Good morning gents,

I'm not really sure how to open this post. My mother passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly last weekend. She was only in her early 60s. It's difficult to find the words to write about such a shock. It's been a stressful and busy year to begin with, with a lot of worry about work and where life is going from here, but this has put everything in stark contrast. As some of you know, my mother has had a few close calls over the years. She struggled with mental health issues, especially within the last decade or so. But after I got the call last weekend, I keep thinking back to happier memories of her. One of them led me here. When I was 16 years old I was bitten by the First World War flight sim bug. First it was Wings of Glory but then I heard about Red Baron II. One afternoon, while shopping at Wal-Mart with my mom, I found one remaining box copy of the game, marked down for $20. I begged my mother, quite dramatically, in the store to please, please, please get me the copy of Red Baron. "It's the last game I'll ever need!" was often a phrase I used back then. She saw how badly I wanted it and picked it up for me.

That box still sits on my bookcase 21 years later. I still fly with the Microsoft Sidewinder she picked up for me a few years later. I joked that it was the best twenty bucks she ever spent - it sparked my interest in history which led to college, then grad school and well, you know the rest.

Her death was a shock, even after so many close calls. Apparently she had bronchitis for the past week - my mother was a very heavy smoker - and because of poor family finances had put off seeing a doctor. She was finally seen but that night she went to bed and never woke up. The conclusion was that her heart simply stopped in the middle of the night. My father, who is also dealing with a lot of mental health challenges, is devastated. I am in the middle of the busiest and most stressful six months of my life and honestly, it's hard to cope with so much happening in such a short span. So, as always, I though it would be best to post something here. I am heartbroken and at a loss for what to say or how to proceed, other than one step at a time. I have a loving family of friends around me and a fantastic partner, so in that sense I'm very very fortunate. But it's also incredibly hard to process.

Spare a thought for my mother if you can, my friends. I'd greatly appreciate it. She wasn't without her faults, but she was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to me each day.