16 years ago I had to say goodbye to you, the most amazing woman I have ever known. Beautiful, smart and funny; loving, compassionate and kind. Sarcastic and sassy, yet sweet and gentle, generous and the most loyal person you could ever meet. When I think of how difficult it was to say goodbye, I have to remind myself that no pain was greater than the pain of watching you suffer in those 7 months, and I have to thank God for taking you to a place where you no longer feel pain.
For years I replayed that last day over and over in my head. Every. Single. Detail. Every memory like a tiny needle stabbing me again and again. Now, so many years later, I choose to remember all the days before that last day. We made more happy memories in the 19 years before the cancer than can be erased by those 7 long, hard months. Most days now I can wash away the sadness with a happy thought of you shaking your booty in some ridiculous dance, or calling out to me, "Petunia..." from your perch on the couch. I remember the smell of your Trident Original gum, and the curves of your perfect fingernails. I remember the way you would tuck my hair behind my ear, and wait up in my bed for me to come home from a night out. I remember your round face, and your love of Vienna Fingers. I refuse to remember the way the cancer left you. I won't let it win.
It has been 5,840 days since I gave you a hug, or a kiss, or heard the sound of your voice; and while each of those days it has gotten a little bit easier for me to carry on without you, not a day goes by that you are not on my mind or in my heart. It breaks my heart that my children will never know your love the way I knew it, but I know you are watching over us and keeping us all safe every day. I know you live on in Michele and I, more so than I'd like to admit sometimes(!); and that J, A, R and M all have a piece of your spirit - I see it in the way they love others. To quote a great family friend, "she left an indelible impression on all those who had the pleasure of knowing her. My life is a better place because she was in it". I hope you know how much you meant to everyone in your life, not just us. Your friends still reach out to me to tell me how much they miss you, how blessed they were to have had you in their lives.
Thank you for keeping daddy safe, and close to us. When I was younger I would sometimes wonder how you put up with him, but I see it clearly now. There has never been a man with more patience, or kindness. You chose wisely when you married him, maybe somehow you knew someday we would need him, and his inner strength and beauty would shine through. I couldn't ask for a better father for myself, or grandfather for my children. He has kept us all going in your absence, you would be so proud of the way he has opened himself up. Ever since that day at the funeral home when he was showing everyone the napkin you wrote your phone number on for him the night you first met, 20 years before - the way he tucked it into your hands so lovingly, so you could take it home with you. I knew in that instant what true love looks like. So I thank you for giving me that gift, even after you were already gone.
Mom, thank you for being my rock for the 20 wonderful years we shared on this earth together, and for being my guiding light in the 16 years since you've been gone. Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me going when all I want to do is throw in the towel. Your memory, your legacy - they give me the strength to keep going.
"In my dreams I'll always see you soar above the sky, in my heart there'll always be a place for you for all my life. I keep a part of you with me, and everywhere I am, there you'll be. Everywhere I am, there you'll be".
I hope that I can be even half the mother to my children that you were to us. I hope that my friends will hold me in the same high regard that yours do you. I hope that my husband knows that even though I am rough around the edges, every edge is carved with fierce love for him and our family, just like yours were. Every day I strive to emulate you, your love & your generosity. I hope that someday I will come close.
I love you, Mom and I miss you more than words could ever say.
Until we meet again,