Heather McManamy’s last letter to her family – #‎everydaymatters‬


12279129_10153133805825951_8845273738557690867_nA few days ago, Heather McManamy sadly passed away at the age of 36 from cancer. She knew this was coming, and not only faced it all with courage and dignity, but she also left a message that has now been shared by her husband Jeff on Facebook.

I’d like to now share those words with you …

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.

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 don’t think of me with pity or sadness. Smile, knowing that we had a blast together and that time was AMAZING. I fucking hate making people sad. More than anything, I love making people laugh and smile, so please, rather than dwelling on the tragic Terms of Endearment end of my story, laugh at the memories we made and the fun we had. 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.

And don’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.

Most importantly, I was unbelievably lucky to spend over a decade with the love of my life and my best friend, Jeff. True love and soulmates do exist. Every day was full of hilarity and love with Jeff by my side. He is genuinely the best husband in the universe. Through all my cancer crap, he never wavered when so many people would want to run. Even on the worst days you could imagine, we found a way to laugh together. I love him more than life itself and I truly believe that a love like that is so special it will live forever. Time is the most precious thing in this world and to have shared my life for so long with Jeff is something I am incredibly grateful for. I love you, Jeff. 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. Go google Physicist’s Eulogy and know that it is a scientific fact I will always be with you both in some way. I know that if you just stop and look hard enough, I’ll be with there (in as non-creepy a way possible). You’re my world and I loved every second we had together more than words.

Friends, I love you all and thank you for the most wonderfully awe-inspiring life. And thank you to all of my amazing doctors and nurses who have taken such incredible care of me. I don’t doubt that my team gave me every possible good day that they could. From the bottom of my heart, I wish all my friends long, healthy lives and I hope you can experience the same appreciation for the gift of each day that I did. 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 Please do me a favor and take a few minutes each day to acknowledge the fragile adventure that is this crazy life.

Don’t ever forget: every day matters.

Cards for Brianna

During the past six weeks, Heather has been writing Cards for Brianna.

These are cards for her first day of school, her sixteenth birthday, her wedding day. Cards for when things were going right and when they were going wrong. Cards for when Brianna would need her mother-whether in five years or in fifty years-and Heather wouldn’t be able to be there for her.

The collection will be published next April.

More details

Heather also wrote her own obituary …

I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, apparently, I’m dead. The good news is that if you’re reading this, you are most definitely not (unless they have wifi in the afterlife). Yes, this sucks. It sucks beyond words, but I’m just so beyond grateful that I lived a life so full of love, joy and amazing friends. I’ve never written an obituary before, so bear with me…

I was born in West Allis, Wisconsin (Stallis!) on Nov. 30, 1979, to Roman and Carla Sikorski, wonderful people who raised me surrounded by unconditional love and unwavering support. I grew up and had a blast with my brother, Ryan Sikorski, and those memories were ones I always held close. He’s an awesome dude. My amazing aunts and uncles, Lauree, Chuck, Don and Pat also made sure we weren’t short on fond memories of childhood. After graduating from Milwaukee Pius XI in 1998, I moved to Madison to attend the UW, where my diploma tells me I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology in between visits to State Street Brats and the Terrace. Most importantly, that was where I met the love of my life, Jeffrey McManamy, on a Badger Saturday and my life truly began.

Jeff and I were inseparable from the moment we met and every day was full of love and laughter. We moved to Jeff’s hometown of McFarland and were married May 20, 2006. After years of fun, binge drinking, irresponsibility and countless awesome adventures, we welcomed our daughter, Brianna Noelle McManamy, into our family on April 22, 2011 (the happiest day of our lives). That is when the fun really began. I loved every second of being Bri’s mommy and will love her with my whole heart and be proud of her for all eternity.

With my stage four cancer diagnosis in 2014, we made the decision to live life, rather than focus on the unfairness of the universe. And live, we did. I was unbelievably lucky to live life the way I did, in the moment and appreciating every day. I retired from my research specialist position at UW-Madison SMPH to focus on what’s important in life: my family. And we created memories that are so incredible; I often have to pinch myself to make sure it was reality. My life was a dream and, despite cancer, often too good to be true. From our magical Disney trip to Mommy Mondays to our Badger Football excitement, to simply snuggling and having dance parties at home, every moment was cherished. I love nothing more than being Brianna’s mommy. And I truly believe that the laughter and love we shared will live on forever. It’s all still here. My love and support will embrace Brianna eternally and I will always, always be proud of her. Brianna, if you close your eyes, I will always be right by your side. I’ll whisper I love you in the wind that blows your curls and as you keep moving on, my love for you will never die, it will always stay strong.

Most importantly, I was unbelievably lucky to spend over a decade with the love of my life and my best friend. True love and soulmates do exist. Every day was full of laughter and love with Jeff by my side. He is genuinely the best husband in the universe. Even on the worst days you could imagine, we found a way to laugh together. I love him more than life itself and I believe that a love like ours is so special it will live forever. Time is the most precious thing in this world and to have shared my life for so long with Jeff is something I am incredibly grateful for. I love you, Jeff. 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, wow, did we have a magnificent life. Go google Physicist’s Eulogy and know that it is a scientific fact I will always be with you and Bri in some way.

I hate making people sad, so please don’t think of me with pity or sadness. Smile, friends, knowing that we had a blast together and that time was amazing. Please laugh at the memories we made and the fun we had and tell Bri stories so she always knows how much I love her and how I wanted nothing more than to be here with her (and make me sound waaay cooler than I am please). And don’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 and randomly unfair, and that’s simply how it goes sometimes. I didn’t lose. The way I lived for years with cancer is something I consider a pretty big victory.

I came to discover that as you age, your family includes all those you love and ours is far too extensive to list here. But, you know who you are. Thank you for making our life so full of happiness, hilarity and love. Next time you open a bottle of wine to soak in a sunset, please think of me and smile.

I want to especially thank Dr. Sanyal, Dr. MacKay, Dr. Moore, and the AMAZING team of nurses at Dean Oncology and Agrace Hospice. You were there on the worst days of my life and I couldn’t have done this without you all. I was able to enjoy life knowing with full confidence that I was getting the best care possible and you were fighting for as much time as I could get with Bri and Jeff. Thank you for taking such great care of me while respecting our priorities.

I love you all, friends, and thank you for the most wonderfully awe-inspiring life. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you long, healthy lives and I hope you can experience the same appreciation for the gift of each day that I did. If you go to my funeral, please run up a bar tab that would make me proud. And there had better be a dance party at some point. Celebrate the beauty of life because you know that’s what I want and I believe that in a weird way, I will be there too (you know how much I hate missing out on fun). Know that I want you to wear whatever makes you happy (yes, I mean those ridiculously cute shoes that you never have the occasion to wear). The service should be a celebration. I look forward to haunting each one of you, so this isn’t so much a goodbye as it is see you later. And please remember to take a moment now and then during this crazy life to remind yourself that every day matters. And, lastly, a book: Cards for Brianna: A Lifetime of Lessons and Love From a Dying Mother to Her Daughter, written with multiple inspiration book author William Croyle. The timing couldn’t have been crazier, but talk about an amazing alignment of the stars to have something so positive and fun to focus on.

A Celebration of Heather’s Life will be held at OLBRICH BOTANICAL GARDENS, 3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. with a reading at 2 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. In lieu of flowers, donations for Brianna can be made via https://www.gofundme.com/dtrdac where there are two pages for Bri.

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