Don’t get a dog: the worst piece of advice my grandma ever gave me

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I’ve traveled a lot of places, and nothing compares to these faces.

It’s common to canonize somebody after they die. When someone we love passes, we often think of them in their most angelic, pure form. At least for a while. It feels awkward and uncouth to recount a recently deceased person’s negative traits. Sometimes it can take months, or even years, before you’re ready to remember them as the flawed, layered person they were in actuality, rather than the holier-than-thou version of themselves you wistfully create as you grieve.

And so, it took me a while to admit to myself that the last piece of advice my grandmother ever gave me was complete and utter bullshit.

It was the Summer of 2013, and grandma had recently been moved into a nursing home. Her husband George had just died, and she was struggling mightily with her Parkinson’s disease. Her spirits were low and she all-but-begged us to help her die, conveniently ignoring the fact that my 59-year-old mother was in a hospital just 15 minutes away, slipping away slowly in palliative care after a massive stroke.

After sitting by my mother’s side for eight or ten hours a day at the hospital, we would go to visit my grandmother in the nursing home (did I mention it was the most depressing summer ever? It was).

“At least grandma will be able to talk back to us!” I said optimistically, on the drive over to visit her with my father. I was exhausted by my mother’s inability to communicate — the stroke took away her language center, meaning she could neither understand or speak to us — so our days dragged on in silence. The prospect of carrying on an actual conversation was a welcome change.

“I wouldn’t count on it. She’s not always lucid,” Dad warned.

As we arrived at the nursing home, my father was intercepted by a nurse wanting to show him a new prospective room for grandma. “You go see your grandmother. I’ll be in shortly,” he told me.

I sat down next to my grandma, who was unusually frail and chatty. Her room had stark white walls, a television, and was outfitted in the same furniture as my college dorm room. I couldn’t help but empathize with her depression. I hated being in this place, and I certainly didn’t have to live here.

“What’s new?!” She asked, chomping at the bit for some news from the outside.

“I am thinking of adopting a dog,” I said. At the time, I was convinced that adopting a dog would help me through my grief, and was the best possible thing I could do.

“Why would you want to do that?!” she asked, appalled.

“Grandma, you know I’ve always wanted a dog.”

“And I’ve never been able to understand why. A dog will chain you. You won’t be able to travel or take off spontaneously or do anything at all. You’ll be stuck with the dog! Don’t tie yourself down with a pet. It’s not a good idea.”

Her words hit me like a gut punch. Was she right? Was I unable to commit to a dog? I’d always wondered if I was really ready; if I should take the plunge or wait for a better, more stable time (note: I did end up waiting for a better time — about 2 more years, and I’m really glad I did). I wanted to say “grandma, you’re one to talk — you already had 3 kids by they time you were my age!” but I didn’t. I couldn’t bear her response and fighting her didn’t seem worth it. Besides, the damage was done.

I said nothing. But I internalized her words, and the hurt that they brought.

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What I should have said: “Grandma, you’re full of shit.” Because LOOK AT THAT FACE!

It’s been nearly two and a half years since that conversation, and only now it strikes me as funny that it was the last lucid talk we ever really had. As I stare down at my puppy Alfie, sleeping peacefully next to me while I work, I am pulled to thoughts of her.

She was right that I used to prize my freedom above all else. In my teens and early twenties, I traveled like I’d never get the chance again. If there was a trip and I could somehow afford it, I went, without thinking much about what I was leaving behind. I stayed gone for as long as I could, often abandoning my apartment for months at a time, soaking in all that the world had to offer me. My wanderlust knew no bounds — I was young and unattached and free.

Sure, coming home to all of my creature comforts was nice, but in truth there wasn’t much there waiting for me; an empty fridge and piling mail.

All of that has changed for me.

Today, my apartment is bursting with love. I have a family to come home to: Dave, our cat Penny and of course, now Alfie. We do almost everything together and being with them fills my heart up to its brim, and makes me feel whole in a way I never imagined before. Leaving them is hard, but not because of logistics or the cost of pet sitters. It’s hard because I love them and I miss them, and frankly, I hate being away from them. They’re my favorites!

Although I have to admit, in many ways, having a dog does bind me. I have to get up each morning at a reasonable time to take him for a walk. I have to plan out my days around his needs: I must make sure he gets his meals, enough exercise and socializing, and that I spend adequate time training and bonding with him. I can’t just pick up and go whenever to wherever. All of that is true.

But when I think about how much I’ve gained — a sweet, loyal companion, a furbaby who loves me no matter what is going on in my life; an unrelenting best friend — I realize that ultimately, “freedom” is not the most important thing to me anymore.

If I could talk to my grandma again, or if I could go back to that conversation, I would kindly tell her what I know now: I could keep my life set up forever so that I am unattached and free. That would mean I could do whatever I want, and I wouldn’t have anyone to answer to. But having a partner and a cat and a dog to love and to love me is worth more than all of that to me now. They give me something to come home to; something to miss, something to work towards. I’m more patient, more giving, more loving and more myself.

I don’t feel tied down or imprisoned; I feel complete. I feel whole. I’m no longer trying to escape my life. I’m right here living and loving it.

I gave up my “freedom,” and I found something that’s worth a lot more: the beautiful feeling of home.

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I’d choose him all over again. 🙂

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Observations from my First 10 Days of Dog Guardianship

Our first day together!

Our first day together!

I apologize for the radio silence in the past few weeks. Dave and I added a new furry family member to our household — Alfie, a black terrier/lab (we think?!) mutt who has completely taken over our lives and our hearts. So far, rescuing a dog isn’t exactly like I thought it would be. As much as I furiously researched and read everything I could get my hands on, nothing really could have prepared me for the overwhelming gravity and responsibility of taking on his guardianship. I guess, in some small part, this is what new parenthood feels like. You think you know, but you have no idea until you’re knee-deep in it. It’s a process of doing and learning and growing together with your pup; all with patience, the virtue I have the least of, and which I’m still learning every day.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I spent years biding my time, knowing I was not ready for the responsibility; that my freewheeling lifestyle could not support the stability and attention a dog needs. But a huge piece of my heart, a piece that only a canine companion could fill, called out to me every time a dog would walk by. For the past year, Dave has dragged me away from the dog beach and Yappy Hour (a daily event at a local bar where dogs run around a fenced-in area while their owners drink) more times than I can count.

So when our day finally came, I was filled with anxiety, excitement, anticipation and the weight of what this decision would mean for me; for us.

Oh boy am I in trouble with this cutie!

Oh boy am I in trouble with this cutie!

Here are my observations on dog guardianship so far:

1. My lifestyle is already improving. Beginning my morning with a walk rather than scrolling my phone is a much more efficient and healthy start to the day. Also, it just plain feels better. And I am still able to get to my desk by the same time each morning. Even our short potty breaks are a nice way to get me away from my desk and moving every few hours. I’m taking more steps and feeling better than I have in months. Each evening, Dave and I leave our phones at home and take Alfie to the beach, where we play fetch while the waves crash. Not a bad life!

I mean... how could you not love this nutter?! MY LIFE.

I mean… how could you not love this nutter?! MY LIFE.

2. Just because your puppy listens to you and takes commands today does not mean he will listen and take commands tomorrow. Puppies are unpredictable. One day, they’re walking perfectly on a leash, coming when called, and sitting on command, and the next day, they’re overwhelmed with energy. Adjusting and training are ongoing processes with no short cuts. “Patience, consistency and positivity” is basically my new life mantra with Alfie-boy.

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“You said I was a good boy yesterday, and I assume that carries over to all days, right?!”

3. I’ve met more people in my town in the last 10 days than I did in my entire first year here. Having a dog in my tiny, canine-obsessed town has completely legitimized me. I’m amazed to find myself yukking it up with other dog-parents while our “kids” play. I still sometimes feel out-of-place or like a fraud, but I assume this will lessen over time.

4. Sometimes, it still doesn’t feel real and Alfie doesn’t feel like my dog. Sometimes this whole adjustment is just really hard. Sometimes I feel depressed and trapped, followed by guilt for feeling depressed and trapped. I know these “puppy blues” are normal, and that they will lessen with time, but every now and then I think, “OMG WHY IS MY PUPPY PUPPY-ING SO HARD?! I AM GONNA FREAK OUT. PS: I CAN’T DO THIS!” Instead of freaking out, I gather myself, because puppies need calm leadership and stability. I remind myself to remain kind and patient, which brings me to my next point…

5. My relationship with my puppy will change me. I am changing already. He is giving me more purpose in my life. Let me explain: Before I got Alfie, I read The Art of Raising a Puppy” by the Monks of New Skete. In the book, the monks talk a lot about the spiritual aspect of the human-canine relationship; how as you raise your puppy, your puppy actually raises you. The monks posit that your dog is a mirror reflecting back on you — showing you the person who you are projecting. As someone who has always struggled with patience, staying present and keeping control of my emotions, I must remain vigilant not to let these characteristics seep into my relationship with Alfie. I must keep a sound mind to be a good guardian.  So Alfie is my ultimate lesson in patience and mindfulness. Yes, I will raise him to be well-socialized, have good manners and to be happy and healthy, but I will also raise myself up to a higher standard. I will be a better, more fulfilled person. I already am, and I have his furry little face to thank.

This is the look on Alfie's face when he senses we're leaving the dog beach.

This is the look on Alfie’s face when he senses we’re leaving the dog beach.

So, that’s what’s been floating through my mind in my first 10 days with Alfie. I’m SO looking forward to seeing more of his personality emerge, and for both of us to start feeling more comfortable with one another. In just a little over a week, he’s already taught me so much, and given me an incredible amount of love and companionship. I can hardly wait for our bond to deepen, and to see the amazing dog he will become.

Sure, there are moments of frustration and anxiety, but the overwhelming sentiment is one of pure, deep love.

Woman’s best friend, indeed!

An Ode to my Wife: Our Epic Love Story

A little over a week ago, my best friend, soul mate and “wife” Bonnie got engaged to the absolute love of her life, Jeff. Their (so far) 6-year story is epic, beautiful, thrilling, nearly tragic, and truly one-of-a-kind. It deserves to be told, but today, I’m going to tell a different love story: the story of Bonnie and I.

I met Bonnie in high school. When I transferred to East Catholic High School in the middle of Sophomore year, I was assigned the locker next to hers. She was friendly, but I had been warned that she was “scary” and “overly opinionated” (all right mean girls, “overly opinionated” I’ll give you, but scary? MY WIFE IS A DAMN SAINT!). I didn’t buy into the hype, but I also didn’t make an effort to befriend her. Despite us having some mutual friends, we ran in different crowds.

That was, until we both got into Fordham University. Initially when I found out Bonnie would be attending Fordham, I was pissed. I had applied for early decision, and had been wearing a Fordham sweatshirt habitually for AT LEAST a year! Fordham was clearly mine, and if Miss Student Council Thang thought we were going to associate there, while I tried to leave my small town past behind me in the wide open big city (yes, I was a walking cliche at 17 — sue me!) she had another thing coming.

When she was placed in my dorm building, Alumni South, I really got huffy.

In August of 2003, our dearest mutual friend, Kristina, insisted we all meet up before heading off to college. We went to Friendly’s — which, good call, I loved me some fat kid super melts at 17 — and had a nice meal, and half-heartedly exchanged numbers. Mostly so Kristina wouldn’t feel bad. But there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between Bonnie and I that we would not reach out. Sure, we’d politely say “hi” on campus because that’s what you do when you’re mannered and from Connecticut. But we weren’t going to actively seek each other out. Why would either of us move all the way to New York City, only to hang out with people we went to high school with — no less, people we weren’t friends with?!

It seemed dead end. But then a twist of fate happened.

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The Early Years: Bonnie, Kristina, myself.

On our first day of Fordham, Bonnie discovered that she’d been placed on a dorm floor with a bunch of religious girls who were awfully sweet, but frankly, not down to party. She texted me, “No one on my floor is going out. What are you doing tonight?”

“Ugh!” I thought, greedily. “ALREADY?! Get your own friends!” But my Connecticut politeness pulled me back in.

“Met some cool girls. Going to a keg party on Hughs. Want to come?”

“Yes!”

That night, I fell in love with her and never looked back. And we’ve been damn near inseparable ever since. We’ve had some ups and downs and fallouts, but we’ve stayed loyal and committed through it all.

She is my everything.

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All in — our Spring Break in the Bahamas in 2007.

I know it seems crazy, but I feel like I can somewhat sincerely say that we’ve been happily married for over ten years.

I’m not sure where the “marriage” thing even came into play, but I think it was somewhere around fall of 2004, when Facebook opened up to Fordham. Back then, it was cool for girl best friends to change their relationship status to “married” to one another. There were no “likes” or comments or even photo albums. But you could declare who your best friend was, make your actual relationship status a mystery to stalkers, AND drive guys nuts with a few clicks of the mouse. It was GLORIOUS.

I know we carried the status on for far too long, to the point where friends and family members were becoming confused as to whether we were actually lesbians/married.

And, fair. We’re adults now. It’s time to put on the big girl pants and stop messing around.

No, we’re not lesbians. No, we’re not ACTUALLY married. No, we don’t “slip up” and hook up once in awhile (stop asking, pervs!). We’re best friends.

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Okay… maybe I can see why people think we’re an actual couple.

But here’s the thing: my relationship with my Bonnie is the realest thing I have ever known. And I still consider it a marriage of sorts.

How else do you characterize consulting one another with major life decisions..?

…Breaking down every interaction that happens with a sour colleague…

…Saying “good luck!” before every event, major or minor that comes about…

…Planning each others’ birthdays…

…Traveling the world together…

…Better yet, making a bucket list together

…Calling each other first when something momentous happens…

…Learning to be patient with each others’ shortcomings…

…Setting aside the one night a week for each other (“wife night”), prioritizing our relationship and never going more than a week living in the same city without seeing one another…

…Sharing calendars so we can always find time for each other…

…Putting our pride aside and admitting our faults…

…Working on our relationship constantly…

What else do you call a commitment that you make — EVERY SINGLE DAY — to communicate openly, even when it’s hard and you’re frustrated and it’s not working right? I call it a friendship marriage.

She was the one who was by my side at the hospital advocating for me in the wake of my rape, who helped me find the courage when I finally came out publicly with my story, and who crossed state lines to be by my side when my mother had her stroke, and weeks later when she died, and nearly every day in between…

She has been there, supporting me through every failure, triumph, heartbreak, move, fallout, sickness, job change, mistake, growth, reflection, depression, struggle and windfall.

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My law school graduation… guess who was there?

Most of my life, I was a victim: I couldn’t count on men, and I wasn’t in a place to be with someone. I spent most of my formative years in varying states of self-imposed celibacy. Sure, I dated around, hoping for something different — we both did — but college and young twenty-something relationships usually weren’t serious. They were messy and alcohol-and-mistake fueled and it was impossible to connect on any real level. That was not for damaged me — that was for the normals.

Through all of the aching loneliness and longing, Bonnie was my significant other. She was my person. I did learn many lessons from the various guys I dated over the years, but everything I know about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, I learned from her.

She was my guiding light, my rock, my driving force, and the one who consistently believed in me — that I could be better, that I could heal and find happiness, and that I didn’t have to be broken in a society that didn’t want to deal with my “mess.”

I used to worry I’d be forever alone. I feared that I’d never find romantic love, and even if I did, it couldn’t last; that it always fades with time, and that all we can do is hope to treat each other with a little bit of respect, and live out our years in quiet companionship.

But my relationship with Bonnie has proved that that’s simply not true. I am NEVER alone as long as I have her. And after over ten years, I love her more every day. I STILL miss her when she’s away. I never get enough time with her, no matter how many wife nights, wife weekends, or trips we take together. I never tire of her or run out of things to say… my love just grows and grows…

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Still in love after all these years.

Not too long ago, when I finally came out of my healing process, and became a survivor, ready to love, I worried that my lack of experience with men and relationships would hold me back. I was scared to love someone that wasn’t Bonnie.

In fact, a mere 6 hours before I met Dave, my wonderful beau of nearly two years, I saw a couple on the beach together, and said to my friend Laura, “I just can’t imagine sharing my life with someone who isn’t Bonnie. I would rather be at the beach with her than with anyone else. That scares me.”

Little did I know, I didn’t need to be afraid. When things finally fell into place with Dave, it felt right. It was natural, and communicating with him felt easy. I imposed every lesson I learned from my relationship with Bonnie on my relationship with him, and guess what? We work like a charm. We’re pretty damn near perfect… or, at least as perfect as a relationship can be. It turns out, I’m pretty functional after all.

Meanwhile, she has built a fortress of a bond with Jeff that only grows stronger; a relationship that has challenged her, transformed her, and filled her up to the brim with happiness. She is her best self with him, plain and simple.

Lucky for us, it seems that loving two incredible men has only made our friendship stronger. And I think loving each other has made us far better lovers, listeners, friends, sisters, daughters and humans.

As she moves forward into her new life with Jeff, I feel nothing but solemn gratitude and pure joyfulness that the most important, formative person who ever entered my life has found a partner worthy of her forever.

I hope that they have a long, happy life together. But I don’t need to hope.

If our “marriage” is any indicator, I think they’re going to be just fine.

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Congratulations to my best friend, Bonnie and her amazing fiancé, Jeff — I could not be happier for you. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for your “new” marriage. I love you both so much! 

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Romance beyond compare — Jeff and Bonnie’s engagement at the top of Croagh Patrick in Ireland. ❤

My Funeral Tribute to Nance

This Wednesday, July 17th, we said goodbye to my mother, Nance. She put up an impressive fight in Palliative care. In fact, the doctors joked that they would no longer be making predictions about my mother’s condition, because she would somehow defy them at every turn. So Nance, right? She died exactly six weeks after her stroke, on July 11th, at around 8 PM, with her family around her.

Despite my intense anxiety to do so, I spoke at the funeral. I just felt this pull, like I had to. For both Nance and myself. She was my best friend, so I didn’t really feel much choice in the matter. That being said, I can’t even express how nervous I was. I couldn’t sleep on Tuesday night, because I was so anxious! I truly thought I might projectile vomit standing at the podium. Which, come to think of it, Nance would have really enjoyed. It would have given her a (way-too-long) story to tell for the ages. So maybe it wouldn’t have so bad. In any case, I didn’t throw up in front of everyone I know. Phew. And I only choked up once-ish, which was a major surprise to me.

Many requested that I share my speech, so I decided to post it here. I hope you enjoy it.

RIP, Nance. You will be so missed.

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I’ve been fighting myself on what to say up here. Part of me wanted to go into a dissertation on my relationship with my mother and everything that she means to me, but that doesn’t feel right. Part of me wanted to tell you everything I know about her, and hope that it’s enough. But let’s face it: the woman could talk, and we’ve only got an hour for this thing. Perhaps the biggest part of me didn’t want to get up here at all today. How am I supposed to boil down what my mother meant to myself, my family and this community? It seems completely impossible.

I keep going back to our last conversation, the night before her stroke. I had crashed my bike… and by crashed, I mean… ran it into a parked car while not paying attention. I messed up my front tire and brake system pretty good, and I was generally just upset about the accident and my role in it. Plus, I was dreading what I would have to spend to fix my bike. Naturally, my mother was the first to know about what happened. After asking if I was ok, she went right to work on talking me down from my anxious ledge. She said to me, “I’m just glad you are ok. Things can be replaced — people cannot.” 

And that was the last thing she said to me.

As I struggled fiercely to write these words, her last piece of advice reverberates through my head. People cannot be replaced. That is a fact of life. Nobody on earth could replace my mother — the woman was a colossal presence with insurmountable spirit. Whatever her faults and foibles, her life was dedicated to doing good and enriching the lives of those around her.

So I thought I would talk about Nance in a way we could all relate to, because nothing could express everything she meant to everyone. I just wanted to share some of her best qualities — those that resonate with me every single day. I hope they will resonate with you, too.

Nance was selfless & sacrificed for what she loved, and what was important to her:

She left a successful insurance job to spend more time with her three children, even though it meant temporarily sacrificing her career aspirations. She spent time with us, every day. And she never regretted it once. In her years doing daycare at our house, she came to love every child who walked through our door as her own. She couldn’t help it, it was who she was. Now that I look back on her life, it is clear to me that the money and success she left behind was insignificant to her compared with the hours, games, meals, day trips and activities she did with us every day. Josh, Adam and I always came first.

When I was about 10, I got cut from the AAU team I really wanted to play for. There were other teams in the area, but none of them appealed to my competitive spirit. So for two years, my mother tirelessly trekked across Connecticut twice a week, from Coventry to Mystic, so I could play on the AAU basketball team I wanted to. She never even complained about it — even when I did.

She took a job as athletic director at Coventry, even though she was woefully undercompensated for her time. Yet she couldn’t fathom leaving. She wanted to do right by the kids lucky enough to live in this town. Because she loved it. Because she cared too much to give it up. Because in her opinion it was rewarding on so many other levels — money was too far down on the list of priorities to change her mind.

Most amazingly, I don’t think she viewed any of this as a sacrifice. It was what what she wanted and what made sense to her core.

My mother was also committed and involved, sometimes overly involved:

When my mother decided on something, she was in 100%, no questions asked. The woman makes things happen! And good luck for anyone who thought they could steer her otherwise. Some might call this “stubborn” — but I call it focused. Each summer when I was in college, my mother and I would sublet an apartment on the Upper West Side. The year before I graduated, she told me “I’m going to get my own apartment in the city next summer.” “Oh, really?” I said, incredulously, “How are you going to convince Dad?” “I have my ways.” She told me. And sure enough, about a year and a half later, she and my father signed a lease to our family’s first NY apartment. She had her ways, all right: she scrimped, saved, researched, and reasoned endlessly with my father. And in the end, he was all the happier for it. I’ve often heard him remark on how glad he is that they had the time in the city together that they did. Where many people focus on the roadblocks, my mother zeroes in on the ultimate goal. She will stop at nothing to accomplish what matters to her.

Speaking of her commitment: She never missed a game. And I had thousands of them. I played on multiple teams during every week of the year, and she was there for all of it. She took me all over the state, the country, and even the world, to give me the opportunity to seek out fulfilling competition. And long after I’d left both the court and the field, she never missed one of your kids games, either. Her endless commitment to supporting young athletes was incredible — almost mind-boggling, if I’m being honest. Did she ever get sick of watching 14-year-olds play soccer? No. Did she ever tire of attending scholar athlete banquets? No. Did she ever take a week, a day, or even an hour away from thinking about how to improve Coventry Athletics? No. Not even when she was on vacation. Not even at my frequent prompting for her to relax and let go for a little bit.

High school sports were not the only things she found herself overly involved in: My mother would frequently decorate my friends’ apartments, sometimes without prompting. She would spend way too many hours watching Big Brother. And Big Brother After Dark. And the Live Newsfeed Online. And maybe she cruised the online forums, but it’s not my place to say. She still assisted with my taxes, and helped me ask for a raise, and always knew how best to approach a harry social situation. She asked the tough questions that got us all to open up against our own wills, one time or another. Not so she could gossip, but so she could help. Every time over the years I tried to shut her out, I would find myself back under her spell, dying to know what well-reasoned advice she would dole out.

She was always in there; always on top of things. She chaperoned, class-parented, troop leadered, coached, taught, fundraised, argued in front of the board, built alliances, mediated, advocated, educated, guided and advised. And she somehow did it with ease.

Which brings me to my last, most important point. She cared:

My mother cared about everything that I had to say, even when it was drivel. Who will care that I just went to spin class? I know, Nance! Oh look, a new restaurant opening in the neighborhood – better text Nance. I have an 8 minute break in my day — I should probably call my mother and talk at her to fill the void. It’s incredible to me that she sustained a genuine interest in the minute details of my life. Even when I could feel myself being tiresome. Even when I overanalyzed past the point of any reasonable thought. She entertained it all. And she cared every single time. Some would say that’s what mothers do, but it went beyond that with my mother. She really cared. She really listened. She really wanted me — and everyone — to feel important.

We were all important to her. Everyone in this room — even the few who are here to support me that she never met. Every single one of us mattered. She was behind us at every triumph, bump in the road, success, and failure. If you ever had a conversation with my mother, I’m sure she bragged about me to you. I’m sure she went on way too long and you probably seriously questioned if I could really be that great. I’m not, but my whole life, she was the one person who REALLY believed in me. And that made me better every day, and still does. Many of you have told me that I was her pride and joy, and I think you’re mostly right. But what you probably don’t realize, is that you were her pride and joy, too. She bragged about you, constantly.

Her athletes and coaches were a continuous source of pride. Each year she looked on as her teams defied expectations and bragged about their victories, both large and small. And she wasn’t just proud of the volleyball team (but seriously, who wouldn’t be?!). Sometimes it was simply an underachieving team turning it around and having their first winning season. Other times it was a kid having the guts to come out of the closet and into the open, accepting arms of their team. She cared about every single one of those kids, and by extension, their families.

She cared deeply about her friends and colleagues, too. I know about your loving marriages, school acceptances, beautiful vacation homes, new jobs, engagements, pregnancies, house purchases, moves, and promotions. I know because she told me, with enthusiasm and genuine support. I know because you mattered to her. She was in your corner, rooting for you at every step. My mother will always be in your corner and in mine.

So here’s to the woman who brought us all here; who spent her life loving and giving herself to so many. Sometimes she pushed us too hard, but we strived because she believed in us.

She cannot be replaced, but she will live on, through each and every one of us. Let’s all give her something to brag about.

We love you, Nance.

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Nancy-Jean Levinson (Doster)

February 20, 1954 – July 11, 2013