January 13, 2007
I was surprised when Paula and Keith invited me to speak this morning, after all these years. I am honored. Humbled.
When I left Manitowoc after high school, I left this place to begin a new chapter in my life. It is my burden now, as I realize that I never said thank you. I never said I love you.
But we came here to celebrate her life, and we have to ask what Cheri would want for us right now. I think she would want us to heal ourselves and move on, knowing that death is but another journey, one she has embarked on before us. Rather than mourn her death, she would want us to celebrate her life.
I am reminded of a quote: "People don't make our lives. Loving them does." The act of loving them. What do we do to make someone love us?
Cheri was my rock - a foundation during a time when nothing seemed right. Though, Cheri was an informal personality, she was a perfectionist. Now, you might think that means she was critical, always searching for errors, bur you would be wrong. Over time, you would learn that she simply had the same standard for all the world around her, which is to say, "high."
With Cheri, what you saw was what you got. She lived without pretense; she was a "cards-on-the-table" sort of person. That said, Cheri wanted the best for her family, and had high expectations of us all. She did, however, understand our family's idiosyncrasies, our quirks, but was, never-the-less, inherently devoted to family.
Cheri was always firm, resolute, sometimes outraged, but rarely sad. And she was passionate. Passionate about her family. Passionate about her beliefs. Passionate about her sense of being. As a result, you knew you were loved. It meant knowing she would always support you, even when she didn't agree with you. It meant knowing that she expected the best of you, yet still allowed you to make your own, often necessary, mistakes.
Knowing her as my aunt, I learned that she was a good friend to have. She was so much more: a best friend, confidant, and big sister all rolled into one. Cheri clearly understood our individual uniqueness, talents, and needs, and gave us the freedom to grow in the direction of our choosing.
Being around Cheri was a feast for both the senses and the heart:
There were the sounds. Cheri was a 70's child (though I would not wish the 70's on any parent, she made it through ok). I remember one morning I was asleep on the couch after a night of partying. Cheri never told me what I could or could not do, but she could always convey when I had done something I knew I wasn't supposed to do. That morning, knowing I was likely hung over, she began her routine cleaning, vacuuming - to the very loud bass of Black Sabbath pounding the walls. I recall opening my eyes and looking at the fish tank. Even the fish were mocking me. They were swimming to the beat of the music!
There was her personality. Cheri grew up in a time of awakening and great turmoil in America. She was the embodiment of the liberation of the 60s & 70s. though she retained many of those ideals, she was still very private and self-conscious.
There was her home. Her surroundings. Cheri's home is a creative expression of who she is. I remember her kitchen decorated with a strawberry theme and themed Christmas trees over the years. One year there was a blue and silver Christmas tree. She did such fun and happy decorating for the holidays, just one of many traditions Cheri maintained.
Although we feel that what we've lost is tremendous: a wife, mother, grandmother, homemaker, colleague, and friend, what she gave us is immeasurable.
Paula, Keith, I can't imagine what it is like to lose someone you love that much. Know that you are not alone. She is with you. Be true to your own character and values, as she was to hers, and she will live on through you and in you.
You were my mentor and dear friend. You provided me with council and wisdom, yet helped me spread my own wings and fly. You encouraged me to succeed, and to pursue things that I didn't know were possible for myself. You are a definitive part of who I am today.
On a lighter, more musical, note:
I take great comfort in knowing that you are now soaring with the Eagles, without the annoyance of the typical, Bad Company. I am glad to know that the Doors have opened for you, with no Cheap Tricks, allowing you to rest in a place where an Electric Light Orchestra fills your days, the sound of Rolling Stones keeps you on beat, and your Sabbath is never Black. I hope the Old Time Rock continues to Roll your soul. Know that your spirit will continue to live on in all of us, down here, among the Earth, Wind & Fire of the living.