She just didn't seem like the kind of person who could die.
Love her or hate her, if she was in the room, you knew about it. She did not hold back. She was strong-minded. She was strong-willed. She was strong.
She taught us that the loudest voice in the room does get heard, and that it's worth speaking up for what you believe in.
But she could make you laugh; she could put you at ease; she could melt a room with the sound of her laugh. She asked questions. She gave advice. She cared.
It was "the summer of Crystal Pepsi," according to my brother. And the summer of, "Joel, you could marry your cousin, you're not blood related." It was the summer of, "I only have one rule: no rough-housing." It was just one of many summers that we spent as family: cousins sleeping out on the trampoline in sleeping bags, pigs named Louise, J-dip gone bad, late night kick-the-can, "NOT!", hot tub bubbles, "The White Cruise", house-boating trips, MTV and mattresses on the floor, camping under a hail storm, roasting s'mores in our living room fire place, Red Coral, and it was Mimi's pride and joy. Her favorite place to be was wherever she could gather her family, her crazy bunch: "Do you think other families have as much fun as our crazy bunch?"
No, Mimi, I don't think they do.
It's been years now, but looking back, I realize that those are some of the most special memories that I have. That place, that family space, was special. And being a part of something special makes you special.
That's where it all began for me. My first friends were my family members. Family had fun. Family cared. Family was where I was accepted no matter what. Family was home. Family still is. "You're not really home [from being away in Russia] until you're back with this gang, are you?"
Family was where I'd always get my yearly chocolate birthday cake. I guess I can now finally come clean and say that I don't like chocolate cake, heck, I don't even really like cake that much. But those cakes were for me, because Mimi remembered me. And she wanted me to enjoy myself. She wanted to celebrate who I was and whom I was becoming, all of this done in the glow of the family unit she'd formed. She toasted me and my closest friends at a bridal luncheon the day before my wedding at the University Club. She didn't quite know that it would mean the world to me, she did it because celebration is always the right choice. It meant the world and more. Thank you, Mimi. You made my day, year after year after year.
And that's probably what she did best: she celebrated.
"Get in this house!" The door was never locked. There was always more coffee (and cool whip.) And once you came in, it was hard to get back out.
She knew how to throw a party (tips to follow.)
She knew how to treat children.
She was generous.
She chose to party.
And she was the life of it.
Mimi, we will miss you, but we will continue to celebrate, just as you taught us. We'll keep this crazy bunch active. We'll stay family. We'll remember.
I found a collection of Velveteen Rabbit books from my childhood that I brought back with me from my last trip to the States, thinking my daughter Anna was now old enough to enjoy them too. Tonight it struck me that my Grandma got those for me on one of our many shopping outings growing up together in Denver. Sorry, Anna, I'm taking my books back, they're from a party where I feasted on chocolate cake nearly 25 years ago.
Godspeed, Mimi, as you become a real rabbit.
Some of Mimi's tips on throwing a party:
1. It's always better to have too much food than not enough.
2. If you can read, you can cook. (Originally Tissie's)
3. Never put the food and the beverage in the same location at a party. Keep your guests moving.
4. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven!
5. Nobody cares what your house looks like if you are good to people.