Dear S and E,

You don’t know me. I’ve never met you, I have only seen pictures of you on Facebook, of your beautiful smiles and never-ending happiness. But I knew your mom. We worked together at camp, like so many others who have graced my Facebook feed with immense outpourings of love over the past week or so.

Last week was the 5th anniversary of my mother’s passing. Coinciding with that terrible anniversary came the miserable news that your marvelous mom was suddenly losing her battle to cancer. I’m writing you this letter because you two are so young, still in single-digit ages, and all of the memories of your mom will be of the hugs and meals and help she gave you.

For the past week, all I have been thinking about is you two. Your mom – who everyone knows is incredible – has been in my thoughts, but you two have been in my heart. Just like I never got to know my mother from the side of a parent (she passed before I was dating my husband, and definitely before I had a kid), you two will never get to know yours as an adult independent of her parenthood. And while I hate when people tell me what a wonderful woman my mother was, and how much they loved her, and how much they miss her, the fact is that I already know all those things; But you need to hear it.

There are many people who knew your mom better than I did, who will be able to tell you stories as you get older that I won’t be able to tell you. But what I would like to pass on to you is the view from someone whose life she touched, but was not a part of.

I only knew your mom from her early 20s, and I haven’t seen her in 20 years, but I am 100% certain that there is no one who has ever crossed paths with her who didn’t fall in love with her immediately. Her obvious physical beauty was nothing compared to her stunning soul. The second you met her – you wanted to be her friend. The moment you heard her sing – you didn’t want it to stop.

I didn’t work side by side with your mom, but I watched her from afar. I wanted to be her. I don’t mean I literally wanted to be her – I wanted to be loved like her, talented like her, and – most importantly to me at the time – to be such an adored counselor like her. I think the only person who didn’t look up to your mom – was your mom.

What’s most important for me to pass on to you is this: Even though she is being taken from you half a century too soon (at least!), she is part of you. I can see it in your smiles and your laughter and your inner happiness. You two will be amazing women for the simple fact that she was your mother. It isn’t something that is taught; It is inherent. Even if you can’t remember specific “lessons” that she’s taught you (which I also forget sometimes), it doesn’t matter. Her kindness and love for you and for people in general is as part of your body as your belly buttons.

There will be days when you don’t know how you can go on living without your mom – I was 31 when it happened and still don’t know how I am going on. It was especially hard when I got married, and when my daughter was born, and probably when my next kids are born.

But it’s a choice you make, and sometimes a choice you will make more than once a day. You can choose to be unhappy and focus on the sadness – which you will have plenty of – or you can focus on what you do have: Each other, an adoring father, and the knowledge that, though her time with you was short, you had the best mother you could possibly have.

I can even give you a real-life example of my own. My husband and I knew each other for 3 years before we started dating. Had I agreed to go out with him the first time he tried, he would have known my mother, even before she was sick. She would have had the comfort of knowing I was with a great man. She would have been at my wedding. She would have probably even known my first child.

I can choose to be filled with regrets that we did not date immediately; That my mom never got to be a part of such huge milestones in my life. Or I can choose to be thankful for the marvelous family I have.

I choose the latter. Some days this choice is harder than others, but I believe it’s honoring my mother’s memory. The best thing we can do to honor our mothers’ memories is to be wonderful women like they were, or at least aspire to be. They brought us here for a reason, and even existing in a way that goes against how they raised us – and do not be mistaken, she has raised you – would be a disservice and dishonor to them.

As the photos of your mom begin to disappear from my Facebook feed, this new reality will no longer be a part of my daily life as it has been for the past week and a half. But be not mistaken: There are hundreds of people, all around the world, who will forever have you two in their thoughts.

I’d like to leave you with a clip from YouTube. This is your mom’s gorgeous voice. I’m sure you will always remember how beautifully she sang, but there’s something extra special with this song. You see, it’s, very fittingly, called Modeh Ani – I am thankful.