Jennifer Carol Paparella Mulligan (left) was my sister and best friend from the time we were little girls growing up in a big Italian family. We shared so much, and when we lived in different cities, we talked frequently on the phone. We spent as much time together as we could and carved out time from our busy lives as homeschooling moms (she had 5 kids, I had 4) to travel and spend time together. Jenny's great gift was her ability to encourage those around her, helping them see the good that God was doing in their lives. She made me laugh and taught me how to be a wife, a mother, a cook. She taught me about hospitality, love and forgiveness.
Jenny was diagnosed with brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme in early fall of 2012 at 50 years old. We all understood how serious it was and our families were devastated. She died 18 months later on June 19th, 2014. The world is not the same without her. Ten years later, there is a great hole inside me that seems to have healed around the edges so that it is not so painful anymore, but the lack of Jenny is still there and I suppose will always be while I live. I've used my grief and anger to try to change the outcome for people with brain cancer by raising money for research. Starting in 2013 when I did Race Across America on my Cruzbike, and continuing to this day with athletic events that bring people together to heal and raise money for research.