This was written by Michelle and read by one of her best friends, Marie, at her memorial mass on Thursday, October 16, 2008.
Today is your day to say good-bye to me and support one another. But given my advanced warning, it is also my day to say good-bye to you. Whether you played a leading or secondary role in my life or merely had a cameo appearance, thank you for being a part of it. Sometimes even the most quixotic of meetings are life-changing.
I hope that you do not feel sad for me. I have had a good life. The fact that I wanted more of it is merely a testament to how much I enjoyed the ride. I had parents who loved me and supported my dreams even when it meant losing me. I had four brothers who taught me often and well to roll with life’s punches, literally and figuratively, and who took a pride in my accomplishments that I could never bother to muster. I grew up in working class Philadelphia where I learned not only to appreciate what I had but also the value of hard work.
Throughout my life I have enjoyed the benefits of wonderful friendships. My friends from adolescence -- Marie, Sue, and Kevin -- have been with my through it all and, at times, their love and support carried me. Had I known that losing everything in a housefire would set in motion a string of events that led to my friendship with Grace, I would have burned the damn thing down myself. In Grace, Marie and Sue I found the sisters that family did not provide. There have been so many friends along the way – too many to name but they know who you are – who have made my life a richer experience. Paul and Brenda introduced me to Hearts, Greg and Stephanie to bourbon and ginger, Kathryn taught me to mother without yelling constantly by sheer example, Jen was my faith when I had none … the list goes on and on. My life would have been hollow without these relationships.
I married into a wonderful family that welcomed me with open arms. Even though I had enough brothers, I was happy to welcome two more and engage them in talking smack. And my sisters-in-law were well worth the wait: wonderful women with big hearts and ready ears.
I have traveled the world and seen amazing sights. I have enjoyed fabulous food and drink at home and abroad. I have laughed often and hard enough to cause pain or pee my pants on multiple occasions. I smiled a lot. I danced whenever the opportunity presented itself. I sang.
I knew the love of a wonderful man who accepted me unconditionally under less than ideal circumstances. I never doubted his love for even a moment. He was my rock and my safe haven.
I had two beautiful, wonderful children who showed me the wonders of the world through unjaded eyes. The peace I experienced holding then as infants was otherworldly. As they grew, I grew with them; rearing them made me a better human being. They have been my life’s greatest joy. And leaving them is my life’s greatest pain.
I think regrets are worth mentioning, maybe something can be gleaned from them: I wish I kept performing even when I was only good enough to be in the chorus; I wish I had worked less, I wish I had been more gentle with people’s hearts; I wish I had read more books; I wish I had done more for those less fortunate; I wish I had listened more and talked less.
Despite these regrets, I feel it has been a life well lived. What more could I have asked for? I had everything I ever hoped for and then some.
When Amelia and Aidan were small we had a conversation about death. They asked if I would die some day and I answered them honestly. “But then I won’t have a mother,” Amelia responded. I paused and then reassured them, “You will not always have me physically, but I will always be in your heart.” “And you know what,” I continued, “Life gives you lots of mothers, not just the one who raised you. I’ve had lots of mothers and you will too. You will always have someone to mother you when you need it. You just have to be open to them.” So this is my dying wish, be a mother to my children as needed. And a friend to Bill.
And until we meet again, godspeed.