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  • Writer's pictureTracy Bottiglieri

Make You Feel My Love

And just like that...another year has passed since I last saw Joey. Since he last kissed me goodbye and told me he loved me. Since the boys last shared a beer with their dad. Since many of us knew he was one of our favorite people on the planet. Two years can feel like forever, especially during a pandemic. Or it can feel like a blink of an eye. Either way, forever is forever. And it can take the heart a long time to accept the loss.

For those of you reading Make It Special because you are also suffering, be kind and patient with yourself. Take care of your body. Rest. Drink fluids. Eat healthy. Focus on caring for the vessel carrying your broken heart. I found my brain was numb, at least for the first year. I am someone who has struggled with anxiety, and yet during the year and a half following Joe's death, I did not feel my usual anxiety as it related to my triggers of family safety and health. (My triggers are ironic in a heart-breaking way as it relates to Joe) Yes, I was afraid of my new future. What would it look like without Joe? What would I DO without him? With help from my wonderful therapist, I focused on getting through the day. Not looking into the future. Trusting that "it" would all work out somehow. Not the way I planned or wanted, maybe, but in another new way that had yet to be revealed to me. I simply had to my my myself...and in God. And so that is what I have been doing since March 21st of 2019.


I wanted to develop a unique way to honor Joe on his Memorial Day. A tribute to his life, his love of nature, and my love for him. I chose the place for the tribute first - the C & O Canal near our home. We had hiked along the trails many times together. The scenery is beautiful along the Potomac River, and the end of March marks the beginning of an annual rebirth for the plants and trees in the area. I chose to hold a small hike along the upper end of the Towpath with close friends and family. But days before our Tribute Hike, Covid-19 hit and we were not permitted to gather in large groups. So I pivoted and the boys and I chose to do a tribute with just us. A couple of their friends joined us at the last minute.

To bring more meaning to the hike, I decided to start the tradition of writing a letter to Joe and "sailing" it on the Potomac River. I located a biodegradable, water-soluble paper product (see below). Weeks prior, I had asked the park rangers at the Great Falls Tavern Center If I had permission to launch my environmentally safe paper boats into the river. I brought pencils along with the paper, and we began our little hike. We stopped along a quiet edge of the Potomac. We each took our time, taking in the scenery, writing our hearts out on the simple sheets of paper. Then I showed the boys how to fold the paper into boats. One of the boys' friends remembered how to create an origami boat, so he helped when needed. We each took turns launching our handiwork. Truth be told, the act of writing the note and folding the boat was therapeutic. The act of "setting sail" fell a little flat because as soon as the paper touches the water, it begins to disintegrate. We have now held two origami boat tributes. Two years since Joe has been gone. I told my son, Nicholas, that next year we might make paper airplanes - to see them soar a little while over the water before dissolving into the river.

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