Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Mother's Celebration of Life Speech

Recently I came across the speech I gave at my mother's "Celebration of Life" party August 2001.  Every time I read it, it brings tears to my eyes.  I don't have any idea where the strength came from to write it or speak it in front of the large group in attendance but I love every single word.
Sorry it's a bit long and yes .... it will probably make you cry.

Here goes.....

I wanted to thank you all for joining us this evening.  It means so much to us that you all could spend this evening with us.  I also wanted to especially thank Kelly and Dawn for stocking Dawn's condo with all the junk food that I never usually eat, Bentley and Angie for throwing this thing together for us in such short notice and doing such a fantastic job, Shackleford's for contributing food and being practically my second family for the past 8 years..... and Dawn for giving us her condo for the entire week to have our privacy and be together as a family - Katy and all of our friends and family for traveling all the way from New York and to Frasia, Kelley, Aimee who happened to be in Florida with me by the grace of god and spent the evening with me the night my mom passed ..... I don't know what I would do without you .... you have been such incredible friends through all of this.  Shelley and Nathan who have been with us every step of the way .... Shelley, Becky and Sue ... I think of you as my second mothers and hope we can still have our long talks in the years to come.  Allison - my mom's partner who I think of as a sister .... and to everyone that is here with us tonight ... Thank you for your love and support and all the lovely contributions you have given to this party.  Mom would be very proud.

Mom was such a special person and when I look out at all of you .... I can see how much she touched so many people in so many ways.  I don't think that there as a single person that met mom that didn't remember her in some way.  She just had that kind of effect on people.  Hearing all of the stories about her recently and how she has touched so many lives makes me realize how very special she was to so many people.  When I think about mom ... I think of this incredibly strong woman so full of life and laughter.  So many people have told me that that is the thing they remember the most about her ... her laugh.  She was just so "real".  You never had to wonder what she was thinking or how she was feeling because she would either burst out and tell you or you could feel it as soon as you walked in the room.  (Which means to say that she wasn't always in the best of moods but at least she didn't hide it!)  She taught me the art of being bluntly honest ..... with her I could and did share everything.... I don't think there was anything ever that I felt I couldn't say to her or that I had to hide from her.  She was not only my mother but also my best friend.  She was the most unselfish person I ever knew ... she would have and really did do anything for Nick and I.  I can't think of a single time that I needed her that she wasn't there for me - whether it was just to talk me through a problem, get me through a fashion crisis or bail me out of a financial dilemma.  She was always there.  When you hear the saying "I would give the shirt off my back" well she literally did.  Since practically middle school she would share all of her expensive stylish clothes and jewelry with me.  I guess I was lucky enough to inherit her petite figure.  I would go to her house and she would show me a brand new outfit she just bought and was so excited about and say .... hey try it on .. why don't you wear it tonight .... you look great in it. And it would still have the tags hanging off of it.  No offense ladies ... but I don't know many of my friends .... more less mothers that would do that..... but she did it all of the time.  She always had a way of making any bad situation I was having into a positive one. I would be at her house complaining about money, a job or a boyfriend about ready to have a nervous breakdown and by the time I left she would have explained some simple thing about the world that made so much sense and gave me so much confidence that I would leave floating on air knowing everything would be alright and it always was.  Mom used to tell me to practice "gratitude" daily.  Every day I still wake up and try and think of 5 things that I am grateful for and somehow it can always put a smile on my face.  In all of the days in the past year since we found out mom had cancer ... especially when I was in Florida over the past month and things were getting pretty grim ... I would be walking my dog down this beautifully landscaped path mad, confused, hurt, lonely and I kept asking myself .... WHY?  Why me, why mom?  And I would think of what mom used to say that everything in life happens for a reason and has a purpose and that every step in our life makes us the person we are supposed to be and makes us grow stronger.  And that you have to go through the bad times so that the good times feel that much better.  And I kept trying to figure out what my lesson in all of this was .. what am I supposed to learn from all of this and how in the world is this going to make me stronger or a better person?  I was mad!!!  So I started trying to think of the positive things that have happened because of all of this ... and I thought of my brother ... what an incredible guy he has turned out to be ... he moved us all the way down to this beautiful paradise.  He was so nurturing and caring to mom.  He was there every morning bursting with energy in how to make mom well again ... taking charge and taking care of every situation that came up ... and him and Alicia, his wife, have such an incredible relationship... so much love, respect and support for one another.  I couldn't believe sometimes that this was really my brother ... we haven't really spent a whole lot of time together over the past several years and it made me realize that I am closer to my brother now than I have ever been and probably would have ever been if this had not happened.  It also made me realize that I have the sister that I have always wanted and the love and support from friends and family that I never dreamed of having.  This whole situation had really made us all so much closer.  What greater gifts can anyone imagine having all at once??  It really made me realize how incredible my life was.  I mentioned vacation the other day and someone said that my life is a permanent vacation.  I have the job I have always dreamed of having, freedom and freewill to travel wherever and whenever I want to, the most incredible friends anyone could ever imagine and the confidence to have anything I put my mind to.  And all of these gifts are because of my mom.  Mom told me recently ... that some people are angels in our life ... that they are there to help us through a difficult time, point us in the right direction or teach us some sort of lesson that we need to know for our future..... so when I think about mom ... I think that mom was this incredible angel in my life and I just feel so lucky and so very special to have had her in my life for as long as I did.  And when I think about my life ... I realize that I would not have any of these wonderful things without her and that she has given me the strength and confidence and courage that even surprises me ... to fulfill my dreams and make life exactly what I want it to be.  So now that she is no longer with us ... I don't think about mom as no longer living or gone from my life ... when I hear all of the stories of how she touched so many lives ... I think of her as such a strong spirit that is still living in each and every one of us and her memories are what is keeping me and my dreams alive.  So I ask of you .... to share this celebration of life ... to laugh and dance like she wanted us to and share some wonderful memories in our memory book so that we can look back and remember her for the beautiful angle she is.

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