Amy’s eulogy was prepared and presented on September 20, 2014 by Amy’s cousin, Michele Peck Dolby.
Stuart Scott, an ESPN analyst living with cancer, recently said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, while you live, and the manner in which you live”. Most of you have either talked directly to Amy about this idea or read her own words on this topic: “Cancer is NOT a fight… it is a medical diagnosis… comparable to diabetes, heart disease, etc. People respond to cancer treatment or not… it is not their choice. When I heard ‘cancer is not a fight’, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe. I could stop fighting and start living”. Going back to Stuart Scott’s words, Amy beat cancer every day by how she lived. She lived a life so full of love and happiness – whether she had cancer at that moment or not. She experienced joy in everything and never, ever took time for granted. She didn’t count her days, she made her days count.
I was at a professional meeting a few weeks ago and we were asked to talk about the most successful person we know. I followed 7 or 8 people who spoke of their bosses, CEOs, etc. I spoke, without hesitation, about Amy. To me, the definition of success lies in being happy, being loved, giving happiness, and giving love. Amy was all these things to me. You couldn’t help but love Amy once you met her. Her smile brightened up the room and she truly would have done anything she could have to bring a little love or happiness to someone in need. Success to me can also be defined as rising above a situation that is designed to crush your faith and steal your spirit. Amy did that – she lived for 28 of her 36 years starting cancer square in the eye and she danced! She graduated high school, college, and obtained her Master’s Degree. She fell madly in love and gave birth to 2 beautiful children.
Amy’s motto since 2009 could not be more appropriate: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning to dance in the rain.” Those words, and the sentiment behind them, bonded over 1200 people to laugh in the face of storms and dance. How many of us were excited when it rained so that we could go out and dance? I know I was! That’s what life should be all about, right? Not waiting for the troubles to pass but instead to find joy and laughter whenever possible. Amy did that – and her journey taught and inspired us all to do that. I will cherish and embrace the rain every day because it will forever serve as a reminder of my beautiful cousin’s spirit and the many lessons she taught me. When I think of Amy I will think of the laughter we shared – in light of and, more importantly, in spite of cancer.
One of the most difficult yet funniest conversations Amy and I had recently was when we talked about this day right here. We were discussing music for today’s service and Amy not recognizing the titles of the songs on the list. I asked her if there were any N’Sync songs on the list and we laughed and laughed about the memories of dancing in Aunt Lorraine’s living room and about how funny it would be for me to do the “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance up here! (No worries, I won’t dance for you today!) We cried a lot that day (so much that we joked that the wait staff at Bravo were probably back in the kitchen asking what the heck table 10 was served) but we also laughed a whole lot – TAKE THAT, CANCER! I will remember Amy by how she faced every single day with a beat of optimism. I will remember a cousin who I loved like a sister.
Another favorite quote of Amy’s was by Michael J. Fox: “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will and, if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.” So, with that in mind, Amy tried to not allow herself to think about what could be or what might be. She went in to every test, every treatment, every appointment with the idea that she would cross whatever bridge she had to cross when she got to it.
I remember talking with her about upcoming appointments/changes in her symptoms but, while I secretly wanted to freak out, she was just so matter-of-fact and I remember telling her I would follow her lead. And I did just that, I think we all did. And so now we are at this place, in this moment that we have all dreaded but one which Amy had planned for us to start us on our journey of healing. And there truly is good to be had here! There is a love that will never end for Jerry, Riley and Ryan. There are bonds that were forged by Amy/because of Amy that will never be broken. There are long-lasting friendships and there are two huge families that will forever be linked as one. And there is a belief that Amy is up there eating some ice cream, chocolate covered strawberries, gram’s cake skins & spaghetti, and Baba’s pierogies & haluski. And that she is dancing with friends and family members who were there to greet her. And that she is now and forever more CANCER FREE.
One more quote to share with you all is from Garth Brooks’ song The Dance: “And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” Please don’t miss your opportunity to dance.
Finally, in closing, When Amy asked me to speak to you in this moment she made me promise to do one thing: “Promise me you will celebrate my life.” So please remember Amy with a smile and a dance step or two…. that’s what she wanted for us all.