Truth be told, I'm not much of an email/electronic organizer person. My desk is a mess of Post-its, and I'll take a desk calendar and reporter's notebook over my iPhone any day.
My mom wasn't one for technology either. She was the type of person who could do complicated long division in her head in a matter of seconds and the one who yelled at me for having to resort to a calculator. We recorded a voicemail message on her phone letting people know they shouldn't bother with leaving a message because she didn't know how to check it.
My mom, however, knew how to leave voicemails. One, after another, after another. If I didn't immediately pick up, she'd call back...again and again.
When I would finally call back, she would angrily ask why I didn't answer followed by what did you eat for dinner and do you have enough money for groceries?
Even at 25, my mom still sent me care packages of homemade cookies and my favorite coffee beans (in which she hid a check, just in case someone opened my mail...and in case I lied about grocery money so she wouldn't worry).
I really miss the phone calls and the packages.
I just really miss my mom.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of other brides-to-be who are picking out flowers and cakes and dresses with their moms. Stupid girls and their stupid living parents, rubbing it in my face. I know that's not the case but certainly how I feel in that moment. I don't wish them any harm. There was probably a moment in my life where I was with my mom that someone thought the same of me.
When I was going through my email this morning I went through my drafts and found one that I sent to myself in 2008. September 2, 2008 at 10:58 p.m. to be exact. Almost 24 hours to the minute that my mom lost her battle with colon cancer.
The subject line read: Mama's Memorial Speech.
Until now, only the people who were at the memorial have seen or heard it.
This is the hardest thing I've ever had to write...but I've decided to make this relatively short and sweet...just like my Mom.
I know she's looking down at me and saying in that cute albeit stern voice "awwww come on Heather, get it together." So she's going to get me through this.
We're all here because we were all lucky enough to have had my mom as a part of our lives at one point and time. Some of you have known her for what seems like forever, others a few years.
Some never got the chance to meet her...but you know how much she means to us...and us to her...and that's why you're with us today. And for that Dawn and I are grateful.
When you did meet her it didn't take long to recognize her amazing personality.
I'm sure you have all come to realize just how wonderful a person she was. Caring, generous, smart, funny, beautiful inside and out.
And her work ethic? That put the rest of us to shame.
And it definitely didn't take long for you to learn just how much of a proud and devoted mom she was. Being a mom was her most important job.
At 25 and 35, Dawn and I are still her babies...and again, she couldn't be more proud of us...and she just couldn't tell people enough.
I swear she would introduce herself as Phung "did you know my baby is on tv in Buffalo" Ly. She was a walking business card for me. My number one fan. When Dawn and I told her not to brag, she did it more.
Mom was always the boss...always right...even when she was wrong.
She was always our mother before she was our friend. We sometimes didn't want to hear what she had to say...mostly because we knew she was always right. We've come to realize that she wasn't being mean...just protecting the two most important people in her life.
All her life, my mom exhibited so much strength and kept going...when the rest of us would be so weak and want to stop. Mom was never a quitter and never a complainer.
Although I did hear her complain about the dry toast Dawn and I tried to feed her a few weeks ago. She was sick...but still the boss. She didn't want to eat the cardboard she said...and we couldn't make her.
Dawn and I couldn't have asked for a better role model. She taught us to be strong--no matter what, hard-working...just taught us to be good people.
She told me before I moved away, "Never forget where you came from. Never lose track of where you are going...and NEVER EVER forget who helped you get there."
I will never EVER forget her.
Dawn and I are who we are because of her life lessons, her love and her sacrifice. She helped us get where we are...and deep down inside I know she'll continue to help us get to where we're going.
I'd like to share with you a quick story from a few years ago that shows just how much she loved her girls...and how much we love her.
My mom called me. She was crying really really hard. She told me someone had stolen her wallet. I thought she was crying about her money or credit cards...and reassured her that it wasn't that big of a deal. "It is a big deal. Your note. It's gone."
I had no idea what she was talking about.
Turns out, it was a note that I had written to her when I was five...some 15 or 16 years earlier...that she STILL carried in her wallet. It read:
I hope you have a good day. I love you very much.
Heather Ly Mai Hoa Kotlowski
...all on a tiny heart shaped piece of paper...that she held onto...and remembered...long after I had forgotten
Well, Mommy, I still love you very much...we all miss you tons already...and I hope you're having a good day up there.
In case you didn't know, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. If you're 50 or have a family history like I unfortunately do, get screened. Spread the word and encourage someone you love to do the same.
Write it on a Post-it to remind yourself.