I found the eulogy I read at your funeral, typed up and folded between the sleeves of a book on my shelf. Ironic, huh? This is probably about the day that I stood in front of all those people, just weeks past seventeen years old, and tried my best to convey what I was feeling, who you were, and how our family would go onward.
I want to read it to you, because part of me wants to scoop that younger version of myself up and hold her. And cradle her body because that grief was so heavy. And whisper in her ear that life will go on, and the answers will all come in time. That her life was not over, just beginning in a different way.
I’d tell her she would learn how to live again.
So here it goes:
My Mom is the most beautiful person I will ever know. Anyone that knew her, will remember the Jenifer always looking her best in the latest Cache outfit and matching Coach purse, picking up her kids from sports practice and socializing with the other moms. But there was much more to her.
I’ve never seen a person as strong and determined as she was, whether it was about getting new carpet or having a fourth baby–she was relentless with spunk and beauty. She lived for her family, always doing everything to make our lives as perfect as possible, ensuring we were happy. I know that we were her world, and I take such pride in being her daughter.
We all won’t forget the things that made her her, like the nicknames she called us, or the tradtitons she was so good at creating and carrying on. Christmas was literally magical every year at our house. And dying Easter eggs or our fancy family Valentines day dinners are among the things I will remember, and hope to carry on with my own family someday. She had a way of making everything better, always going beyond what was “standard.”
She came to all of my cheerleading competitions, and drove me to every practice. She made a whole day out of shopping, whether it was for back to school clothes or a dress for a dance.
Our home was always kept immaculate and every night we would have a home cooked meal, eaten together as a family. Allison and I loved this one pasta dish, and Cole adored her fluffy scrambled eggs. These things, we cannot forget.
The most important thing she taught me was to be independent and know that life always changes, whether you want it to or not–that you have to be able to adapt. Once when we were driving in the car together, she told me that life can sometimes be like a rollercoaster. One second you are up, the next you’re down. And just when you think you cannot get any lower, you slowly crawl back up. Sounds so cheesy, but it made sense to me and stuck.
My mom was and still is surrounded with so much love. She always told me she hoped one day I would see what a wonderful marriage her and Dad had. I knew they were happy, but when I witnessed the way Dad took care of her in those last months when she was really sick, I finally understood. Getting to grow up with such loving parents has taught me a great deal of what I will want in my own marriage someday, and for that, I am grateful.
Once while scrubbing dishes at the kitchen sink, she told me I was to carry the lily of the valley flower at my wedding. She said if anything should ever happen to her before I got married, I needed to do that and think of her. I know someday on that day, I will do her the honor.
Her leaving has created an absence in all of our hearts. I do believe, though, that she left this world knowing she did her best as a mother, daughter, wife and friend. What she has taught my siblings and I are lessons that we will carry all throughout our lives. I know she will be guiding each one of us through our different paths in this life. We have her legacy to carry on and can always find comfort knowing we have her fiery strength to keep us going. Someone with as much spirit and grit as my mom will never leave us, and I find security in that.
I promise her I’m going to do my best as she always did. I promise her that I am still going to accomplish all my goals. I promise her to always be a leader, not a follower, just like she taught me. I promise to be a good daughter and a good big sister. And most importantly, I promise to have her strength through my life and make her proud of me, always.
Reading this does not made me sad or angry. Rather, it fills me with so much pride. Honestly. I am so PROUD of myself and of my family. We survived. Actually, there are some moments where I think we have thrived.
And those lily of the valley flowers? I did carry them on my wedding day, freshly cut from Nana’s garden. It’s funny to think back on that conversation we had about them at the kitchen sink. I was sitting at the island, and you had your back towards me, looking out the window. You had a view of the yard in front of you, of the spot actually, where I married Chris. It was right under the willow tree you planted when we first moved into that house and onto that property.
How did that all become to be? How did you know? How did you make sure I would find the man I needed and create such a beautiful day for us, just like you planned when you were living. EVERYONE at that wedding was in awe of the weather, the yard, the love. The grass was a vibrant green on that May day, and I swear everything looked kissed by a golden light. You can see it in the pictures. You could feel it all around–you were laced in and through each person there.
To me, those lilies represent the power you have, even on or in some different realm where I cannot see you. When Chris and I arrived at our honeymoon bed and breakfast in Maine, there were fresh cut lily of the valley right on my nightstand. The owner there had an entire garden of them. No chance that was just a coincidence.
If I could stand and read the eulogy again, having these past eight years behind me, I would tell everyone listening that life continues after this world. I have been a witness to it. And there can be different beliefs about how and where you go when you’re gone, but underneath it all, I know your energy is still alive, just as I know I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, typing and keeping an eye on the baby monitor, hoping that Everett continues his nap.
There are some days that I do not believe this. Some days that I cannot fathom where you have gone, why you are away from me, why Tatum only has four years of your memory. There are days where I scream and cry in the basement while folding clothes for you to come back to me. For you to come home. And I think the LOUDER I call for you, maybe…just maybe, you’ll return.
But today is good. I feel you. And let these words be my reminder the next time I cannot bare your absence, that you are not far.
AND Everett woke up and fell back to sleep (after I debated for ten minutes on whether or not to get him) marking a two hour nap right now. I’m literally snapping my fingers and groovin’, savoring a moment where I feel like I won a small victory.