When Emily first made me a mom in 1997, I realized my purpose here on earth and that purpose was to serve her. Through the good times and the bad, I never lost sight of that purpose.  

My daughter Emily was the seventh overdose death in Sioux Falls this year. Now she is just a statistic in the devastating world of drugs and addiction. But my daughter Emily was so much more than her addiction. The Emily we all knew and loved before she succumbed to this horrible disease was one of the most remarkable people to walk the planet.  

These drugs are now more powerful, more dangerous and more deadly.  But I don’t want my daughter to be remembered for how she died. I want her to be remembered for how she lived before she entered the dark world of drug use.  

We were three days away from holding a professional intervention with her from the day she died. None of those who truly loved her knew how bad things really were.  

But before addiction crushed Emily’s real self, everyone who knew her was amazed by her gregarious personality. Emily wanted to do everything, try everything! A sport, a club, a talent show—you name it—she was in! She danced; she sang; she played instruments. In first grade she insisted on taking violin lessons—I am not a Tiger mom! It was all her idea! She took ballet, then gymnastics; give her a stage and give her an audience—she was all in! She loved singing in church right here at Holy Spirit through elementary school and she was the narrator at the children’s Christmas program.  She started a tradition in our family. Every year she wrote and directed and designed costumes for a Thanksgiving play of the pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower. She gave everyone a role in it. It was such an incredible thing for a child to do and we had so much fun doing it!

When my beloved Grandma Gen died, Emily wanted to do a reading at her funeral. She was just eight-years-old. She told me at that funeral she had a vision her great grandmother being lifted up into the heavens by angels. She had other visions like that—when she was three-years-old. she told me she saw our whole family and we had four kids and they were all playing on a swing set that was next to a fence. I told her, “No honey, I’m not having four kids!” But years later I did and you guessed it—we had a swing set by a fence.

Emily was a deeply sensitive person. She felt other people’s pain and sorrow; probably too much. She was sensitive to tastes and textures—she was even a high-needs fussy baby! But all that sensitivity also made her so sweet and kind. She used to love to come pick out flowers with me in the spring to plant. I remember, when she was about three or four, we arrived at the garden center and I said, “Oh, look at the pretty flower!” She replied back, “Look at the pretty mommy!”

Emily was the first one to bring me soup when I was sick; breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day and make me picture after picture! The love I received from her was so big, so unconditional and so perfect. I always told her, “I’m so lucky to be your mommy! God must really love me to bless me with a daughter like you!” She was a great big sister. She and Abby told each other everything for years. She loved Adam so much. She took him to show-and-tell at preschool after he was born! She was Jordan’s sponsor for confirmation. She got her love for the outdoors from her dad, who took her on walks to the park; spending hours pushing her in the swings. She also loved helping him mow the lawn with her toy mower.

Through high school as many of you know, Emily was a dedicated gymnast and amazing artist. She had a lot of friends and a few very close ones that she adored and loved spending time with.

Our difficulties with Emily began later in the teenage years and being our first teenager, we were ill-prepared. But we tried everything to steer her on the right course.  Even though our best efforts failed, even though we started to see that something was going terribly wrong, there were still glimpses of the real Emily.

There were moments where I saw her true self, not the false self of addiction. The love and kindness inside of her were never completely killed off by drugs. She still loved spending holidays with her family—helping with the traditions of making the bunny cake at Easter and fudge at Christmas. I always made her very favorite lemon cake on her birthday.  

The last time I saw Emily was on Mother’s Day.  She brought me a pot of yellow pansies and a card. Inside the card she wrote: Mom, Thank you for always having my back and for how much you truly care about me. I love you so much and really appreciate how much love you give to me every year! On top of all of that, you are gorgeous! Love Emily

When Emily was young she loved for me to read books to her for hours. I have never been a singer and when I did sing to my kids they would say, “Mommy, please stop!” But they always let me sing Robert Munsch’s book to them from I Love You Forever.

And if you don’t mind suffering through my singing, I’d like to sing that one last time to my baby girl.

     I love you forever.

     I like you for always.

     As long as I’m living,

     My baby you’ll be