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Dear Levi, Holland, Hendrik and Lana,

I wanted to share a few things about your mom that I admire.

Growing up, we lived farther away from your mom, so we had lots of time between visits to her house. But, when we were young kids, your mom was swinging from the willow tree branches off the merry go round, flying down the back yard zipline fearlessly, and scrapping against her big brothers in yard games like kick the can. Though she was the youngest, and the only girl, she always kept up. She was a brave adventurer.

When we were a little older, I remember coming for a play date and Anna was in the prettiest dress and making dessert in the kitchen with her mom. I remember thinking it was different to not see her in jean overalls, muddy in the yard with her brothers. But your mom also liked to spend time with her mom and liked to put on “fancy” clothes. She was beautiful – always. Your mom was a brave adventurer in the outdoors, who liked to dress up.

When your mom went to college, Hope College, I was there too. I was one year older than her there. I thought it would be nice to have her come to my house for lunch once a week. Then, she didn’t have to eat cafeteria food from dorm life (you will learn about this!). It turns out, your mom had already learned so much about what to do in the kitchen when she was growing up, that she taught me some tricks she knew for how to cook chicken, what seasonings to use, and how to spend less money on groceries but still eat healthy foods. She was a good teacher, because she did it with humility and with unending encouragement, never making me feel inferior. Your mom was a brave adventurer, beautiful inside and out, who was good in the kitchen, and who was generous with her knowledge as she taught others things she already knew with patience and love.

Your mom was confident in herself and in her decisions. I remember standing outside after your mom and dad were married, thinking of how amazing their love for each other was. She knew she wanted him, and why wait? And after they were married, why wait to start a family when it was what she wanted? She wanted each one of you! I cannot think of a time I was around your mom when she wasn’t standing tall after making her decisions. I also cannot think of a time your mom wasn’t standing tall, period! When she was around others, she was always comfortable and smiling. She didn’t take over conversations, and always made others feel welcome, regardless of who they were or where they came from. Your mom knew how to be a brave adventurer, find beauty, be a whiz in the kitchen, teach others, and she had direction with confident spirit.

God gave your mom a big heart. You will hear this from any person who interacted with your mom on a personal or professional level. She loved all varieties of people, and loved them well. She was an adventurer, a cook, a teacher, a wife, a mom, a friend, a caregiver, a provider, and a child of God.

There are lots of parts of your mom that I didn’t get to know, and I hope there are other people to share those stories with you. But I wanted to make sure you knew a few things about your mom that I admired over the years. She was a special gift from God to lots of people, including me. And in a short 33 years, I am overwhelmed by how many hard things about life your mom had already figured out, the adventures she had taken, the knowledge she acquired and shared with others, the quantity of people she influenced, the love she passed on to everyone around her, and the legacy she has created in the community and in each of you. Your mom lived her whole life like she was going to live a short one.