(Note: I've re-dated this article so it doesn't turn up at the top of the page anymore. As you might tell from context, it was written a year after the publish date. Sorry for the confusion.)
I never really did say a proper eulogy for Monica. I mean, sure, I said something at the service, and I guess it sufficed. I couldn't not, not after what I'd shared with her, not with the raw pain I felt that day. My memory's a little broken (like everything else), but I remember bits and pieces of what I said, or set out to say, with my already-lacking public speaking skill set ever lower by circumstance. Something about having hoped to gather everyone in a church for a much happier reason. Something about how she'd lit up everyone's life. Something about her insisting on making gingerbread at 2AM one night when were supposed to be packing to leave our apartment for two weeks. Something about making too much gingerbread dough and most of it going bad.
But I can do better. I'm a writer, after all, not a speaker. It's only a year late.
Let me first share a story that was shared with me a few years back. This is way back, around the time Monica was 3 or 4 if I recall correctly. Her family was on vacation somewhere seaside, and her mom was watching over her somewhere on a beach. And Monica was intent on swimming. "Monica swim," she insisted. No, she was told, you're too little. "Monica swim," she replied, adamant. No, she was instructed, you'll fall. "Monica swim," she said one last time, and walked off to the water. Of course, she immediately fell in, but her mom was right there to pluck her out of the water to safety. As she spat out the saltwater, she had one last thing to say: "Monica no swim."
I think this shows the first thing a lot of people notice about her. Even when she was too young to understand grammar or tides, she still had this determination to do what she thought needed to be done. She was one of the most determined people I knew, rarely letting anything get in the way of her goals. Sometimes, sure, she'd get in over her head, but she always managed to get plucked out out of the water.
When I think of the Monica I knew, the woman she was with me, the memories that stick with me are always the same. Sometimes, when she was feeling sad or anxious, she'd lay her head in my lap and ask me to stroke her hair until she fell asleep. I can still feel the back of her head across my thighs, her soft hair around my fingertips. In my dreams, I can still see the look in her eyes change from distressed to calm to restful, still feel the love in them behind it all as she gazed up at me. I'd usually start to fall asleep before she would, so we usually wouldn't stay like that. She asked me once if I was bored of it, but the problem was the complete opposite: looking down at her, as I held her safe, I couldn't help but be at peace with the world, because no matter what, there was at least one thing right with it.
I think the phrase "better half" is overused when it comes to significant others, but I firmly believe it here: she was the missing piece of my two-piece puzzle, and she was definitely the better piece. I can't even begin to describe what she was to me, what she was to others, without feeling like I'm repeating myself. Everything she was part of felt better for it. She brought a vibrancy and energy I can't even comprehend to everything she did. She cared genuinely, and rarely if ever had a bad thing to say about anyone. She was always on the move, always curious about the next thing, always dreaming up new ideas and scheming new plans, and I loved her so much for it. I could share a thousand more stories, each one more and more her, because there was always a new thing to be done, a new journey to be started, and I'm just so grateful for being taken along on every single one.
That she was so friendly and caring and loving was something special in itself, but that she was all that despite the hand life had dealt her, despite her circumstance and struggles, was absolutely unheard of. Not only did the world lose a bright light the day she died, it lost one that was all the brighter for the darkness that surrounded it, and I don't think it can ever truly recover that. I think a little bit of everyone that knew her died when they heard. For some of us, it was more than a little. The world is a painful place indeed when the images and thoughts you once looked to for strength, for comfort, for support, now only offer a profound agony cutting through the core of your being. I never knew I could love someone so much that it would hurt this bad when I lost them, but that's just the kind of person Monica was, and that's just the effect she had on people.
This will never be enough. There will never be enough words to express what she was to me, what she was to our family, what she was to her friends and mine. I could never run through all the stories we lived during our time together, the eternities we shared in our few, far-too-short years together. But I hope this is enough to remind those who knew her of their own Monica stories, of their own memories of times with her. And I hope it's enough for those who didn't know her to understand what the rest of us are missing, why we hurt so bad even a year later. And I hope it'd be enough for her.