The advantage of waiting to tell a family story until you are back at your home away from the rest of the extended family is you get to tell it your way without their corrections. And those who know me best know that I usually tell stories better my way anyway … so here’s my version of some of the story. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.
Before we had cameras on our phones, it was always a surprise to see what the pictures would be when they came back. There’s a picture on my Facebook feed from 1979 with Mimi laughing and Grandpa’s look of adoration is priceless. Everyone should be loved with that kind of immeasurable love.
Before Mimi retired, Grandpa would get up, start the coffee, go out and milk the cows, feed the animals in the feed lot, come back in, and bring Mimi her coffee in bed. After she retired, he would ask her if she wanted her coffee in bed or at the kitchen table. Grandpa died in 1989 and she missed him everyday. As someone who has studied grief, I honestly don’t think she had complicated grief. I think she simply had longing. Who wouldn’t when you had someone who brought you coffee in bed and adored you? Grandpa and Mimi had invested in each other and the community in which they lived. Everywhere she went and looked were reminders of him and their shared life and love. She wasn’t refusing to invest in each new day. She did that. She made new friends even at the “retirement” center. And protested God leaving her here because she had done everything she needed to do even while she continued to influence those who cared for her with her faith.
Mimi had the uncanny gift of simultaneously being able to find the cloud in every silver lining and lifting the gifts and blessings of God in life. She knew about suffering all her life since her mother died when she was 12 and she was the oldest. Even though her father moved all of them, her and her brothers and sister to live with her grandmother, she took the responsibility to raise them all very seriously. Mimi had a touch of TB when she was 14. They put her in the attic with the window open and froze it. The snow came in on the quilts and blankets where she slept as they worked to save her. She ended up with two small spots on her lungs for the rest of her 97 years.
Her first husband died of a heart attack when her youngest son was still in high school. She was a book keeper at the Missouri Farmers Association, the local feed store and grocery where Grandpa was the manager. He had compassion for her in her sorrow and struggle. His marriage had been long over many years before the divorce papers were inked but small towns will talk about anything. All of them had known each other for decades. Mimi had been my mother’s 4H leader. My Grandmother had taught Mimi’s daughter in 6th grade and later became a Mentor landing Marie her first teaching position. Oh the scandal!!! But they had been Grandpa and Mimi all my life. It was years before I knew any of that story. What I saw whenever I was on the farm, which was as often as possible, were two people who were as transparent and authentic as they could be. When they were moving cattle and frustrated everyone for 5 miles could hear their frustration yelled across the field! But they never demeaned one another or called each other names. They focused on what was done never attacking the person. And their love for each other was as evident as walking.
They also were the kind of people who made their faith a part of the routine of life. So Jesus and God came up in conversation just like the neighbors and the St Louis Cardinals. You couldn’t have a very long conversation with Mimi without all of those weaving into the conversation. At the funeral someone said, “Oleda was one of those people who knew everyone’s stories.” She sure did. She remembered people and their stories. She saw everyone as a Child of God and people were drawn to her because it. She had a way of speaking plainly and getting by with it because we knew she loved us. She knew us and as much as she could complain and say things we hated to hear her say, she was a truth-teller. I love her so much for the stories and the truth she told when no one else would. It was a rare person who did not know where s/he stood with her.
She couldn’t wait to be with Jesus and everyone else who had gone ahead of her. So while I miss her here, I’m grateful for a profound theology of the Communion of Saints and knowing that she has also drawn closer to me.
I’ve told Grandpa and Mimi stories all of my ministry. I won’t stop now. It will be a while before I can do it without crying because she also was the one who told stories to me. I love you Mimi.