From the time Alyssa was small, I called her Dolly. She always looked like a doll who came to life. When I hugged her for the last time as we left Thanksgiving dinner, I said, "It's so good to have you home Dolly. Love you." It's the last thing I said to her.
When I think about my Dolly, I think about all the times I went out with her and my friend Karen. Karen's daughter Phoebe is Alyssa's age. We went all kinds of places together. Alyssa was also a frequent partner in crime when I was out with Sami and Jenny. She was always happy to go anywhere and do anything.
As she grew, our outings became less frequent. Tom and I were busy trying to start our family and she was busier at school. When we found out we were having twins, we started putting together first and middle names. We had a matrix of possible names. I remember standing in our backyard when Alyssa said, "I have always wanted a cousin named Allison." We started thinking about Abigail and Allison as our name combination. I used to remind Alyssa that she named Ally. If you ask Allison how she ended up with her name, she'll tell you that Alyssa named her.
The past few years were rough for Alyssa, Steve, Jake and Zack. She ended up on a bad path and it ultimately killed her. I could tell that every day of that path hurt Steve, Jake and Zack. It turned out that love and support were not enough to turn her to a better path.
We can dwell on the past few years, but who here wants to be remembered simply for their worst decisions? I choose to remember Alyssa as my Dolly. I choose to remember the sweet, smart funny girl who was my adventure partner so many wonderful times.
When Zack called on Christmas, I think he said, "Alyssa's gone." I remember thinking, "Gone where?" I think I said it out loud. At this point, it's all a blur. Even after I realized what he meant by "gone," I couldn't believe it was true. It was inconceivable that my Dolly wasn't going to turn her life towards a better path. It's inconceivable now that she's never going to have a chance to fulfill her potential.
I am so glad that I told her I loved her the last time I saw her. If you haven't done so today, take a minute to tell someone you love them. You never know when it will be your last opportunity to do so.