So some of you may recall that I have shared, although not at length because it is still an open and painful wound, that the love of my life died after a very brief illness less than 2 weeks before my darling Dad died. We did not live near each other and all of this had happened so fast, happened at the same time as my Dad was coming to the end of his life, so that I did not get to see him before he left this world. And so for all of this time, more than five years now, I have compartmentalized his loss and what it means for me, tucking it away into a corner of my heart that I kept closed off. It was easier for a long time to just think that fate had conspired to keep us apart than to deal with the cold reality of what had really happened. A good man, a kind and smart and loving man, a gentle soul with a gift of being able to weave his words into a story that you never forgot. The man I loved like no other was gone but I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I didn’t deal with it. I still don’t accept it. I wish I could. I can’t.
And in all this time I had never dreamed about him even once. He was always with me and I think about him every day. I am lucky to have photos of him, poems and letters he wrote me, the sounds of his voice on a video I watch probably more often than I should. But about two weeks ago, I finally dreamed about him.
It was a happy dream, taking place near where he lived around the holidays. We were leaving a house, getting into a car, driving to a party. I heard his voice, I saw his face, I knew he was really with me. And when I woke the next morning, I wasn’t sad. I was peaceful and realized that he – like my Dad, like so many others I have lost along the way – is truly immortal.
When I hear The Beatles sing Till There Was You, I know he is immortal because there was no one before or since like him. When I hear those words – that there was love all around but I never heard it singing till there as you – I know he still lives in my heart, is still a presence in my soul, is still alive in my mind. He is immortal.
When I see my great kid put others before himself and champion the underdogs of the world, to stand up for what he believes in, to wear my Dad’s Miraculous Medal for a long time and then give it to me when he left for school and I was going through a bad stretch, telling me that he knew I needed it more than he did, I know my Dad is immortal.
When I visit my Burke cousins and I see their hands, which are Burke hands, hands that are scarred from working hard and making do and comforting their children, what I see are my father’s hands and – when I do – I know my Dad is immortal.
When my sister helped me out, unasked, at a time when my fortunes were low and my prospects even lower, I knew that she is doing what my Mom does and has always done – helped without question, without condemnation, without criticism and that she is making my Mom immortal now. My Mom has set the bar so very high with her compassion and support and generosity and kindness and that lives on and always will in my sister.
I know that all of you have immortality in your life. We need just to gaze around and see it every day. You look in your children’s eyes and see your parents. You cook a meal based on your grandmother’s recipe. You sing the songs that your parents grew up listening to. You see a gesture, experience a moment, hear a word and know that it is your loved one manifesting himself or herself and remaining immortal to all those who they loved.
I try to live a good life every day, although some days it’s more challenging than others. I believe in fairness and kindness, gratitude and compassion, appreciation for those who have helped me and sadness for those who have not been as fortunate as I. I have been blessed many times over with so much more than I deserve. I am always appreciative when someone takes the time to say something nice, thank me for something I may have said or done, go out of their way to look out for me when I wander too far off the path.
I try to pay all of these kindnesses forward. I would like, when I’m gone, to be remembered as a good friend, daughter, sister, cousin, Christian and writer but mostly as a great mom. I try every day to set a good example for my great kid, to live my life in a way that not only inspires him but makes him proud. If we can do that, if we can make that our priority no matter what, if we can remember – to quote the great Paul McCartney – that in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make, then I know that you and I will be immortal too.