One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was speak at a memorial service for a fourteen year old. A sweet girl named Veronica who was hit by a car on the way home from school in Texas on October 4th, 2006. She left us two weeks later on October 20th.
I was called by Monsignor the morning of the service. He told me that the parents wanted me and another woman as the only speakers that evening. They didn’t want to have any kids speaking. He said if I didn’t want to do it the parents would totally understand.
I choked out, “I’ll do it.” There are times in life when the word “No” just can’t be uttered. This was one of those times for me. It was the very least I could do for this family.
But then I went into a panic. What would I say to a crowd filled with grieving family, friends, and community? She was just fourteen years old.
I called my mom. As she is the person who always provides unconditional love and guidance.
She knew it would be difficult for me and said, “Oh, honey, just be yourself. And you tell them exactly what you have told us about Veronica. Just speak from your heart and the words will come.”
I was still scared out of my mind. What if I messed up? Public speaking is nerve-wracking under the best of circumstances. This was a tragedy. What if I didn’t get it right for this family?
So, I got to the church early. Spoke to Monsignor. He asked if I wanted to speak first. I said, “Yes, please.”
I sat in the pew two rows behind Veronica’s parents and siblings in the massive church. I never looked behind me. I sat like a statue and looked straight ahead and waited. I knew that the community was filing in. The kids with their Cross Country jerseys on. The mayor. The school administration. The neighbors. The friends. Everyone.
So, I said to myself, “I will get up there and I will not look at the parents. I can’t. I won’t be able to speak if I do. And I will not look at my daughter. I can’t. I will try not to let the crowd overwhelm me. I will do the best I can.”
As I started speaking, I saw Veronica’s Mom smiling at me. At what I was saying. So, I felt like I was speaking to her. And I was able to continue and finish.
We became friends in the wake of this tragedy but that is a posting for another day.
I felt God’s presence that night. Pushing me to continue. Allowing me to look directly at her mom. At my daughter and the congregation. I really did feel something that evening. Like He was sitting on my shoulder saying, “Mary, you got this. You can do it. You are doing just fine.”
I am glad that I was able to do it. I hope that I never have to do it again.
This is what I said that night. It wasn’t very long. But it was truthful and heartfelt.
My name is Mary “Brennan.” My daughter, Rory, became friendly with Veronica through the youth group here at St. Ann’s. The friendship was strengthened at Coppell Middle School North. Especially their last year of middle school when they decided they were going to join the Cross Country team at the high school. I think Rory talked Veronica into it because she didn’t want to be alone. Like a good friend, Veronica signed up.
These two girls who had no previous experience in Cross Country at all. I gave them a lot of credit. So they were pretty excited last Spring. And would meet at Andy Brown Park to supposedly train for Cross Country. And I am sure they did a little training but they would easily get distracted by climbing a tree house, looking for snakes and, believe it or not, digging for clams in the lakes. East Coast girls through and through. But they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Just being kids.
This is why I felt blessed that Veronica came into my daughter’s life. Middle school is confusing. What’s my place? Who do I hang out with? Do I have to act older than I am?
From my perspective, Veronica seemed quite content to be where she was supposed to be and therefore acted her age. She lived in the moment. She enjoyed the simple things. Drawing, watching movies and just hanging out with her friends. Veronica positively influenced my daughter and I will be forever thankful. I know I am not the only person who feels this way. I think to honor Veronica we should try to always remember to be true to ourselves.
Veronica’s mom, Carol, told me that her family received so much kindness from so many people during this time. People they know and so many they didn’t. I think this is another way we can honor Veronica. Continue to be kind to each other. Be welcoming. And be giving of one’s self.
She was a beautiful girl. Creative. Smart. Funny. A good friend. A girl any parent would be proud of. Any sibling would be proud of.
She will be so missed.
I would like to read you a song. A song that was one of Veronica’s favorites. I hadn’t heard it before but I know it now. It is a beautiful song. Called Boats and Birds.
In memory of Veronica Grace Sheer
December 17, 1991-October 20, 2006