Jennifer L. Scalise, a former Fortune 500 executive, is a single mother who lives in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake, 17, and Paige, 9. To honor her daughter Brooke after her death, Jennifer established the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has awarded more than 120 church camp scholarships to junior high school youth. She is the author of “A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Life Beyond,” the inspirational true story of her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter (www.JenniferScaliseAuthor.com). She is a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations; raises awareness about the dangers of traveling to third-world countries, and is a spokesperson for Concerned Families for ATV Safety.
In the days after the accident, pieces of your life quickly came together as if in a puzzle. As close as we were to each other, I discovered a lot about you only after you passed. Your worship journal sat in your room, unopened. I had never opened it because you had written, “please do not read” on the outside. Now I looked inside.
There, you thanked God for always loving you. You wrote, “I will help spread the word about you to people because I know that is what you want me to do.” Over and over you thanked God for coming into your life, and mentioned wanting to go to church more. You wrote of your love for your family, saying that we all meant the world to you. You also said, “Most importantly, You God are in my life.”
It seemed you had left behind some sort of message for everyone in your journal. The most recent letter, written less than two weeks before you passed, gave me peace. It also convinced me that deep down, your soul always knew your time here would be short and you were already prepared for your journey Home.
You wrote, “God, thank you for everything. I know you are here for me every second of the day. You still love me even though I have sinned . . . Please let my mom realize we were made for you.”
You wrote that God was who you loved most, listing God before your family and friends. You wrote something else that gave me comfort. You described your favorite place, the ocean in the mountains, the very place you passed.
What we found – surprising considering you grew up without a religious upbringing – touched us all.
Since then, so much has happened that convinces us that your spirit lives on. Our phone, for example, rang at exactly midnight on your birthday. It was hard to believe that was mere coincidence. The night I woke to the sound of the TV playing Faith Hill’s song “There You’ll Be” I listened to the lyrics and heard messages from you. These events enable me to feel close to you. They make me feel your presence. I see so much of you in your siblings Blake and Paige every day it’s amazing.
I have to confess that at times I feel selfish. I wish more than anything that you were still here, living your life. I feel robbed of everything we’re never going to get to do together, of all the milestones you’ll never reach.
Even so, I set aside quiet time each day to connect with you. To do this, I close my eyes and reach inside myself and feel our love and cherish the wonderful memories from our 12 years together. I remember our joyous times and create new times. Sometimes doing something as simple together in my mind as locking arms and spinning in circles in a beautiful meadow puts me in Heaven with you. This process helps me feel happy even when I am sad. This gives me strength I never new I had which has helped me find peace so I can heal.
I have learned our hardships awaken us to new understandings we could never see otherwise, shaping us into the people we are meant to be. Through this lesson I have found out who I really am, my true being, my soul. You have taught me that in the worst of circumstances, it is up to us to reach out to God for his hand to give us the strength and courage to survive. I know my purpose is to share your story. Thank you, princess, for guiding me.
Today, your legacy lives on, mainly through my book and your foundation. The Brooke Scalise Foundation has awarded 120 church camp scholarships in your name. I receive emails and letters from people all around the world – family, friends and strangers, including other bereaved parents – whose lives you have touched. It’s clear to me your life had a divine purpose. I’m blessed God chose me to be your mother, and long for the day we can be together again.
You are my sunshine, princess, and I will always love you.
P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.