By: Sarah Eachus & Molly Paulick (Gardner)
Authentic is the word I think best describes our sister Julia. She lived her life without ever apologizing for being who she was, and never being someone she wasn’t.
One of my earliest memories, and a story we have told for years that describes this quality, is when we were planning my 12th birthday party at Disneyland. We knew we would be going to a restaurant that served steak, so my mom made sure that everyone was going to eat the steak. Julia was a very picky eater, and at that time she was only eating bread and cheese. My mom told 8-year-old Julia that in order to go to Disneyland she had to eat one bite of steak. We had steak for dinner every night for a week to give Julia a chance. Every night she would sit at the table for hours refusing to eat one bite. The last night came, and I remember talking to her and saying, “How could you not just take one bite of steak to go to Disneyland? It would be the highlight of our whole year!” It was unfathomable. Julia just looked at me and said, “I don’t like steak.” We went to Disneyland without her and she never regretted not eating that steak. Flash forward 20 years, once she decided on her own terms that she liked more than just bread and cheese, she became the biggest foodie in our family and was the one to introduce new flavors, new restaurants and yes, even new ways to prepare steak.
We will miss going to restaurants with her telling us what she thinks we would like. As my mom said earlier this week, Julia lived her life where she served others before herself, and judged herself before others. She genuinely wanted to make others happy, and always gave them the benefit of the doubt. I always loved bringing her around my friends – she was never that annoying little sister. I always felt cooler and more comfortable in her presence.
For both our weddings, Julia was a calming presence and the one we could count on to get stuff done without ever complaining. In fact, she joyfully accepted every task handed to her no matter how mundane. She even did all of our makeup for Molly’s wedding, and then rushed at the last minute to get hers done – always putting others before herself.
She also brought the party wherever she went. At my bachelorette weekend on a cruise ship in Mexico, Julia overheard people singing karaoke to a Melissa Etheridge song. Never one to miss out she ran up on stage, grabbed the mic and said, “How could you sing Melissa Etheridge without me??” And then proceeded to belt out the lyrics to “Come to My Window” without even looking at the screen. She had an uncanny ability to hear a song once and then know all of the lyrics perfectly, so how COULD anyone sing Melissa Etheridge or any other song without her?? At Molly’s bachelorette party she led the charge with the three-legged race, and squeezed about a million limes for everyone’s margaritas. Always the family fun instigator. You couldn’t help but have a good time in her presence. As we gained new members into our family, she welcomed them with open arms and treated them like brothers and friends. As easy as she gets along with girls, she was always one of the guys, too. Actually, she probably knows more about football than any guy I know. I’ll miss her fantasy football advice next year.
While Julia and I were naturally close growing up, Molly and Julia had their differences at first, as many siblings do. However, over the years, we became a dynamic trifecta of sisterhood. We all had our place, and all offered something different. Molly and I tend to get on the anxious side and can be spastic, but Julia always knew how to keep it real and tell us when to not take ourselves too seriously. There was no one I would rather spend a day with then my two sisters. We didn’t need to be doing anything, just dancing around the kitchen and having our famous (or infamous?) Gardner sing-alongs. We were so blessed to spend an unbelievable amount of time together lately. Countless dance parties, weddings, bachelorettes, Grandpa’s 90th birthday and even one of the last times we saw her on 4th of July we were dancing and singing and hugging on the beach to an 80’s band belting out Jules’ favorite Bon Jovi and Journey songs. She perfected the art of being present, supportive and loving. She leaves a huge hole in our family. We want to honor her legacy by being brave, not apologizing for who we are and loving others without limits.
Our good friend Tiffany gave us this quote this last week from Anne Lamott – “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
Julia had a tattoo on her foot she got with her friend Hollis that read, “I keep dancing on my own,” lyrics from one of her favorite songs. She always kept dancing to her own beat, no matter what anyone thought or said. To honor her, we got tattoos yesterday with our mom and several family members that say, “I keep dancing.” It will be a constant reminder to always keep dancing like Julia would through life’s challenges and joys. We will keep dancing through this pain and limp along through life until we can dance with her again.
Although the pain seems unbearable at times, we are deeply comforted by all of you here today and those who have sat with us, cried with us, prayed with us, laughed with us and gotten tattoos with us over the last 10 days. Julia truly treated her family like her friends and her friends like her family. We are all family today mourning the loss of one of the world’s greatest. Our firm and steady hope is in the Lord, our ever present help in times of trouble. He sustains us, and we are seeking him every second. He calls us to trust him in this present darkness. He shows us how much he loves us by his word and his people. He tells us our weakness is his strength, and that he will never fail us. We rejoice in his promises of eternal life with him, and rejoice knowing Julia is far more at peace than she ever was here on earth.
2 Corinthians 4: 16 - 18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The Lord does not only give us this hope but also meets us in the darkness and holds us in the middle of the night when the pain of missing her is all too real and deep. We ask that you continue to pray for strength and comfort as we try to navigate this world without her.
Never has Psalm 23 meant more than it does now, “The Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing. He makes us lie down in green pastures, he leads us beside quiet waters, he refreshes our souls. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we will fear no evil, for you are with us: your rod and your staff they comfort us.”
We love you Ju-bu.