Sunday, June 22, 2014

April 2013: Mumma Passes Away

On Sunday, April 14, I randomly called my grandparents' house. I had meant to call my dad, who was in Michigan at home, but I instead dialed my grandparents' home in Illinois, where my mom had been staying with my grandmother, who was on hospice care. I was shocked when Mumma herself got on the phone. I called a couple of times a week, but I hadn't actually talked to her in several weeks because she had been too ill. But Mumma heard that it was me, and got on the phone and said, "Jessica, I love you, I love you, I love you." She was crying, and I immediately started crying too and answered with the only thing that matters: "I love you, I love you, I love you." I should have known it would be the last time I would talk to her.

Shortly before 7 am on Wednesday, April 17, my dad called to tell me that Mumma had passed away. She was 90 years old and had been sick for some time, so it was not exactly a surprise. 

My grandmother was magical. Just her name--Mumma--evoked excitement and anticipation, because you knew good things would happen when she was around.

Mumma knew how to have fun, and she knew how to make everyone else around her have fun too. She never took herself too seriously. Whenever she visited or we went to Chicago, she always planned a full schedule of activities. We ate donuts and pizza. We went swimming and played at the park. We played Parcheesi and Memory and numerous other games--which she usually won! But even as a kid, you didn't care if she won, because she made sure you had fun anyway. She laughed loudly and often, and her laugh was infectious. It was never directed at anyone else, but included everyone as part of the fun. I think of her famous Christmas parties as the best example of this. No one ever grouped off, but chairs lined the perimeter of the basement, and the conversation always included everyone from the smallest child to the eldest neighbor. She made herself look silly--and she enjoyed it too--so no one else was ever embarrassed to hum in a kazoo. She was having so much fun that you wanted to do it to so you didn't miss out!

Mumma was full of surprises. Whenever I saw  her she was never without a treat for those around her. Of course, she always brought gifts for her grandkids. She knew what each of us liked and catered to our  interests. And who needed Santa when you had a Mumma? She fulfilled the biggest wishlists we had at Christmas, from Cabbage Patch dolls to Nintendos. She never meant to spoil us, exactly. I think gifts were one way that she made us feel special and loved. And her gifts weren't always big--some of her best gifts were the gum and animal crackers that she would pass out to the children at Church. Mumma always seemed to have enough for everyone.  Now that I am a mother I fully appreciated the service she showed to those children and their mothers! What child wouldn't want to come to Church when there was a Mumma there to make you feel special?

Mumma made my dreams come true. When I was little she would buy me books--often she would buy me two or three, because I would be halfway finished with one on the way home from the bookstore! She encouraged my love of reading and writing--perhaps because she had a way with words herself--and was my biggest fan. Whenever I wrote a story, I always showed it to her or read it to her over the phone first, because I knew she would love it. She was my biggest fan. When I was in college she helped me fulfill my dream to go to London and study abroad. She not only helped me financially, but encouraged me and helped to convince my parents that it was a good idea. Mumma had done quite a bit of traveling herself and I think she wanted me to see the world, too.
Mumma's stories of dating and broken engagements were legendary. As a teenager I both thought they were funny and I was also impressed--I could hardly get a boy to notice me! She taught me that even if you said "yes" to a boy you could always say "no"; it was never too late to break it off. And once she committed, she committed with her whole heart. She loved Poppa more than anything. You could see it in her eyes when she talked to him or about him, and you could see it in the little things she did each day to make him  happy. She loved to cook for him and do his laundry and take care of him. And he loved her too. Mumma and Poppa's relationship was a great example to me, and I am so glad that they are sealed in the temple so it can continue for eternity. 

Mumma was full of love for other people. Her family came first, of course, but she never hesitated to reach out and befriend others. I was always impressed by how diverse her group of friends was--from the horsetrainer Dixie to the actor David. She befriended little children in her ward and neighbors she had known for years. Mumma had a large heart and it was open to everyone. She never  hesitated to talk to someone just because they might be different from her, and those conversations often led to lifelong friendship. Many people loved Mumma, because she loved so many people.

I feel privileged to be her granddaughter. I hope that some of her wonderful qualities have rubbed off on me, because I can't think of a better example. I love and miss her every day, and so many things remind me of her. Sometimes it makes me cry, but most of the time I smile--because that's what Mumma would do. 


lisa said...
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lisa said...

Sounds like a beautiful person. Sorry for your loss, Jess.