rival Southeast High School across town. They competed against each other in basketball, and they each embraced the ferocious spirit of their respective schools. Mack was a true Senator. Justice was a true Spartan. And those girls talked a whole lot of smack to each other. But even though they were competitors and lived their school rivalries, they remained fierce supporters of one another, often cheering for each other from the bleachers when they were not in direct competition. They had only been school chums for one year, but their friendship not only survived the school separation, it grew stronger during their high school years. One year at the boys’ basketball City Tournament (which is a huge deal for school spirit and town sports’ rivalries in Springfield, just so you know), Mack made a “dangerous” decision to sit in the Southeast section with her friend. When I questioned her intent, Mack said something like: “City is so much fun, and I just gotta do one with J.C.” Justice provided a Spartan blue t-shirt and Mack joined the Blue Crew on one of the three nights of the tourney, only to be caught “blue” handed yuckin’ it up with Justice in a photo that was posted on the school district website. Some people were appalled that Mack would cross that line, and her basketball coach was horrified by the photo, but when Mack saw it, she shrugged her shoulders and without any tone of apology at all, she said: “oops.”traitor

Friends for Life: Mack and Justice worked hard to spend as much time together as they could over the years. Justice was a frequent weekend guest in our home, Mack hung out in Justice’s basement during the summer, and they included each other in various outings with their own friend groups.  Yet sometimes their busy teenager lives interfered, and weeks might pass between face-to-face visits; and then Mack would get lonely for Justice (or vice versa) and say, “I need me some Justice time.” What always amazed me about those girls is that no matter the distance, no matter the time, together they were always at ease. It was as if no time had ever passed at all. Even after Mack went off to Truman State, we moved to St. Louis, and Justice went to college in Kansas City, the girls enjoyed an easy and comfortable friendship that never faded. They really were two peas in a pod. They were life friends. They were sisters.

Many people we meet in life pass by us with little notice. Others play an important role for a time and then fade away. If we are lucky, we will know a few that grab onto our hearts and stay forever. Justice was one of those friends for Mack. Mack was one of those friends for Justice. And that is a beautiful thing.

p.s. I am so very grateful that Justice was a part of Mack’s life, and, in some ways, I now believe that Mack collected Justice not only for herself but for me as well. Justice’s spirit and strength at Mack’s memorial service brought me some solace in those terrible first days without Mack. Her random text messages over the past year have been precious to me, providing humor and support. And the way that she has chosen to honor her best friend by living a good and joyful life is an inspiration to me and should be an inspiration for us all.

Justice’s beautiful and funny eulogy to Mack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9e2NIGnbww

#Projectmack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKd5NWQm9ss

And some social media exchanges that make me smile:

justice bad grammarbest friendsIPad 2014 818 (2)justice calling out of the blue 1

Silly Songs and Funny Faces

Mack loved eating, spending time with animals, and watching her favorite television shows, but I believe her favorite activity was making people laugh. For my funny girl, laughter was the essential ingredient for a good life; and I can say with certainty that Mack laughed every single day of her wonderful life. Laughter soothed Mack’s soul, and she developed a passion to evoke laughter in the people around her. She loved to be the cause of a good giggle, to bring on a big belly laugh, or to start a contagious chuckle; and she was particularly delighted if she could cause you to blow soda out of your nose.

Mack employed various strategies for unleashing an outbreak of laughter around her, and her methods reflected the sensibilities of her own inner child. She made up silly songs and sang them in ridiculous voices, and she performed her own unique renditions of popular songs. In a squeaky register, for example, Mack would sing: “And I’m on tonight, you know my hips don’t lie, and I’m starting to feel it’s right,” mimicking the singer Shakira but also adding a Mack-silly twist by singing out of the side of her pursed lips. Mack danced like a fool, could talk right through a belch or a yawn, told stories in a horrendous cockney accent, and always ratcheted up the teen slang with a heavy dose of nerd. Mack relished her repertoire of really, really bad jokes (many straight off of Laffy Taffy wrappers), and she made up her own dumb jokes as well. Of her Mack originals, one of my personal favorites was: “Why did the squirrel cross the road?” There were many that started with this question (and others that started with a chicken), but every time Mack began a joke in this way, she would lean in with an expectant look on her face and pause as she waited for her victim to nod, and then she would shout out the nonsensical answer: “Because there was bacon on the other side!” Mack would usually start giggling before she could offer the entire punchline, and people were laughing before they even knew just how bad the joke was going to be.

But while silly singing, crazy voices, and lousy jokes were useful tools of her laughter-seeking occupation, it was probably the art of the funny face that drew the most laughter. Mack could suck in her lips or bug out her eyes and make us all laugh without saying a single word. Mack’s humor was mostly of the low-brow variety, was usually self-deprecating, and was always fair and good-natured; and since she liked to use herself as the target for most of her humor, she rarely engaged in excessive teasing or orchestrated practical jokes at the expense of others. But there was one practical joke that Mack deemed particularly successful for the laughter it produced; and because it is a personal favorite Mack-story of “Stapes,” Mack’s beloved high school golf and softball coach,” I offer it here in his words:

“One evening after a golf match, the girls were getting brand new golf bags. Their old bags were going to the junior varsity boy’s golf team. Mack asked if her and fellow teammate Becca Ramirez could be the ones to give the bags to the younger guys. She and the rest of the team started laughing, so I knew something was up. After some conversations back and forth, I convinced her to let me in on the joke, because with Mack, she was always up to something. Mack said that her and Becca purchased 10 boxes of feminine products and planned to stuff every pocket in the bags with them. Now image, with me, if you can, 14-year-old boys getting ready to practice with their new Springfield High bags only to find them loaded with tampons. So, of course, I looked at Mack and told her to go ahead and proceed.”

With the approval of her coach, Mack then carried out her humorous plot. She giggled throughout the plans, she laughed long and loud with her teammates as they stuffed the golf bags with tampons, and she chuckled every time she told people that “Stapes” had joined in the laughter, too. But the belly laughs of those boy golfers were the laughs Mack enjoyed the most. They were a new audience for her, and it tickled her pink to learn that she was capable of sharing a good laugh with people outside of her own circle of friends and teammates.

Oh Mack, you were a natural, my dear. We enjoyed the giggles we shared with you, we treasure the laughter you brought us, and we know that every day you made us laugh was a day worth living.

sisters babies  nerd caffeing and yellow nailscheesin with kaitlin

no lips  dancing with a potato eye balls

I Love to Laugh

Writing this blog has been a therapeutic endeavor for me, but it has also been a way for me to share my unique and amazing girl with the world and to keep her spirit alive. Mack and I were close, I knew her very well, and I have been able to share so many stories about her life, her character, her world view, and her zany and charming personality. But I realize that my perspective on Mack and my understanding of her was through the lens of a Momma Bear. Therefore, when I run across an artifact of Mack’s life, I am compelled to share it. And when it comes in the form of Mack’s own words, so much more the better.

Recently, one of Mack’s best friends reminded me of a random Facebook game in which Mack participated back in February 2009 (thanks, Kailey!). It was one of those chain games in which a friend of Mack’s tagged her to “write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals” about herself, and then tag twenty-five people to participate, too. Generally, Mack poo-pooed games like this, and she was very resistant to use social media to call attention to herself. Therefore, it’s quite surprising that she decided to answer this very public request to share personal insights about herself. I have no idea why Mack made this post, but I am thrilled that she did it. It offers one of those precious windows into her soul that has become a priceless artifact of her beautiful life and a sweet treasure for me. When Mack posted these twenty-five random facts about herself, it was 12:35 a.m. on a Saturday night. She was just shy of her fifteenth birthday, a high school freshman in the middle of her first varsity basketball season, well settled in at high school, unusually comfortable in her teenage skin, and already a wise old owl.

Below is Mack’s list of twenty-five random thoughts she offered about herself more than six years ago. I have provided some annotations and a couple of photos to go along with Mack’s words. Coincidentally, I have already featured several of Mack’s random thoughts in previous blog posts (they are hyperlinked) and, no doubt, other items will provide entertaining fodder for future blogs about my Macko. Mack’s wonderful list captures her incomparable humor and charm, offers some honest insights from her heart, and reflects the level of comfort she had with herself at a time when most girls her age are struggling to find themselves and to make their way in the world.

  1. I tend to overthink things. not sure why.
  2. I’m crazy if you know me but quiet if you don’t. [Mack was a little shy around strangers, but that never lasted very long. The close friends she made on the golf course is an excellent example at how quickly her “quiet” faded away.]
  3. I enjoy food. a lot [Oh, Mack, what an understatement!eating 1].
  4. lunch is my favorite [I suspect what she meant by this one is that lunch was her favorite subject at school!]
  5. people say I’m odd, but what do they know =).
  6. Basketball’s chill but it’s not my life [Even though Mack was at the height of her basketball success, making varsity and getting playing time as a freshman, she already knew that basketball did not define her nor did it control her life.]
  7. When I grow up I’m going to have a show on the food network called Mack’s Makin Bacon. I shall be famous [Mack’s love of bacon was legendary, and for a very long time she talked about having this show. A blog post entitled “Mack’s Makin’ Bacon” is definitely forthcoming].
  8. I once had a hamster named Strawberry Fabio McDermott. She died a tragic death. [Strawberry died of wet-tail disease, which is a common ailment in hamsters. Yet, I do suppose her death was kind of tragic, as Mack was so very fond of that little rodent.]
  9. I also had a fish named filis. Her death was similarly depressing. [Mack named a giant carp in our aquarium Phyllis (at least that’s how the Greeks and most other people would have spelled it). During an ice storm one winter when the power went out for several days, we had to leave the house as temperatures dipped below zero. Sadly, we left Phyllis behind, and the poor beloved fish froze to death. Mack was upset with her dad over that one for quite some time!]
  10. I have a pound puppy named Spot that I’ve had since I was two.
  11. I have 2 dogs. One is fat and the other is insanely hyperactive [Napoleon was our fat pug; and Pepper is our crazy Pomeranian]
  12. Stuff doesn’t bother me, I just kinda go with it.laugh
  13. I play golf basketball and softball. I don’t really have a favorite, but I’m best at softball.
  14. I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me.
  15. My nails are bright purple at the moment [Mack’s one beauty item was nail polish, and her toes and fingers were always as bright and cheerful as her personality.]
  16. Harry Potter is pretty durn sweet. not gonna lie.
  17. I love to laugh [oh, yes, Mack laughed every day; and she made other people laugh right along with her.]
  18. It takes a while for me to break out of my shell.
  19. I did not enjoy middle school.
  20. When I wake up in the morning, the only thing I want out of life is to stay in bed. [Mack was a professional sleeper…more to come on this topic for sure].
  21. I have 7 pairs of huge sunglasses. They all cost about 5 bucks [Stay tuned for a photo-essay about Mack’s glorious collection of sunglasses.]
  22. Blueberry pomegranate gatorade is disgusting. (that is not really about me, but I just took a sip and thought I should give a warning).super cool 11
  23. My sister’s in Argentina and I am very jealous [Savannah spent a semester studying in Buenos Aires when she was junior at Indiana University majoring in Spanish.]
  24. I watch comedy central, disney, food network, and discovery, and that’s about it
  25. There’s a giant CWLP cone in my room [Mack’s sister stole a giant orange City Water Light and Power caution cone, and when she went away for college Mack inherited it. When we moved to St. Louis, Mack insisted that it come with us. It enjoyed a place of prominence in her bedroom, we have it still, and I will keep it for Mack forever.]

Be More Mack-Like

Of course, Mackenzie was always special to me; she was my funny little imp who daily filled my life with laughter and joy. Early on in her childhood, I recognized that she enjoyed the company of a small circle of adoring friends; I knew that the parents of her friends were crazy about her; and it was clear she was well-liked by many of her classmates, teammates, coaches and teachers. Yet until I lost her, I failed to fully comprehend the deep and lasting influence she made upon those who were lucky enough to know her. Watching nearly 600 people arrive at the memorial service in the Springfield High School gymnasium on October 12, 2014, I was overwhelmed by the number of mourners and comforted by the tremendous outpouring of love for my little girl. Despite living just twenty years, Mack made a lasting and deep imprint on more human hearts than most of us will with four times as many years to live.

Jack Stapleton, Mack’s high school golf coach and favorite teacher, closed his remarks at her memorial service by appealing to everyone assembled in that gym to be more “‘Mack-like,” by bringing joy to everything you do and becoming friends with everyone you meet in life.” There is no doubt in my aching heart that Mack lived life with the gusto of an exuberant ten-year-old, and her joyful approach to everything she did was infectious. There is also no doubt that even though Mack was somewhat shy around strangers, as soon as introductions were behind her, she scooped up people in those long arms and treated them with the same love and respect she would a long-lost friend.

Over the past three months, Jake’s entreaty has stuck with me; and I have thought quite a lot about what I can do in my own life to be more “Mack-like.” I do not generally make New Year’s resolutions, but as I face 2015 without Mack—one of my most important inspirations—I believe attempting to adopt for myself some of her best qualities will bring me some comfort. As well, emulating her will honor her life and help me to be a better person.

And so, in 2015, I promise to:

  1. Enjoy life: Mack set the bar very high on joy, but I am going to try my damnedest to make her proud. Mack lived in the moment, she did not let worries or the future interfere with the people, events or food staring her right in her freckled face. With Mack as my inspiration and the practice of some yoga, I am going to learn to delight in simple, silly pleasures, like a plate of piping-hot fried rice, a quiet conversation with a friend or an episode of a stupid sit-com.
  2. Be a good friend: I am likely incapable of competing with Mack for number of “best” friends, but I am going to be a better friend. I am going to work to be kinder, more patient and less judgmental; and I am going to look for opportunities to make new friends.
  3. Try something new: Mack was adventurous, always setting fear and doubt aside. When she decided to throw the discus and compete in high jump in middle school track, I was in awe of her willingness to take on two such new and foreign activities, both well outside of her team-sport comfort zone. This year I am going to try something new and foreign that will force me to step outside of my own comfort zone.
  4. Relax: Mack frequently scolded me for being too serious, so I am going to try to relax and see humor in things that previously would have angered or annoyed me. One time in our kitchen in Springfield, Mack knocked a carton of eggs off the counter. Two of the eggs were intact, but the others were annihilated on the ceramic tile floor. Both of us gasped, so our reactions started out the same way. However, at the very second that I started screaming that she should have been more careful, she began laughing, uncontrollably, commenting on how funny it was that the eggs on the floor looked like eggs cooked three ways: hard-boiled, fried and scrambled. I’ll need both Mack and the yoga for this one; but I assure you, the next time eggs fall off my counter, I’m going to laugh instead of yell.
  5. Laugh: Mack was so much fun; she laughed, chortled, snorted, giggled and guffawed constantly. She knew better than most that laughter is a wise tonic. I am dedicated most singularly to this final “resolution.” I will find humor wherever I can. I will laugh as often as I am capable.

In other words, I promise to be more “Mack-like.”

In life, Mack was an inspiration to me, and facing all of 2015 without her is going to be a monumental struggle. But I was one of the lucky people in the world upon whose heart she made a lasting and deep imprint. Mack will forever live in my heart, memories of her will always occupy my mind, and I am going to keep her perched upon my shoulder. From that vantage point, she will continue to inspire me every day to be more “Mack-like.” To enjoy life’s simple pleasures with the enthusiasm of a child. To be a good friend. To set fear aside and try new things. To be unflappable. And most of all, to laugh. Laugh. Laugh. And laugh some more.

on my shoulder

Enjoy life…

enjoy

Be a being a good friend…

being a friend

Try something new…

discus

Relax…

relaxed

And, laugh…

laugh