Paulina was here. It was sooo nice!!! She stayed three days and four nights… But, now she is gone, and it is hard to know what to do next. Even though my heart aches deeply, tears are somehow trapped in a tightly locked-up place that I prefer not to open at this time. There is no strength for emotion today, so, I will think about Paulina, and how happy the reunion with her family will be when she gets off her plane shortly. She has not been home to visit them for three very long years…

It would be very easy to allow myself to feel jealous that her own mom will be hugging and loving on her Marine tonight, but I will not allow myself to go down that path of self-pity. Instead, I would rather choose to be filled with an immense gratitude that she was even in my home—even if that was just for a brief, but beautiful, moment!!! She helped fill a vast, empty space in our hearts these past few days, and in the sort of way that only one of Julian’s fellow Marines could have done. But, now she is gone… How very blessed her family is to get to see her!!!

Nobody can ever possibly replace my Julian or my Josie; they are unlike any other—as we all are!!! However, there is a certain kind of comfort to be experienced when in close company with those that knew and loved them best. After spending only a few short minutes with Paulina when she first arrived, it quickly became apparent why Julian loves her so much! He cared deeply for all those he considered family, and Paulina, or “G” as he called her, was most definitely family!!!

“V” pinning “G”
“V” waxing Paulina’s “Sunny G” while she was away to Fuji

From her calmness, sensitivity, and sense of humor, to her courage, strength, and also humility, she was immediately lovable and a great joy to us all!!! Little Will was delighted to have her visiting, and would even refer to her as, “the Marine,” while Maya found reassurance in snuggling-up next to her big brother’s dear friend. Victor also found great comfort, when Paulina shared many unknown stories about “V” with him in fluent Spanish… As the days quickly passed, I began to suppress an emerging pain that was fighting to surface from within me… My heart had grown completely attached to her in such a way that I knew the “goodbye” was going to hurt—A LOT!!!!

And it did… As I watched her go through airport security, I could not help but remember all the previous goodbyes I had endured with my precious Julian. They were ALWAYS immensely painful—always!!! There was never a time that I did not break down into desperate sobs after Julian was safely out of sight; my momma heart ALWAYS ached when it had to release my son again to the mercy of his duties—always!!!!!

Through the window—so close, and yet already sooo far away…

Paulina left in much the same way that Julian always did—stoic and brave. I know it was not easy for her, and I know it was never easy for him either. Though my heart ached, I endeavored to match her courage, but it still hurt so very much to see her go… She has become a part of our family.

Paulina with little sister, Maya
Paulina with Grandma and Grandpa
Paulina with Pápi, little brother, Will, and little sister, Maya
Paulina with V’s fuzzy cows—plus a few goats
Paulina and Me “Enjoying the Ride

All of Julian’s Marine brothers and sisters have become family to us now; there is no other way to describe this deep love and connection we feel towards them. I have experienced this to a certain degree in the past, but never so strongly as I do at this time… It is both beautiful, and also miraculous to me, to hold such tender feelings for another human being.

Paulina has traveled away for a time, but I know she will be back! We are counting on it!!! I also know that there are others that will eventually make their way to Colorado, and into our little home here. These are the moments that now give me inspiration to live; these are the things that motivate me to keep looking forward…

Family and home carry a far more profound weight in my heart than I have ever comprehended in the past—even though I have had some extremely close connections. Something deep within me has shifted that I cannot begin to explain, and I love my newly acquired sons and daughters far beyond what these humble words could ever express…. I pray for ALL of them EVERYDAY!!! They mean the world to my little family right now, and they lend us tremendous strength!!!!!

“Patty” will be here next… We can hardly wait!!! Our entire family is overjoyed at the prospect of meeting another of Julian’s brothers. There are simply no words to describe the emotion we feel—no words…

My sweet Patty said it best. When I was lamenting how both of our families were shrinking after he told me he recently lost his own momma, he kindly responded, “In a way, it grew instead of shrinking.” No doubts about it—we ARE family!!! To a Marine, family is rarely about sharing the same genes, and Julian’s Marines have all gone above and beyond in showing us exactly what that means…

Even though Paulina is now thousands of miles away, I know that she will be back. Our hearts are forever bonded. Patty will be no different—I love him already as though he were my own son… and there will definitely be others!!! I know Julian is pleased that we are making these connections, and maintaining these bonds that always came so naturally to him.

Nobody could ever replace my boi, but it is inexplicable the immensity of love I have for these other children. Julian has taught me so perfectly that family often has nothing to do with blood. It is really so much more!!!!!

I marvel how God is able to love each and every one of His children so fully and completely. Perhaps this enormous love I feel for all of these new sons and daughters is something similar?!! Whatever it is, it has been both a gift, and a precious blessing!!! And though I thank God for it, I also thank Julian for helping me find my strength in these new and very unexpected ways!!!!! Oh, how I love my children

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