This week it was my intention to write a Halloween column before the unthinkable happened. It was going to be about trick-or-treating with two of our grand-munchkins. Ben and Jacob are the super-duper heroes saving the world from bad guys and needing lots of candy to complete their very important mission.
But then … life turned surreal in an instant. I am still hoping to wake up from the nightmare and that it never happened. Our special-needs daughter, Mimi, unexpectedly passed away. No words. Just extreme sadness at our house. In keeping with the title of this column, there will be moments of laughter … and a few tears may spill.
Did you know Mimi LOVED Halloween? Not for the candy. Nope. It was about hugging the people giving out the candy. If she encountered a couple of pets in costume, it was gravy on mashed potatoes. Of course, her parents LOVED the candy, and the lovely reactions of all the people that hugged our Mimi. She was a very little girl mentally, trapped in a twisty body, confined to a wheelchair, and she hugged our neighbors … for nearly 30 years.
There were also the yearly Halloween celebrations at the Village Learning Center. Mimi attended the awesome day center for the past dozen years since aging out of school. Monday was her favorite day of the week when her class went bowling. When I’d pick her up in the afternoon, I always asked if she beat the boys. The answer was always “Yeah!” with a high five. Our girl had a competitive side to her.
For the past few years at Halloween, I would dress her up as a princess with a tiara and hot pink extra-feathery boa. By the time Mimi returned from her day center festivities in the afternoon, she had just about picked the boa clean of all the feathers and her wheelchair backpack was full of candy. I always felt kinda bad about the cleaning people at the day center and their extra fluffy chores on Halloween.
Over the years, I’ve written quite a few columns about our Mimi. She was a little character that inspired me more than you can imagine. Mimi also challenged and kept me on my toes. At church most every Sunday, Mimi had this habit of requesting a run to Sonic just about the time everyone was praying the “Our Father.” We never turned her request down. Little things matter. Perhaps I should consider going to confession for encouraging her. On second thought … probably not.
Someone told me after Mimi’s funeral that our daughter was an angel that had been on loan to us for a time. By the love from the hundreds of people that attended her visitation and funeral, I believe she was right. How is it that Mimi, a young lady with limited communication skills, could touch so many people? If she made eyeball contact with you … or you got close enough for her to grab your hand … it was all over. Her arms were around your neck and I often had to pry them loose. Just ask every usher at our church. Yup … you were getting a “Mimi hug” and you liked it.
This leads me to Mimi’s Challenge: Mimi’s legacy was certainly her ability to give the best hugs … pure, simple and uniquely powerful. I challenge you to pay it forward by giving someone a hug, asking them to pass it on, and keeping the memory of Mimi’s warm embrace alive.