Wednesday night, we lost our dear friend, neighbor, surrogate grandmama, and one-of-a-kind/God-broke-the-mold-on-her kind of human.
When we first bought our farm from Ms. Dumpy in a life estate contract, she bluntly told us she was a 71-year-old only child, never-married attorney, and we were her first people to share with — ever.
I can’t say learning to share was easy — for either party. There was that time when I thought of painting the dairy barn red, but when I asked Ms. Dumpy’s permission (because that’s how life estates work . . . you BOTH have to agree), she told me it was the stupidest idea she’d ever heard. So, the dairy barn still sits unpainted.
I also learned NEVER to call her Mrs. Mildred. She hated her given name. And from day one, insisted we call her Dumpy—the pet name her dad gave her as a child. But “Dumpy” wouldn’t roll off my tongue. She was tall, slender, and strong. And the name “Dumpy” just didn’t fit her stature or personality. I hesitantly asked if Ms. Dumpy would work instead? And she agreed. So, Ms. Dumpy, it’s always been.
And for over ten years, Ms. Dumpy came to every birthday party, Thanksgiving, family Christmas, clinic party, and barn party we hosted. She didn’t care if we had events on the farm as long as there was food — and she got to eat it. She even showed up to a barn wedding of a sweet couple she didn’t know — just for the food.
She loved my children and called them her “adopt-a-kids.” She especially loved giving them gifts — and the bigger, noisier, and more obnoxious the toy, the better. We now have in our menagerie of household toys . . . a 4-ft-long giant stuffed horse, toys that sing, musical toys, cowbells, and many more. Ms. Dumpy always smiled mischievously as my kids opened her gifts because she knew whatever hid inside would drive their parents crazy. In her mind, mission accomplished.
At the end of her cancer journey, I was blessed to be one of her caregivers and chauffeurs. We learned a lot together, like how she couldn’t climb into my big SUV, despite emphatically insisting she could. And how she liked me to take notes for her during her doctors’ appointments, so she could read them later. She told me about her love for Elvis and church organ music. And she reminisced about her collegiate days at Millsaps College and working as an attorney in Washington D.C.
But we learned bigger lessons too. Like how, in the strangest of ways, God chose to knit our lives together and make us a family. We loved her. And she loved us. And near the end of her life, we ended our conversations with a simple “love you.”
As she slipped away to be with Jesus, I held her hand and whispered through my tears, “Ms. Dumpy, when you get to Heaven, you better go find us a farm — because we’ll be there soon too. I think we’ve finally learned how to share well, and I can’t imagine living in eternity without you next door.”
Dumpy, we’ll miss your larger-than-life personality, laughter, obnoxious gifts, and even complaints. But most, we’ll miss the sweetness of your unexpected friendship, your presence at every party, and the pure love you chose to give our family.