Last year on February 23rd was Lila's Memorial and that was the day that I gave Lila's eulogy. This was something that I never, in my worst nightmare, thought that I would have to do but it was something that I knew I had to do. In the days leading up to her memorial, I remember being asked several times if I really wanted to do this. There was never a doubt in my mind. This was my only chance to get up in front of a large crowd and talk about Lila. I was worried that I'd speak too fast but I deliberately spoke slowly and clearly. I knew Lila was up there with me, that was the only way I could have gotten through it. I've been thinking about that moment the past couple of weeks and I wanted to share it with everyone once again. - Mike
I want to thank everyone for being here with us to honor and celebrate the life of our daughter. I know a lot of you took the time to travel to be here and we cannot thank you enough. I’d like to thank Fr. Ted for traveling down from Erie. If you don’t know, Fr. Ted married Jenny and I in 2010 and has been very supportive of us during this time and over the past few years. Fr Mark, I want to thank you, not only for baptizing Lila, but for all the support the parish has given us these past few weeks. We joined St Thomas More only a few months back when we were deciding where to have Lila baptized, and the way people have treated us these past few weeks makes us feel like we have been coming here for years.
When Jenny and I got married, it took almost a year to plan an event for 300 people to join us to celebrate our lives. Today we have around 200 people here for Lila, all done in less than 2 weeks. This is just one example of how Lila has touched all our lives. Everything that all of you have said and done for Jenny and I has given me the strength be able to stand up here and tell you about our Sweet Lila.
It’s still hard to believe that this is actually happening; that I’m standing here today talking about Lila at her memorial. Lila would have been three weeks old by now, we should be at home with her, watching her grow everyday. We should be learning more and more about her little personality as the days go on, not talking about her in the past tense. In her short time on earth she changed our perspective on life. Even now it is hard to leave the house - Jenny and I still feel like we are leaving Lila with the babysitter and that she will be there when we get back. When it’s just the two of us at home, we think Lila is sleeping in the bedroom. When we wake up in the morning, we pause for a moment waiting to hear her cry. We are in shock and will probably never get the answers that we are searching for. And it doesn't really matter because those answers won’t bring Lila back.
When Jenny was pregnant, you may have noticed that we didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything. We wanted to make all the right choices, do anything to make sure Lila was healthy, and never do anything to put her in jeopardy. We even started drinking organic milk and used olive oil based soap because we thought it was better for Lila if Jenny used natural products. We joked about Jenny still not having a job after all this time, but her job was going to doctor appointments and eating healthy. It was all for Lila. We both would have done anything for her no matter what the sacrifice was. Our pregnancy went smoothly and the doctors said everyone was doing great and we had no reasons to ever be concerned…right up until the birth.
I'm usually a pretty positive person and my purpose today is not to tell you how awful and sad this is, I want everyone to know how much our lives have been touched and tell you about the great times we had with Lila. I want you to get the chance to know a little bit about Lila since most of you never had the privilege of meeting our sweet girl. I want all of us to celebrate her life and not focus on her death. Her brief life has forever changed us.
Ever since we found out we were having a little girl, all I could think about was all the things that we were going to do together. I looked forward to having tea parties and playing dress up, whatever she wanted me to do. I had plans to take her out on daddy and daughter dates, probably to baseball games so she could learn about the things I liked to do. I started growing quite fond of the color pink and Daddy’s little girl onesies. For Christmas this past year, Jenny bought a pink onesie that read “My Daddy is the Best Mechanical Engineer in the World.” Which was very sweet…. but also very true and I could not wait for her to wear it.
I would talk to Lila in Jenny’s belly, telling her all the things we had planned for her. We told her all about her little friends that were excited to meet her, some of which are here today. I told her that she already had me wrapped around her little finger and that I would do anything for her, within reason of course. The one thing that I said to her that I was going to push was running, since we got a great running stroller. I picked out the orange model so that people would notice us more when we were out running together. When Lila was here, I asked her if she wanted me to organize a 5k race in her honor. I was shocked when she responded to this question but I was even more surprised because she gave me a thumbs down. I'm going to do it anyway because that's what dads do; we do things that our kids don't want us to. Plus I just think she was messing with me.
She was the most beautiful baby, and I’m not just saying that as a proud father. Just looking at her, you can’t help but stare at her full lips. You could even tell that she had full lips in some of the ultrasound pictures. The nurses in the NICU told us they were jealous and commented that people pay to have those lips. Everything about her was so perfect that at times we could not believe we were in the NICU with her, she seemed like such a healthy baby to us that she should be at home where she belonged. We couldn't find any weird scratches or birthmarks on her either. Lila also had the softest skin and the cutest little nose and ears, which I am thankful for because I was worried that she would take after me and get my big ears and nose.
She also had, by far, the best hair in our family. It was very short and thin in the front and grew the longest in the back. I know what you are thinking and it wasn't a mullet, it was too cute to be a mullet. Everyone thought Lila would have curly hair like Jenny but after it got washed, her hair was poker straight. But we were still holding out hope that as it grew, it would start to curl.
In Lila’s eight days, we started to get to know her tendencies. She would sometimes fall asleep and point her index finger. She would blow bubbles a lot and liked to grab onto peoples fingers. When I kissed Lila’s forehead, she would open her eyes and look right at me. This melted my heart. She liked it when Jenny would brush her hair but wasn’t too thrilled when I combed the little hairs she had on her arms and shoulders. Lila only had one bath but she absolutely hated it. The look of disgust on her face was priceless. I could just tell she would have cried every time we gave her a bath at home. I wish we would have had that chance.
Lila had, at times, what Jenny calls “her frog legs”. Whenever Lila had a diaper change, she would bend her legs up like a frog and wouldn’t let you push them back down to fasten the diaper. It was fitting that someone donated a blanket to Lila that had frogs on it. I also would talk to the guys at work about how excited I was to change her messy diapers. They thought I was nuts but I really was looking forward to it. Lila didn’t have any messy diapers at the NICU that I could have changed, but she gave us one about an hour before she passed. That was her last gift to me, letting me change her messy diaper.
Everything was going to be better with Lila. Paying bills, washing the dishes and going to work were going to be that much better because when I was finished, I would get to see my sweet Lila. We were able to get Lila Baptized before she passed and that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Seeing her in Jenny’s christening gown is a moment I will always cherish. The eight days of having Lila in our lives were the eight greatest days of my life. Lila has taught me unconditional love. I don’t think I really knew what that was until the moment I saw her. Lila was our gift, the answer to our prayers. Lila is an irreplaceable part of Jenny and I. The day that Lila passed, a piece of me died as well. I’ve had a pit in my heart since that day that I imagine will never go away.
The only thing Jenny and I know going forward is that we are going to do everything in our power to keep the memory of Lila alive through ourselves and others. We have been asked time and again by everyone what they can do to help and there is a simple answer to that question. Never forget Lila. Let her legacy be a living one. Do something on her birthday next year to remember her. Do something in her honor and let us know about it. Some of Jenny’s friends had a good idea to help us start this off. They had red and pink stones engraved with Lila’s name. People can take the stone with them on trips or vacations or anywhere to show Lila parts of the world she didn’t get to see. Please pick a stone up at the lunch following mass today and send us a picture of all the adventures you took Lila on.
Having Lila around was going to make every minute of life better. The grocery store, running, car rides were all going to be better. She was part of us and she gave my life a new sense of purpose. We were and still are a family. I wish that I were standing here today giving Lila away at her wedding instead of gushing about her at her memorial mass. There is so much that we were not able to do with our Sweet Lila, but I am so very thankful that Jenny and I were able to spend the eight greatest days of our life with our beautiful baby girl, our sweet angel.