There once was a girl who had a smile that would light up any room she was in, and if it was shining at you, you couldn’t help but smile, too. That girl had a few names, depending upon who was talking - ones like Mandi, Mimi, Woods, Ms. Woods, Mrs T, Manda Panda, Babe, and most importantly Mommy. Her full name was Amanda Paige Thompson, born Woods, and she was a force of positivity for 40 years.\n\nThat smile was something everyone noticed, besides her beauty. It reflected the joy she felt when talking to someone, whether it be the students (or as she called them, “my kiddos”) she had as a teacher for nearly 10 years, or the many friends she seemed to collect from going about her life. I say collect, as her husband, because I saw she had a special skill for making people feel comfortable and heard. That made them instant fans of Amanda. I was just one of the many. When I met people for the first time who knew her, it was always “Your wife’s amazing” or “she’s the sweetest person” with complete honesty. For those who had met me first and then got to meet her, there lurked a tone of surprise with those same statements. Even complete strangers would feel her magnetism. About once a week, she would tell me a story about some stranger who would inevitably blurt out their life story or worries only to apologize saying something like “I don’t normally do that.” \n\nThe irony of all of this is that Amanda used to say that kids were always her favorite type of human, and that she “hated people.” It was a side of her personality that no one ever got to see, save her immediate family. Still, I never believed her when she said that. When she opened up about her cancer and asked for help, she was floored by all of the outpouring of love and prayers she received from the many people she touched. The acts of kindness from strangers surprised her, too. Hundreds of people were praying for her health. After about three months into her fight and continuing to receive an amazing amount of support, she retracted her “I hate people” stance.\n\nBefore our kids took the limelight, Amanda and I had a pretty good love affair. We met in college and started out as great friends. After a month of friendship I was hooked like so many others had and asked her out. Neither of us put much stock into the relationship as we were still so young, but thought we’d let things just happen. We would see where life took us. Nearly 21 years later, it brought us mostly good times but some bad, lots of happiness but some heartbreak, and best of all, two very precious children - Alec, 12 and Maggie, 8 (almost 9).\n\nAmanda did a lot in her life like teaching, speaking at UNICEF meetings on children’s rights, school board member, realtor, decorator, and artist. However, the only achievement that mattered was taking care of her kids and seeing them become healthy and compassionate humans. Her motto was always “children only have one childhood” and so she made sure she was present in their lives. This also made her a helicopter parent - a fact she always owned and justified because she knew her purpose on earth was to be a mother. As she wrote in a gratitude journal that she started during the cancer battle, her greatest personal achievement was “Alec and Maggie. Nothing else matters than Matt and I being their parents.”\n\nIn her gratitude journal, Amanda’s style of simple, straight-forward sentiments sums up her personality perfectly. So I’ll share some of the items of gratitude, life-lessons, and affirmations that might help all of us in our grieving process:\n\n“Always lead with kindness and a smile”\n“Be gentle on yourself”\nI am grateful for “lazy Saturdays, my Alec and Maggie, GOD, mashed potatoes”\n“The beach is a place of healing”\n“Focus on the good”\n“I trust myself”\n“I trust my body”\n“You are no less powerful in all your stillness”\n“It is not your responsibility to make others happy”\n“GIVE YOURSELF GRACE… some moments are going to be overwhelming & grouchy”\n“Don’t push yourself”\n“Ask for help…so hard for me”\n“Let the fear happen. Acknowledge it. Don’t suppress it. Then let it go!”\n“There is kindness all around us”\n“People are loving”\n“I will see the signs from God and my guardian angels”\n“Enjoy EVERY moment”\n\nAs the cancer progressed, Amanda began to worry that she was going to let down all of the people praying for her. A friend who visited a few weeks ago helped her think of it differently. There were people praying for Amanda who had never prayed before, or had stopped for some reason. Their love for Amanda made them come to God. There were some who were voicing their prayers in groups that had never been brave enough beforehand to speak up. Their love for her made them strong. There were people praying together from all different locations, beliefs, political viewpoints, and other arbitrary divisions. Their concern for her health made them forget. Amanda was happy that she could bring people closer to God. Her hope was that if you have prayed for her that you continue to go down that path. Don’t let her death dismay you. Continue to see the signs from God and know that there is kindness all around.