When our father died in 2007, at his service in Greenwood, the minister, Dr. Chris Leonard, mentioned that Mumsey had given him a couple of folders when they joined the church. The folders contained all the information required for their funerals: program information, names, addresses, pictures, etc. He wondered aloud during the service if he should even be paid for the service since it was already complete.
In 2003, Scott and I got the same thing, but Mumsey had elaborated on it by 2007. Here’s a quote from one section:
“The services should not be morbid. Please try for them to be “celebrations” of our lives. — mumble, mumble, ah, here it is — Be sure the pastor and the organist get paid.”
(Ask Rev. Alice if it’s appropriate to take a collection at a time like this.)
Mumsey was nothing if not organized. Cooking for a family of six kids and pampering a husband with her schedule was made a little easier with one word: Delegate. One way that was organized was by putting little pieces of paper with the name of an item all around the table: gravy, peas, butter, potatoes, beef, etc. In this way, any kid who was unlucky enough to be around at dinner time had no excuse to not help set the table.
Which is also why, rather than sleeping in on Saturday mornings, like other kids, I was out the door by 8:00 a.m. lest I be assigned my chores.
And there were also two things you did not do at the table.
- When food was passed around, take yours on the first pass because it would be empty on the second pass.
- We all drank iced tea, which was made in a huge pot in the kitchen. Don’t be the first one with an empty glass, because as soon as you got up to get more, the whole table was shaking their ice cubes and calling out for you to refill them also.
By the way, she also left us another priceless gift.
The day after her passing, Scott and Colleen were cleaning out her closet and found printouts of emails that she sent us between December of 2007 and April of 2008 entitled “Memories”. Since her email was on my mail server, I found them and printed 31 pages of the most incredible reading. She wanted us to know of her life and Dad’s life as children, as young adults, how they met, as newlyweds, young parents, their parents and what they went through before arriving at this moment.
But … moving right along! How many of you know the name Chatsworth Osborne, Jr.? No? Think Dobie Gillis in the early 1960s. If you’re too young, think Gilligan’s Island. Got it? Well, Gilligan was played by Bob Denver, who also played Maynard G. Krebs on the Dobie Gillis show. And Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. was an ultra-rich friend of Dobie and Maynard. Chatsworth was so rich that he called his mother, “Mumsey” In that posh Downton Abbey way. I tell you all this because my Mumsey didn’t want this to be a morbid occasion, so I thought I’d start off with that quiz before I tell the origin of Mumsey’s name.
Somewhere in my forties, I started calling mom, Mumsey.
I’m not exactly sure why, but I wanted her to feel special. She liked it. She had a special name and she was unique. Because she was. But sadly, she never felt that way.
She struggled for approval all her life. Did you read the obituary? Beautiful, smart, talented. (Just like the six kids she raised.) When I asked her recently why she transferred from Glassboro State College to Temple University after her freshman year, she told me that her mother made her do it. Wow. I haven’t listened to my mother since I was … oh, never mind.
Nevertheless, she raised six kids (seven, if you count my father) and after 15 years of marital and familial bliss, she decided to go to work teaching. I guess her experience with us was so difficult, that she thought she should get paid for it.
While all this was going on, she and my father (and all of us little ducklings in tow) started a Presbyterian church in town. I guess the Methodists just weren’t Presbyterian enough. I don’t know when she slept: six kids, working, starting a church, and pampering a husband.
AND … For over 20 years she and Dad belonged to the “Tin Can Sailors”, a WW2 organization holding reunions of shipmates for various US Naval Destroyer class ships. Dad served on the USS Parker, DD 604 and she became the Chief Yeoman for the reunion crew, writing a newsletter she called the “Punchy P”. AND … she wrote a book! She compiled thousands of artifacts like ship’s logs, photos, letters, etc. into hundreds of pages of history about the USS Parker.
Did I mention that she became president of her Garden Club in Greenwood, SC?
Or that for several years (well into her eighties) she volunteered at Scott’s school bringing her teaching talents into his classroom!
I have to shift gears here because I can’t just go on without talking about her faith.
She was always “there” for people because Jesus was always there for her, and she knew it. Here’s a little tale about the depth of her faith that I asked her to write up for me a long time ago.
“While living on Hilton Head, our doctor felt Dad had two carotid blocked arteries and scheduled a Doppler test for the next day. Because Dad had already had one carotid artery operated on we were both very concerned and couldn’t sleep….
I was praying that Dad could get to sleep when suddenly I was enveloped in the whitest light. If I looked up, down, or sideways, everything was white. The light slowly faded and I looked at Dad. He was sound asleep and slept the rest of the night. When the test was completed the next day, it showed no blockage. Who says there is no God above? Not I!”
And this from my sister, Colleen, a couple of weeks ago.
Pam (her overnight aide) was sitting in the living room while Mom slept. She heard her talking so she got up and stood just outside the door. Mom was staring at the ceiling and she said: “Thank you.”
Then Mom looked over and saw Pam. She motioned for Pam to come over to her. Pam asked her who she was talking to and Mom said “Jesus”. Then Mom said that she was going to be better soon.
I think she meant a better place. She certainly is in a better place now. Am I going to argue with a woman who has a little piece of paper on the table marked “Jesus”?
And speaking of my sister Colleen, she and my brother Scott deserve the biggest shout-outs and gratitude possible. Scott, with his calm wisdom and common sense, and Colleen, who has been on site and dealing with this caregiving for over 10 years have earned this praise. Colleen has been on call 24/7 for the last few years, but she just couldn’t bear the thought of being here today.
But to close with the faith theme, let me say this. I called last Monday and asked to put the phone next to her ear since she had been asleep every time I had called for the past few days.
I told her that I had a dream about her the night before. I had been thinking about the white light story, and it probably morphed into my dream. Anyhow, in my dream, her room glowed brilliant white as she was sleeping and when the bright light dissipated, Jesus was sitting on the side of her bed.
He reached out and laid his hand on her cheek and said, “Your work here is done. It’s time to come home with me, my child.”
She smiled and Jesus stood up. At that point, her spirit floated up from her body and then walked to him. Suddenly the blinding white light came back and when it faded away, they were gone.
That’s the dream I related to her. I was hoping it would give her some peace, and if not her, at least me.
And so to Mumsey, and to all of you —
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.