This is what I wrote and had read at the memorial service.
I wish you weren’t hearing this right now. I wish I’d never had to write it, not because I don’t want everyone to know how amazing Mom is, but because I want her to be here so you can see for yourselves. Though chances are, if you’re sitting in this room, you have some idea of how great Mom is. But I’m writing to tell you that she’s even more amazing than you know.
When I say words like “great” and “amazing,” I don’t mean perfect. No one is perfect. What I mean is that Mom tried to be perfect. She put everything she had into everything she did. She learned from her mistakes, apologized when she knew she was wrong, and constantly strived to be better.
I am proud to say that I have a lot in common with Mom. People say I look like her; they’ve been saying it my whole life. I got so used to hearing it, I took it for granted. But just this past week, several people have told me how much I look like her. Now I hear those words with fresh ears. The words are now more comforting than I ever could’ve imagined, because it’s as though she’s a part of me.
It’s not just looks we have in common. I inherited her ridiculously good memory for dates, times, what we were wearing, what we ate for dinner , and other random facts (it makes for a neat party trick). We’re both shy—insanely so—but quirky and funny when we’re in an environment we feel safe in. We don’t like to lead, but we can if we have to. My mom never stayed silent when something needed to be said, and she taught me to do the same.
Some people think shy people are weak, that they can be walked on. This isn’t the case with Mom. She got very nervous about making phone calls, large work events, and anything else where she might have to speak or be put on the spot. But when it came to standing up for Angie and me, she never hesitated. She was fierce when it came to protecting us. Once, in middle school, I was selling Girl Scout Cookies door to door. We were fairly new to the neighborhood, so not everyone knew us yet. I went to the house two doors down from us, and the woman who answered the door started screaming at me and saying something along the lines of, “How dare you come to my door! This is my daughter’s neighborhood to sell cookies in! Get out of here!”
I came home in tears. Mom immediately marched over there to give that woman a piece of her mind. I didn’t hear it (kinda wish I had), but the lady came over and apologized, and invited me to play with her daughter. I have many more memories like that one. If I shared them, we’d be here all day.
The irony is that Mom didn’t know how good she was. She worried so much over all the things she did wrong. When her illness worsened, I started to think of some things I wanted to tell her, and I worried I wouldn’t get the chance. But one day in January, I had the gift of visiting with her while Scott was out, so it was just the two of us. I got to say the things I needed to. One of those things was telling her how lucky I was that she was always there for me and to thank her for being my mom. She said, “I can’t believe you love me. I was horrible.”
I told her, “Of course I love you.” It makes me sad to remember that she said that, but that was just who she was. She worried that she didn’t do well as a mother. She worried that she wasn’t good enough. But she was the best; I hope she knows that, wherever she is.
No one knows how to be a parent until it happens. But parenting is even harder when you’re a single mother, and even harder still when a certain teenage daughter named Becky does everything she can to make it more difficult. I was a troubled teenager, and there were times when Mom feared what would become of me. There were probably times she wanted to rip her hair out and scream. Even though she didn’t know how to help me, she did. I got through what she called my “lost weekend.” I got through it because she never gave up on me.
She continued to be there for me, even once I was an adult. It’s a good thing to, because I’ve had my fair share of crap. I’ve walked through hell, swam through floods, sank into quicksand, and gotten lost in the labyrinth of life. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been through so much, and boy do I have stories (it’s a good thing I’m a writer). But I’m not here to tell those stories. I’m here to tell you who carried me out of hell, who dove into the water and pulled me out—and she can’t even swim!— who rescued me from the quicksand, and who traversed the labyrinth to guide me home. That person is my mom, and I honestly don’t know where I would be without her. She gave me the strength to traverse the steepest mountains. I believe in myself today because she believes in me.
I once told her I had her to thank for where I am today, for the accomplishments I made and the things I did. She said, “No. I didn’t do that. You did.” Maybe she was right, but I couldn’t have done it without her. Now, I’m terrified because I don’t know how to do this life thing without her. I’m afraid I might crumble to pieces, that I don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m afraid, but just before she passed, I told her I’d be okay. I honestly don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is, it will be because she gave me the strength to be okay, because she believed in me and stood beside me. She can’t hold my hand, or give me advice, but she’ll be in my heart. She gave me herself, and that is a gift I will keep forever.