It's me...Sara. I miss you.
I remember when I first met you. You were the mother of my then-boyfriend, and I was absolutely terrified of you. You came to the school to pick him up one day because his car needed to be serviced. As I walked out, I quickly said goodbye to him - but you would have none of that. You made him bring me to the car so that you could introduce yourself, and so that I could do the same.
Immediately breaking out into a cold sweat, I followed him as he tugged on my reluctant arm. You smiled at me, cackled slightly. I saw your hands - tiny, perfectly manicured, and laden with rings. Nervous, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"You have carnie hands!" Mortified, I watched as you opened your mouth in shock - or was it amusement? - and gave me a long searching look. I stared at you - your hair framing your face like a frizzy chestnut-colored halo - and prayed that a hole would open up and swallow me.
And then you laughed, and all was well.
Eventually you began to request my presence at your youth group. I attended mass with you, and I watched as you opened your arms to a group of kids that would, eventually, bring me back to my spirituality. I watched as they told you their woes, about all their teenage dramas and parental overlords. And I watched as you listened to them.
I watched as you found help for a few of those children who despereately needed it, for those kids who had no one else to talk to. I saw them foster relationships with each other - many of which still continue to this day - seven years later. I watched as those kids blossomed into young adults that you can truely be proud of.
You raised them well.
I affectionately nicknamed you "Ladybug." Eventually the kids picked up on it - and they began to call you that as well, despite your protests. And I eventually came to accept a simple fact about our relationship.
I love you.
I loved you from the moment you started laughing at my inappropriateness. I love you for your ability to forgive others instantaniously, for your ability to see past a person's outside straight to their inside. I love you because you saved me - you and that ragtag group of teenagers who will never know how profoundly they have influenced me as a person.
When your son broke up with me, I cried. And you leant to me a shoulder to lean on. You helped me get over my first real boyfriend, and you listened to my desperate sobs and wails of self-induced and egotistical frustration.
I am so sorry, Bug, that I lost contact with you. Two years ago I started dating a new boy - someone who was not religious. I lost my way, slightly. I was sick of the hypocrisy of varying Church leaders, and I was sick of the way our youth were being treated. I had grown weary of the Church yet again, and I left.
I never meant to leave you. It just happened - like friends who eventually drift apart, I found myself drifting from you. I am eternally sorry for that.
Eventually we found each other once again. After the boy (who I refer to as Boyfriend #2) and I ended our relationship, I found out that I had been living his life instead of mine - and that you and the Church had become essential to me. I had missed you greatly. We had just started to reconnect when it happened.
I texted you on Thanksgiving to wish you happy greetings. Your son called me back - he informed me that you were in the hospital. Pneumoia, he said. I was saddened by the news, but was completely unprepared for what was to come. I figured that you'd just spend a few days in there and then you'd be out.
You had cancer, Bug. You had stage four liver and lung cancer, and the doctor's prognosis was grim. I tried to visit you as much as possible, but it never occured to me that you would never leave that hospital. I brought you small gifts in an effort to bolster your spirits - but you never doubted that you were going to get out. This hospital thing, you said, was just a temporary stay.
And then your health declined. You were eventually moved to a hospice, reached a vegetative state, and then you died.
You died, Bug. On December 9th, 2009. That day will forever be etched in my memory.
God I miss you so much. I know that on some level that you're there, and that you can hear me. I know that you're watching over me and the kids.
I still miss you.
When people ask me why I do what I do, why I'm a member of a Church that is so obviously flawed, it's hard to describe. I do it because it's a part of my tradition. I do it because it's how I was raised. I do it because I, on some level, believe in the foundational principles of the Catholic Church.
But I also do it because a little Italian woman from Delaware believed in me. I do it because she was such an inspiration, and I do it because she dragged me out of my depressed and sometimes suicidal thoughts and showed me what this world really has to offer. I do it because she showed me joy.
And, in honor of her, I'm going to do my best to bring that joy to others.
I love you Bug.
The boys in the video below are two members of our youth group. One created the video, while the one rapping in it created and performed the rap specifically for this memorial video. She very much considered him to be another son of hers.
The video may be a bit cut in half on the blog - I'm not quite sure how to fix that, so you might have to double-click on it to visit the YouTube site and see the un-sliced in half version.