The Wall-Custance death notice read “Smith, Muriel M. (nee Hopkins) of Guelph, passed away peacefully after a courageous battle with cancer on Sunday, March 11, 2012, in her 65th year.”
I needed to read no further. I used to kid her about being my nice niece, and memories came flooding back.
She was christened Muriel Megan Hopkins at birth, in memory of two sibling sisters of her father, my older brother, who passed away at a too young year – Muriel at the age of 3 and Megan a few hours after birth. I can remember how proud my dad was in having a grandchild named in memory of his losses. Little did I know then that I would follow in his footsteps, having a grandson named after the two losses that the Little Lady and I suffered.
Muriel M., from the very beginning, lived her life as though she was making up for the time her would-be aunts had lost. She was active at an early age.
Before she could sit up, she would throw her leg out over the baby basket’s edge and quietly climbed out of any and every cot, crib, bed, or what have you that she was ever tucked into. She preferred to lie spread-eagled on the chesterfield or pillow on the floor. Somewhere in my archives I have a black and white picture of her asleep on the couch with her head hanging over touching the floor. Her active life just never stopped.
I have fond memories of when she was 2. She stayed at her grandmother’s during her mother’s working hours. I was on the shy side of 16 in high school, an eight-mile bus ride and a half-mile country road walk from the bus stop. Without fail, at 4:30pm each day, rain, shine, or snow, she would come running, hop, skip, and jumping down the road to the little bridge, which was her allowable limit, to meet me.
Then, with an ear-to-ear smile that would put a Cheshire cat to shame, with widespread arms, she would literally jump up into my, ready or not, arms. A quick hug, and then up on my shoulders she would go, and I would jog like a horse, giving her a ride back home.
She never tired of that and never stopped chattering all the way.
Though she had a vivid imagination, she talked adult conversation, as that was all that she heard, and she would scold her make-believe horse, giving him a whack with her imaginary whip for slowing down or misstepping just as often as not.
When my Little Lady became seriously ill, she checked bi-weekly, weekly, and daily, by email or phone, and she would drop in often to see if I needed anything. During that period, she also took the time to computer-design the front and back cover of the four books that I was busy getting ready to be published. She understood computers in a way that just boggles my mind. She knew the exact buttons to push, or, my weakness, not to push.
The four times that I was in the hospital, with feet and eye operations, it was she who showed up at my bedside, with a cold beer smuggled snug in her purse. (That’s an untold secret, so don’t you go telling anybody.) She waited around long enough, on Nurse Watch, until the empty bottle was out of sight back in her purse.
That was the Muriel Megan that I knew – is there any wonder why tears cloud my eyes as I type? Life is not fair!
Take care, ’cause’ we care.