On the loss of a matriarch

Posing with MomMom on our wedding day

About nine years ago, I started dating a very nice boy. This very nice boy invited me home to meet his family—and I was terrified. I was going to meet his mother, the woman who raised four boys. Even more intimidating? Meeting the woman who raised her.

The first time I met MomMom, I wasn’t sure what to call her. Mrs. Skipper? Too formal. Mary? Too casual. MomMom? Oh, no. How do you address the matriarch of a family? The woman who raised three strong, independent daughters, who lost her beloved husband many years prior, who this very nice boy clearly adored. “I’m Mary,” she said. She decided for me.

Mary was a straight-shooter who told it like it was. She made the boys remove their hats in the house. She yelled at people for splashing water out of the pool (just like my mom). When we got engaged, she loaned me a book of etiquette to prepare for the wedding.

We may have occasionally complained about her complaining, but knew that it was all out of love. Taking hats off in the house teaches respect. Keeping the water in the pool is a reminder to not be wasteful. Proper wedding etiquette carries into all areas of life.

I grew a fondness for Mary. Over the years, we’ve talked about things from serious to trivial, from family drama to travel to cats.  MomMom was very opinionated and damn it, she knew things for a fact (a favorite quote).

A look that says she's irritated but still adores him

A look that says she’s irritated but still adores him

While we were on family vacation in Outer Banks a few weeks ago, MomMom had a heart attack. She was flown to Sentara Hospital in Norfolk, where the doctors and the nurses at the heart center tended to her ’round the clock. She showed signs of improvement over the two weeks that she was there, but ultimately, her heart was too weak to carry on. She passed away on July 6.

The loss is palpable. Our hearts hurt and there are few tears left. But, through the sadness, I’m can recount a few of my favorite MomMom memories:

  • Seeing her stand at the back steps, watching the family in the pool.
  • When that very nice boy and I married, his paternal grandmother couldn’t make it to the wedding. I was honored to have MomMom there to represent his grandparents.
  • Hearing stories of her days watching her grandkids, ages 3 and 4. While she was strict with them, she adored them endlessly.
  • While rare, hearing a few snippets of her life with PopPop, her husband.
  • Before she passed, MomMom was able to watch a video that I took of her grandson, Josh, swimming across the pool for the first time.
  • The letter that she left with her memorial wishes that noted that she wanted services on a weekend so that people didn’t have to take off work.

While it doesn’t seem fair that she was taken so soon, no one can deny that MomMom gave us her best in the years that she was here. And what remains are her fiery, feisty, opinionated, lovely, wonderful daughters—all mirrors of their mother.

With MomMom (far right) and two of her daughters, Sandi (middle back) and Jen (middle front)

With MomMom (far right) and two of her daughters, Sandi (middle back) and Jen (middle front)

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