Below is the letter I wrote to my mom in her final days, and the letter that I read as a tribute to her at her service last night.
My mom's service was anything but easy. I tried to turn off every emotion as I hugged the multitude of people telling me they were "sorry for my loss." What do you say? Me too. "This sucks ass" didn't really seem appropriate. Having been with my mom in her last awful week, and having to complete all the tasks of this week, I'm guessing I had a little more time to process. I was able to say goodbye. I found myself wanting to comfort those that came to comfort me.
It was truly a beautiful service and a testament to my mom's life. Pews were filled. From friends and families from elementary school to people she just met a few years ago, she was loved by many. I hope at the end of my life I will have impacted as many people as she did.
While I will never be ready to hang out on this side of heaven without you, I sit here and pray for you to go. You are no longer comfortable and no longer living. Your shallow breaths slowly space out as your body starts to turn off. We leave this world just like we come into it, with very little control. I wish you could have had more control these last few months. I will continue to question why you didn't die after you coded in June, because we seemed to experience so much struggle and hurt since then. But, I will take what I was given. I will cherish the memories of you loving on my son. I will hold tightly to my memories of resting in bed next to you as we welcomed 2013, because heaven forbid my baby let us sleep. I will be a better nurse after watching people take care of you in the hospital for three long months. While I, you, and our family are far, far from perfect, there is so much that you taught me and that I am thankful for.
Thank you for throwing gummy bears in Costco. I hate the green ones. You hate the green ones. So pelting them over the aisles after ripping a bag open while grocery shopping was so beyond unfathomable to your perfectionist, type "A" personality daughter. How we got matched up is beyond me. I could have died on the inside as you flicked the first one and bopped someone in the head, but slowly I have learned to let go and break some rules. I will continue to break rules because of you (within reason of course, lets not get too crazy). And I will not freak out as my crazy little boy breaks rules. You have taught me that this is part of life and sometimes it is easier to apologize than ask permission. I hope I can teach Grayson to live life bravely. To push the envelope. I hope I can teach him to live a big life. You lived big and I am grateful for the example.
Thank you for being insane enough to drive your teenage daughter all over the North West suburbs, and beyond in high school. You knew I needed that group of friends and you sacrificed a lot to make it happen. Thank you for supporting me when it wasn't easy for you.
Thank you for driving up to Michigan when my world fell apart. This girl of yours was not O.K. up at college, and you knew it. I struggled to make a it a week without coming home, and in my moments of sheer desperation and panic, you came. I wasn't alone. You challenged me to go away to school, but also came to comfort me when you knew I was slipping. That was a rough year for me, and I was grateful for your strength holding me up.
Thank you for teaching me what a gift children are. While you have loved many children in your life, thank you for building into Connor, Emme, Gavin, and Connor as if they were your own. No one could compete with Nanny. You were a second mother to so many, and you were a living example to me of how to play. How to have fun. How to love from your gut. There was not a monopoly game too long, or a birthday party idea too crazy for you to not take it on. You have taught me how to invest in the next generation, and I am so grateful. Not only did you invest and love on your own children, but those your spent your days with. Being a nanny wasn't a job or a career for you, it was a way of living, and it is so evident in the relationships you built with those kids. My heart breaks thinking of what they are losing as you leave this world. I hope that someone builds into my kid the way you have built into them.
I know this is ridiculous, but thank you for teaching me about the magic of Disney World. Again, your cheap-ass daughter would find it absolutely insane to spend that kind of money on a gimmick like Disney World. But you were right, as you walk through those gates, something changes, or it least it changed in your face and in Gavin and Connors'. Maybe because you guys were able to embrace it so easily. Maybe it is because you will forever have a heart for children. But there is something magical about Disney World. I cannot wait to break the rules and bring a pepper shaker filled with your ashes and sprinkle some on "It's a Small World" and "The Pirates of the Caribbean" rides. TMI? Too much? Whatever, I'm doing it anyways. I don't really care that it is illegal. Let's just call the ashes magic fairy dust, and call it a day. I will even put some glitter in there. Everyone knows I love glitter.
Not only was Disney World magical with you, but you made Christmas come alive. From the little traditions and decorations to an upside down Christmas tree, there was no one who did Christmas better than you. (Auntie Bev is right there with you though.) This Christmas season will be hard without you. Hanging ornaments on my tree that were once yours will surely break me down again. But I can't wait to hide my Elf on the Shelf for Grayson, or create the magic for him that you have created for me all these years. Thank you for inviting Santa into our home. Thank you for believing. While we had very little all year, somehow Christmas always felt so full.
Thank you for teaching me how to have an open home. Regardless of where we were living, or how small the apartment was, thank you for teaching me that homes were meant to be shared.
Thank you for laughing until you pissed your pants. Often. Life is fun. Things are funny. And it is O.K. to laugh and cross your legs in desperation while you are unable to catch your breath. Go big or go home.
I will hold back at your service. I will want to channel my inner Ellen Degeneres and ask the audience to get up and dance to "Sexy Back" with me. But I won't. I will follow the rules a little bit here. But know I am often dancing with you in my heart.
While I know you were far from perfect, you were the perfect momma for me. Which gives me hope that I am the perfect momma for Grayson, despite my numerous imperfections. This is not meant to sound like a bunch of fluff. At some point we all learn that our parents are human, and they make mistakes. This is life, and life is messy, and I'm so glad that I was able to live in this mess with you. I'm grateful that I was able to experience so many of my firsts, with you. I'm thankful for the millions of tears I cried while being cradled in your arms. I'm thankful for all of the moments, big and small, that we got to share. I am thankful for you, sweet momma.