16 August 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Heather Heyer was run down by a neo Nazi at a rally in Charlottesville. Her death shocked the world. This is the eulogy delivered by her mother.
My child’s famous Facebook post was: "If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention." She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention. Oh, my gosh, dinner with her, we knew, was going to be an ordeal of listening. And conversation. And perhaps disagreement, but it was going to happen. And so, my husband would say, "OK, I’m going to go out in the car and play on my video game for a while." And we would sit and would grill. And she and I would talk, and I would listen. And we would negotiate, and I would listen.
And we talked about all this stuff. We talked about politics. We talked about anything that caught her eye that she felt was fair, unfair. She’d talk about her feelings about the office and how things were going. I mean, she just talked. The girl loved to talk. And she was single, so there was nobody to listen at home, so mama got a lot of it. And that was wonderful.
You never think you’re going to bury your child. You never think to take those pictures. They asked me for pictures for this, and I struggled. I had pictures from her childhood. But I had to go to Facebook to find pictures of my child, because we were always together. I saw her a couple times a month, at least, and we would text each other fairly often, and we would Facebook message at bedtime, "I love you," "I love you. You doing OK?" "Yeah, I love you." So I have no regrets on that part. Take pictures of the ones that you love, because you don’t know when they’re not going to be there.
But here’s what I want to say to you today. This could be a storm in a teacup, and it could all be for nothing. This could have—I could have said, "Let’s don’t do this publicly. Let’s have a small private funeral." But, you know, that’s not who Heather was. Anybody who knew Heather said, "Yeah, this is the way she had to go, big and large." Had to have the world involved, because that’s my child. She’s just that way. Always has been, and she will continue to be.
Because here’s the message. Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile. And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her.
Thank you. Thank you.
So, here’s what I want to happen. You ask me, "What can I do?" So many caring people, pages of pages of pages of stuff I’m going through. I’m reading pages of pages of pages how she’s touching the world. I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy.
You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see—and want to turn away: "I don’t really want to get involved in that. I don’t want to speak up. They’ll be annoyed with me. My boss might think less of me." I don’t care. You poke that finger at yourself, like Heather would have done, and you make it happen. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.
My child had a high school education. My child was no saint. She was hard to raise, because everything was a negotiation. Not kidding. But you know what? She was a firm believer in whatever she believed. And let’s do that. Let’s find that spark of conviction. Let’s find in ourselves that action. Let’s spread this. Let’s have the uncomfortable dialogue.
It ain’t easy sitting down and saying, "Well, why are you upset?" It ain’t easy sitting down and going, "Yeah, well, I think this way. And I don’t agree with you, but I’m going to respectfully listen to what you have to say. We’re not going to sit around and shake hands and go 'Kumbaya.' And I’m sorry, it’s not all about forgiveness. I know that that’s not a popular trend. But the truth is, we are going to have our differences. We are going to be angry with each other. But let’s channel that anger, not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let’s channel that difference, that anger, into righteous action."
Right now, down the road, there is a blood drive going on in Heather’s name. Right now, there are people who are here willing to listen to one another and talk to one another. Last night in New England, they had a peaceful rally in Heather’s name to have some difficult dialogues. If you ever want to see what one of those dialogues looks like, look at her Facebook post. I’m telling you, they were rough sometimes. But they were dialogues. And the conversations have to happen. That’s the only way we’re going to carry Heather’s spark through.
So, remember in your heart: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention, find what’s wrong. Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way. You make it a point to look at it, and say to yourself, "What can I do to make a difference?" And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.