(L to R) Ginger, Kevin and Sean 

Happy 49th Birthday Ginger Lee Gillis!

I want to give you the biggest hug ever!!  You know your mom has a vivid imagination right?  I AM HUGGING YOU FROM AFAR!

Today i feel a flood of emotions erupting from the depths of my soul forcing tears that stream down my cheeks as i imagine you looking into my eyes with that wonderful smile.  My broken heart is beginning to mend but i continue longing for what i cannot have. It is MY wish for a real conversation with you, encompassing the you I missed over the years, the you who was taken from me one piece at a time.   Far too many parents have similarly experienced the gradual but relentless loss of a child due to emotional or mental illness and/or addiction.

I cannot imagine the pain you were experiencing.  I know you made choices which helped determine your destiny and others which were out of your control. There were times i thought i knew the real Ginger but they were short lived.  In those moments, i imagined you were going to come back to me but you could not! Today i choose to focus on those short lived moments with you when laughter erupted giving me a glimmer of hope that i would experience the old Ginger  “This Time”.

Ginger I know from time to time you dreamed big dreams!!  When you were very young you spoke of becoming a singer. We knew that would never work out following your performance as Miss Hannigan in The Musical Annie revealed you were tone deaf.  A few years later you thought teaching children might be a place to land, “some day”.

Ginger, there were those hopeful times when we thought you would do IT!  Times when we expected to celebrate your accomplishments only to be disappointed one more time.  IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!

Drugs and Mental Illness drove those dreams far away from you and you from us.  


Today on your Birthday, let’s CELEBRATE YOU!

If you were in this room at this very moment, i would ask you many questions and tell you over and over how much I love you and miss you. We would remember our times sitting at the kitchen table with your siblings, playing a game, sharing an idea, and laughing together.   I choose to remember the bright eyed little girl who smiled your smile and asked too many questions. The beautiful Ginger who imagined an innocent world full of people who loved on her.

You know Ginger, you were trusting and naive, always wandering ahead of us talking to anyone who would listen to you.  It is beyond my comprehension that someone you trusted and an illness we didn’t understand, stole your sweet innocence.  I wish those drugs and demons hadn’t taken away your dreams and you from us. If I had known what i know now, i would have personally hunted them down until they were no more!  I know you suffered far more than any of us could think or imagine.

Ginger, I want you to know, you were an amazing daughter, and I count it a privilege to be your mother.  I use the present tense, because in many ways you are here with me today if only in my memory.  I believe mothers have an understanding, or a connection,  perhaps it comes through the umbilical cord.  I cannot explain it but it is part of you and therefore a part of me.

I celebrate your love for your sons when through those difficult years you loved them the best you could.  After you passed, and I cleaned your room i felt your love for them as i viewed their pictures taped and strewn around your desk.  Sean and Kevin’s school pictures, photographs of you holding each of them as babies, pictures of them together with arms around each other. These vivid images spoke of your love for them.  The pictures, displayed in simple frames showed your sons at all ages. Sadly, Kevins pictures ended at age thirteen but your love for him didn’t.  I thought of the guilt and pain you felt after his tragic death.  As I reflected tears flowed easily washing away my preconceived judgments.

Ginger,  You were bright like your dad, and lucky to have inherited his sense of humor.  So many times he reminded me that you were the child who laughed and understood his sick jokes.  The two of you loved sports and could spend hours watching Phillies or Eagles games, talking about Batting Averages, Trades, and Bad Umpire Calls.  You vicariously experienced your Dads adventure at Phillies Phantasy Camp listening as he described his time there. As usual you asked him many questions, holding on to every detail.  You were most interested to know his coach was Dallas Green and you were impressed that Phillies Coach Larry Bowa signed a baseball for him.  It was as though you were on the field in Clearwater with your “Daddy” experiencing every pitch and every at bat.  

Ginger, I loved how you loved people including your loyalty and ability to see beyond their appearances.  While some judged, you accepted and loved them always seeing the good.  This was an amazing attribute but unfortunately one which also made you vulnerable.  If i could have known then what i know now!

Yes, Ginger, I’ve learned lessons from you through your life and death.

You taught me  “Something Stronger was in Control of You”

It was a long time before i could understand your struggles.  I don’t pretend to have understood the power drugs played in your life, but i know they caused you to lose perspective.  I also know that early emotional trauma compounded your journey.  Although there were many times i believed you would be healed, I learned God had other plans.

You taught me to  “Keep Moving”

No matter your life’s circumstances or your deepest pain, you continued moving and when you fell, you stood up placed one foot in front of the other and continued to walk.  There were times i wondered if you would survive your life for one more day, but you did!! There were days I’d call you, and you would assure me you were doing fine and safe.  There were nights I could not sleep, worried you would die in the cold winter weather.  Many days I feared you were homeless but Ginger, you proved you were a survivor!

There were many times, You were sober and then you were using .  Your AA/NA community offered hope and encouragement to continue your sobriety.  Although it was an up and down journey, you stayed connected to your groups. You brought smiles to this recovery community, giving of yourself, when you had little materially to offer.  You became the groups “Baker” providing cookies and cakes for their meetings, a memory those friends shared at your funeral. You were the best Baker and Cookie Maker!

You taught me about “Truth” and “Love”

What is Truth?  And  What is Love?

Yes you lied to me often which brought sadness to my heart,  but somehow i knew inside of you there was truth waiting to come out.  Sometimes You told me you hated me then later wrapped your arms around me professing your love for me “to the moon and back.”  Were they both true? Of course they were!

You taught me lessons about my own “Grief Journey”

Through your death, i learned that Grief is a path we travel alone!  Your sister and your brothers are walking their own grief road having lost their father and now you.  I cannot understand what it is like to lose a sibling and especially one whose life’s journey deeply affected their life, but they cannot know (i hope they never will) know the pain of losing a child.

I am Grateful!

I am grateful to love and share time with your son, my Grandson Sean.  He is an amazing young man and you would be proud of him!!  He’s doing well, just as you would have expected, and now there’s a special person in his life and he is happy.  Sean is a gift we will forever treasure!

You taught me “Life must go On”

Ginger, We are pleased to partner with the Salvation Army’s  “New Day Drop in Center”

New Day, located in the Epicenter of the Opioid Crisis in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, is a place for women to come inside and find respite from their difficult journey.  The women who walk into “New Day” suffer trauma through Human Trafficking,  Addiction, and Mental Illness.   New Day offers them a safe space to receive love and affirmation.  They are offered vital resources such as a meal, snack, clothing, shower and Hygiene kits.  It is also a place where they can choose to speak privately to someone.   The programs at New Day are focused on women who have lost control of their life, helping them find a path to hope, healing and a holistic life.  It is a place to give them a chance to start fresh.  

Love you and miss you Ginger


Dear Friends,

We choose to remember Ginger and all those who have passed or are currently suffering from addiction and mental illness.  

Please use this link to share your contribution to “NEW DAY” in Gingers name or in the name of a loved one you choose to remember.  

You may write a short message, conveying your hope and love for them in the comment section of this blog.


Give Today


With Love and Gratitude!

If you would like Pat to speak to your group, you may contact her through her blog or directly at 267-832-8716

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views, official or position of The Salvation Army, its organization or management.  Assumptions made in the analysis of this blog are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author.  Comments on this blog and/or website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writers will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that result from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment.

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