Breast cancer took the life of Heather McManamy this week. Aged only 36, the Wisconsin resident left behind her husband, Jeff, and a young daughter, Brianna. But oh hell, did she write them (and all her loved ones) a spectacular, inspiring letter.
At Heather’s request, Jeff shared it online.
So… I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, apparently, I’m dead. Good news, if you’re reading this, is that you are most definitely not (unless they have wifi in the afterlife). Yes, this sucks. It sucks beyond words, but I’m just so damn glad I lived a life so full of love, joy and amazing friends. I am lucky to honestly say that I have zero regrets and I spent every ounce of energy I had living life to the fullest. I love you all and thank you for this awesome life.
Through all my cancer crap, [Jeff] never wavered when so many people would want to run… I believe that the awesomeness that is Brianna is our love brought to life, which is pretty beautiful. It absolutely breaks my heart to have to say goodbye. If it’s half as sad for you as it is for me, it breaks my heart over again because the last thing I ever want to do is make you sad. I hope that with time, you can think of me and smile and laugh, because, holy shit did we have a breathtaking life.
It only gets better from here (and you’re going to need a bigger hanky).
[D]on’t say I lost to cancer. Because cancer may have taken almost everything from me, but it never took my love or my hope or my joy. It wasn’t a “battle,” it was just life, which is often brutally random and unfair, and that’s simply how it goes sometimes. I didn’t lose, dammit. The way I lived for years with cancer is something I consider a pretty big victory. Please remember that.…
If you go to my funeral, please run up a bar tab that would make me proud. Heck, blast “Keg on My Coffin” and dance on the bar for me (because there had better be a dance party at some point). Celebrate the beauty of life with a kickass party because you know that’s what I want and I believe that in a weird way, I will find a way to be there too (you know how much I hate missing out on fun). I look forward to haunting each one of you, so this isn’t so much a goodbye as it is see you later.
That passage may imply that Heather believed in some sort of life or consciousness after death. But she stresses that religion is not her bag, nor her family’s.
Whatever religion brings you comfort, I am happy that you have that. However, respect that we are not religious. Please, please, please do not tell Brianna that I am in heaven. In her mind, that means that I chose to be somewhere else and left her. In reality, I did everything I could to be here with her, as there is nowhere, NOWHERE, I would rather be than with her and Jeff. Please don’t confuse her and let her think for one second that is not true. Because, I am not in heaven. I’m here. But no longer in the crappy body that turned against me. My energy, my love, my laughter, those incredible memories, it’s all here with you… Please tell Brianna stories, so she knows how much I love her and how proud of her I will always be (and make me sound waaay cooler than I am). Because I love nothing more than being her mommy. Nothing. Every moment with her was a happiness I couldn’t even imagine until she came crashing into our world.
It’s a fantastic way to make the point of one’s lack of reliance on religious mythology — gracious yet forceful, emotional yet full of reason.
When my time comes, I hope I can go out with at least a scintilla of Heather’s courage, grace, and wit.