Repeat after me: “I am SOMEBODY. I am SPECIAL. You are a light — Eileen means light.”

Mom, from as early as I can remember until last summer,  you always stood beside me and made me say those words in a mirror.  After you listened to me complaining about all my First World problems, we would sit on the couch and you would play with my hair and ask, “Dolly, where do you want to take a ride this weekend?”

2020 was a year for us. Despite the fears and sadness of the pandemic, I thought it was a true blessing in disguise. I got to work from home two doors away from you, my best friend. We would wave every morning, make drives to the grocery store, FaceTime at night watching Jeopardy, sit on the patio drinking whatever fun cocktail we could create with the random stuff in our fridges — never, ever, for a minute running out of things to say to one another. Never, ever, for a minute did I think these would be the last cherished times we would have together.

You worked at a funeral home two days a week and you’d call me crying at the stories of families you would have to listen to, adjusting numbers of those who could attend a service. “I am not supposed to give anyone hugs, but all I wanted to do was just give them a hug, Dolly. What could I do? How can I help them?” You were an essential worker. Mom, if you only knew the stories people shared with us about how you helped them get through their tragedies. Mom, you were their light!

It’s so hard — every day. I look out at your house and see the memories. See Dad, who did everything with you and loved you more than anything else, trying to just keep his head up as he sits outside with his single beach chair listening to music you two used to dance to. I see Joe all dressed up, going to work in the morning, and think you would tell him how proud you are of him. Your bud Vinny got married to Deanna — the day after your birthday — and you would have loved everything about it. Not just because you loved Deanna so much, but also because they got married in a simple/humble way: jeans, laughter, just us. How lucky we are. Two of your three kids met their partners while you were there — right there — watching us.

Your service was so hard, Mom. I felt so numb. I don’t know if you would have even liked it. We were late — people rushed us. We had to move quickly. There were Covid restrictions. I felt extremely uncomfortable and I had to pretend I was okay all day. I didn’t know what to say — how could I talk to a select small group, talk about the impact you had made on my 34 years? How could we truly explain all that you had done for people, even strangers, at the same funeral home where you worked, and where just weeks ago I picked you up for our monthly pedicure. The only thing that made me smile as I fought back tears was remembering the one time we both got locked inside your office when we went to the funeral home on a weekend so you could fix a mistake in an obituary. We laughed through tears that day — the memory of one of our many shenanigans got me through.

I still have your prayer book. I keep it with me every day. When I don’t know how I am going to get through, I think of you and that prayer book. I also think of how you wanted to bring a hairdryer with you to the hospital because you didn’t think you would be there long and I told you that was ridiculous and I would do your hair the next day. How crazy grief makes us think, Mom. I often think, “if I let her take the hairdryer, would she still be here?” Dumb, right?

61 years young. How could we lose someone with so much life to give, so much brightness, someone who so many people have told me, Dad and the boys “she made everyone she met feel so special”? It is so hard to have lost you, especially when we could not say goodbye (which Joe struggles so hard to understand even when we explain), when we couldn’t do a nicer service, when we also couldn’t do anything that would distract us from this significant piece of our hearts that left…

I saved a card you wrote me: “Our daughter is the best thing in our lives.” Mom, you were the best thing in mine. I don’t know how I am still pushing through and being positive, but I hear your voice…I am somebody, and I am special, Mom. I am a light, and I will try to keep shining for you because that’s what you would want.


Love always —  your Dolly