In Memoriam: Mildred Wiggins February 11, 1928 - November 26, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I first met Mildred "Grandma Wiggins" in December of 2003. I'd ventured North to Salina, Kansas to celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend (now husband) and his family. This was no small feat for me to have gone. But wait, let me back track so you have a better understanding. My sophomore year in college, when I came home for the holidays, my parents surprised both my brother and I by saying they were headed to Vegas for Christmas...without us. We were stunned, blinked at one another, threw our arms in the air and set off to spend Christmas with my sister and her in-laws. My folks made it a tradition to jet off around then and I don't blame them. I think it is kinda neat, in fact. Occasionally, they will make plans to linger for us all to be together, but for the most part, this is what they do. I've been fortunate enough to have loved ones who will welcome me with open arms to their homes and their extended families. It's so nice to have witnessed first-hand all of these traditions.

When Don asked me if I wanted to go home with him in 2003, I was stunned, nervous, and excited. This was the first time I would be meeting so much of his family. I didn't have the best experience with meeting family in my previous relationship experiences. I won't go into the detail here. Anyway, he prepared me that we'd have several appearances at the different homes of his extended family. He, being like me, motivated by food, detailed out what would be on display at each place. His face lit up and he told me, "And finally, st Grandma Wiggins' home, there will be steak and shrimp!" I nodded my head in eager anticipation, not knowing at all what to expect.

When we'd arrived, I walked into a home filled with smiling and friendly faces. THESE people...(getting choked up), salt of the earth people opened their arms and gave me hugs and warm embraces. It was an obstacle course getting through the living room to the kitchen where the food was. So many young children running around, playing, laughing...oh the laughter, and everyone happy. They emulated my family and our gatherings. Kids all over the place, hugs freely given, stories exchanged, the uncles gathered around the TV watching sports, the women in the kitchen or on the sofas relaxing for once, knowing their children were happily playing with their cousins. It was so lively, so warm, so exciting. In the very center of it all, on a blue recliner, there she sat. Grandma Wiggins, sitting arms crossed, wearing a button up shirt and slacks, smiling and enjoying the moment. She didn't say many words, but you could see her face and see joy. Each Christmas, I looked forward to that moment. I hoped that someday, I too would be sitting in a comfortable spot surrounded by so many, many of my family members.

And oh was she generous. I was handed an envelope with my name on it. I was unsure what it was until I opened it. Christmas cash for us to get ourselves something. The first time I opened it, I teared up. It was very generous of her. I allowed myself to use the money for myself instead of paying a bill or buying another gift. Each year, upon returning home, I'd take that cash, walk over to DSW and buy myself a brand new pair of pumps to wear for work. I don't know if she knew I did that each year. I don't know if she knew how important shoes were to me. I don't know if she knew how much that money meant that I was going to walk in those shoes and do my best to change my family's life for the better. That old addage, "Change your shoes, change your life." (The second year, however, I spent that money to buy my wedding shoes.---I've never told anyone that before.) Each year, I wrote her a thank you note telling her that I'd bought a pair of shoes. It wasn't just me who received an envelope. Every child, grand child, and their significant others received one. The great grandkids received toys hand selected by her. She took great joy in seeing their faces light up when they opened their gifts. Each year, the Sugarbean has loved her toys. The Sugarbaby walks around with the doll she received last year and sleeps with her.

She touched so many people's lives and she will be greatly missed. I'm so very thankful that I had the opportunity to know her and for my girls to have met her. She was a strong woman and so very loved by her family. She always conveyed unconditional love for us all.

And because the first question out of people's mouths after they express their condolences is, "What happened?" Here is how I know things to have happened (or how I pieced it together from different conversations), since we don't live there. She passed away on Monday. She'd recently been in the hospital for pneumonia. I know that she'd been trying to give her deposition to an attorney here in Dallas when she visited almost two years ago and broke her hip. I don't think she ever gave that deposition, either. Anyway, I say this because not long after leaving the hospital for the pneumonia, she fell and broke her other hip and her elbow. She went into surgery to repair the two and had complications. Last week, she'd been on life support. When they made the call to turn it off, she awoke. It was a literal miracle. She lingered a few more days giving everyone near her the opportunity to say their goodbyes. It was a beautiful blessing. It is my understanding that she expressed that she'd seen the light and was unable to fit in the tunnel the day she awoke. And on the day she passed, she said two men were waiting for her to take her to the light. There at the end, she had her family with her. She is now resting in peace.

While we all are grieving, we are also celebrating her life and her legacy: attempting to live without judgement, with acceptance of one another, and blanketing one another with that unconditional love.

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