If I had a wish for the world, it is that each and every person would have a Jeannie.

My Jeannie died from cancer three and a half years ago and the hole she left is like “Dear Eliza” filling the bucket. No matter what I do, the hole is still there. Her daughters are busy mothers and teachers, but when someone mentions their mom, they get that flickering look of soul-deep loss.

I don’t want this to be a sappy, oh she was perfect thing. She was nice looking, but not pretty. Articulate, but too shy to push her ideas at people. Knowledgeable, without being brilliant. I miss her wry jokes; I miss her shrug of acceptance about the vagaries of life; I miss the phone calls that were about nothing and everything.

If she did any world-saving, it was one person at a time.

When we were a lot younger, I was working at home as a writer and two blocks over she had an in-house daycare. When I got tired of struggling with recalcitrant characters or she got tired of trying to soothe crying babies (she had one boy with a genetic issue who literally cried all day for 18 months), I would head over; we would drink coffee, laugh, and walk babies back and forth, back and forth. One of those babies got married last year and had Jeannie’s daughters to the wedding because Jeannie, his almost mother, was not there to be happy with him.

At the dedication the other day of a reading bench brought into existence by the moms of the kids she had cared for, my oldest daughter said that Jeannie had been her personal reference over 15 years of job applications. One mother admitted to being a crazy helicopter parent and that with Jeannie’s good sense and kindness, her son’s transition to school had been happy for him, and doable for her. I can’t count the times my children simply said that when there was a crisis – from being stuck at school to the sewer exploding in the basement, and their own mom and dad weren’t around – “I called Jeannie.”

They knew she wouldn’t make a fuss. They knew she would make a mild joke of it. They knew she would come. Every time.

I wish every person in the world could have had a Jeannie.