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My mother died this year.

Such a simple statement—five words and six little syllables—yet, as many of you know, those words cannot begin to address the depth and breadth of the shittiness of losing your mom to a prolonged illness.

She was one hell of a woman. Despite a body racked with pain for countless years and a decline that wasn’t pretty, she still had the heart of a warrior, fighting for life until the very end. Mom possessed one hell of a sense of humor, too. I’ve always preferred to laugh loudly and defiantly when given a choice between laughter and tears; trust me, it’s not a coincidence.

There are a lot of things Mom never got to do. She was born in a small town, and never left the Southeast. She had a passion for writing but never fully pursued it. She possessed a rebellious streak yet married young and, I suspect, missed out on quite a few adventures because of it. Without Dad, my sister and I would have never been conceived, so I (selfishly) never complained too much about that part. Now that I’m older, I find myself looking into that rearview mirror we all call retrospect; I can’t help but be curious about what wonders a young Mary Cox might have otherwise seen.

As this year winds down to a close and the world prepares for 2016, all those silly lists of things we want to change—and will give our best, half-assed efforts to—begin. I made one and posted it a few days back. But this morning I realized it’s even simpler than that.

You know what I want next year?

To live—shamelessly, fearlessly, and with all my might—the way this beautiful, young girl posing in the Georgia sunshine dreamed of doing:


 And there will be nothing half-assed about it, I can assure you.