Thank you to everyone who attended Amy’s memorial yesterday. It was such a beautiful day, and a perfect location to remember her. I was overwhelmed by the love and support, and I think she would have approved. (Though she probably would have thumped me for a few of the pictures I had displayed…)
I’m so grateful for everyone who helped with the planning and setup and all the rest.
It wasn’t a formal service, but more of a celebration and remembrance with family and friends and food. We were in one of the park’s largest pavilion areas, and we filled it to overflowing. One more sign of just how many people loved her.
Some of us took a little time to talk about Amy, sharing stories and memories and talking about how much she meant to us. I know there were others who wanted to speak, but were hurting too much. Amy would have been the first to hug you and tell you that’s all right too.
I asked my son how he felt after he got up to talk about his mama. He said it hurt to do, but it also felt good. I thought that summed the day up beautifully. It did hurt. It still does, and it will for a long time. But it felt good to be with people who loved her, and to remember and celebrate how amazing she was.
A few people asked me to share what I said at the beginning, so I’m copying that below.
All of our love and gratitude to all of you who’ve helped us through this past year, both in person and online. Your support helped a lot. Thank you.
For anyone I haven’t met yet, I’m Amy’s husband Jim.
There’s a saying I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, that shared grief is lessened, while shared joy is increased. That’s what we’d like to do today as we remember and celebrate Amy. Find support for our grief and pain, and share stories and good memories. And good food, of course.
So rather than a formal, structured service, we’re going to give anyone who wants a chance to say a few words about Amy. But I’m going first, because I have the microphone.
The problem is that I could talk about Amy for ages. We knew each other for about thirty years. We were friends and more for … most of that time. I feel lucky to have had her in my life for so long.
And I’m angry that we won’t have more time together. Like most of us here, I’m angry, and I’m hurting, and I’ve gone through a ridiculous number of tissues in these past weeks and months. There were so many things Amy and I still wanted to do. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Amy was the kindest, most compassionate person I’ve ever known. It’s one of the many things I loved about her. She cared. She would do everything in her power to help people who were hurting, and to make people happy.
Last month, Grandma Cheryl had driven to Wisconsin to visit her sister Sandy. Things with Amy were starting to go downhill. We ended up calling Cheryl and saying maybe she should cut her visit short and come home today, a day earlier than planned.
I thought Amy was resting and not paying attention.
I was wrong.
After that phone call, I turned around and Amy was giving me The Look. She asked me, “What was that?”
I started to explain.
I don’t remember exactly the words Amy used, but the gist was something like, “Pick up that phone and tell my mama she can enjoy her visit with her sister. I’ll still be here tomorrow, and she needs some time away from this stupid hospital.”
Eight months of chemo and hospitalization and various complications, and there she was, worrying about her mother’s happiness.
She didn’t like to be the center of attention, and she didn’t like confrontation, but she was so protective of people. Fiercely protective. And if you needed her, she was always there.
She was the same way with her clients. She worked full-time as a child and family therapist at Community Mental Health. And because that wasn’t enough, she also worked with children and families at Guide to Personal Solutions.
And she was so good at it. This wasn’t her job; it was her passion. She cared about every one of her clients. I can’t tell you how many times I’d hear her pull into the garage after a long day, and then … nothing. Eventually, I’d go peek in the garage to see what was going on. Inevitably, I’d find her sitting in her van on the phone, talking to a client in crisis.
She didn’t get paid for all those extra hours, those late-night phone calls and texts with people who needed help. She did it because people were hurting, and she had the power to do something. To help them through a difficult time. To offer support and encouragement and suggestions.
Now, there were times when her generosity could become a problem. Every year around Christmas, we’d have the same conversations about budget and gifts. Every year, we’d have the same follow-up conversation where she’d say, “Honey?”
“I may have gone a little overboard again this year.”
“How much is ‘a little’?”
To which she would reply, “I love you.”
It was just who she was. Money wasn’t a priority. Making her family happy was.
I look at our kids, and I see that same kindness. Last week, in the midst of the hardest and the worst thing we’ve ever had to deal with, my daughter comes up the stairs late one night and heads for the door.
I asked her where she was off to. She told me a coworker was sick and needed to go to Urgent Care. Skylar was going to drive her and keep her company.
My son Jamie has started coming up to me sometimes and just saying, “You look sad. Do you need a hug?” The other night, as he was getting ready for bed, he told me, “You need to go to bed soon too, Daddy. You need your sleep to stay healthy.”
The worst time of our lives, and there are our children, taking care of other people who need help. I see her in both of you, and I’m so proud of you. Your mom is so proud of you.
I learned so much from Amy in the 30 years I knew her. Especially in the 15 years we were married. Not just the little stuff, like why 11:11 was the most magical time of the day or how to pronounce sauna. I learned about kindness and patience and compassion. She helped me to be a better father and a better husband and, I hope, a better human being.
She had that effect on the people around her. Simply by being her.
They say people live on in our memories, and that’s true. I think they also live on in our actions. I see her in the kindness and compassion of those who knew her. And I find myself trying harder to be kind. Not just because the world needs more of that, but because, if she is keeping an eye on me … I want to make her proud.