I wrote this the night before her memorial service. Some of it I ad-libbed, so it actually went over really well in person. Reading it might leave a lot to be desired but some wanted me to share it with them! Here it is:
On behalf of the Mills family, I want to thank you all for being here today. My grandma, Loma Mills, has meant a lot to so many people, and your presence here signifies just how many lives she impacted during her 93 years here on earth.
Her roles were many. She was the eldest daughter of Frank and Alice Oesterle, German farmers living here in Marion. She was a sister to Ruth Staub and Doris Beaver. She was also a high school history teacher for 32 years, a wife to John, a mother to three sons, Judd, Craig, and Kim. A grandmother to 7 (Laurel, Stacy, Jenna, me, Belinda, Chris, and Josh) and great grandmother to Gretchen, Nick, Hannah, Jake, Josie, and Oliver. She was a friend to so many different types of people, whether you knew her for a few minutes or for decades. Even last year, she wrote more than100 Christmas cards to people she loved.
Family. Firey. Fiercely Independent. Spunky. Kind. Giving, Woman of Great Faith, Generous, Charitable, Optimistic, Saw the Silver Lining, Avid reader, Loved children, celebrating holidays, and God. These are all words that people in Loma’s family used to describe her. My cousin, Belinda, always laughs because when I was younger I said of Grandma that she was a tough cookie. She’d been through a lot and just kept on going.
One word that keeps coming up for me that I think described my grandma the best is grit. My grandma had “grit.” I looked it up in the dictionary. Grit is “the firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” Loma learned independence from an early age. Her father was a frugal man who made wise investments in other farms during her early years, which happened to be during the Great Depression. Her mother used the money that she got from selling her chicken’s eggs to clothe my grandmother and her two sisters. Committed to educating his three daughters, Frank insisted that Loma, Ruth, and Doris go to college, which they all did.
The values of faith, family, charity, and a hard work ethic were instilled in my Grandma from an early age and she passed them on to all of us. And we are so grateful for these.
Because we’re all knew my Grandma differently, I thought I’d share a few reflections on her life.
A glimpse into Loma’s inner life:
Grandma was a full time mother and full time teacher as well as a farm owner simultaneously, before it was cool to be all of those things at the same time. Grit.
Her faith inspired me and others she knew to care about the less fortunate and beyond it all, trust in God. She would often say to me in a knowing voice, “Kid (because she called everyone “kid”), life is hard. But the Lord is with you. He is.” More than anything, she believed that we were to cling closely to God. Whether I was going through a breakup, a move, or another traumatic life event for a young adult, my Grandma would encourage me and all of us in her determined voice that God would and could help, if we let him into our lives.
-Grandma loved bonfires, Weenie roasts, and pig roasts. If someone were having a birthday, we’d all go out into the back yard and roast weenies in a bonfire.
-Grandma also loved lawncare- We couldn’t believe it when she actually hired people to do her lawn because well into her 70s, grandma would be seen tending to her flowers and mowing her acres of lawn by herself, waving to those passing by.
-Grandma had a keen fashion sense which she passed on to her granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and daughter-in-laws. To show our love and appreciate of that, we are all wearing hats from the Loma Mills collection.
-Vacation – Our family has been taking an annual vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Deleware since 1953. Boardwalk. Funland. Grotto’s Pizza. Rented beach umbrellas. Apartment over Lingo’s market. This was a family tradition that was etched into our lives, since we’ve been going there for so long. It was one of her favorite yearly traditions.
-YMCA – Grandma often used to wake up at 5AM to go swimming at the Y up until her 90s. In fact, I just met two of her Y friends before the service who reminded me of how much Grandma loved that daily ritual.
-She was also a dedicated sister to Doris and Ruth, with Doris even being across the street. She really looked up to and was grateful to be near her sisters both spiritually and physically. With the Beavers living across the street, their children had memories together. This meant that our family has an entire set of second and third cousins that are actually very close and share holidays and vacations together.
-She’d often have 70 person family reunions in her two bedroom cape cod making traditional Thanksgivings and other meals.
-An evidence of my Grandma’s grit is this: “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith, developed perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work, so you can be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4. Her steadfast strength in life and in God were her foundation and she took trials as they came, looking to God for help during troubled times.
-Baking cookies and pies. Always a pecan or apple pie waiting or on its way when I visited.
-She loved her sweets. My cousin, Belinda, reminded me that she would make people go to two or three different drug stores until she found her favorite, Russell Stover’s candies.
-She was a woman of habit, making her infamous Santa Cookies. It was an orchestrated event down to a science. It wasn’t just a dedication to tradition and the holidays IE holiday cookie making, you weren’t just signing up for cookie making, but more a full-fledged production, with 15 minutes spent decorating each cookie.
-Grandma wouldn’t want a big “to do” for her funeral. I think she’s glad that we’ve come together as family and friends to celebrate her life because togetherness is what she always wanted and loved best. She might say this if she were here, paraphrased a bit from a poem that Matt Burke, my grandma’s favorite grandson-in-law:
”Speak to me in the easy way which you always used to Put no difference in your tone, Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.”
In that spirit, let me tell you the ice cream story. We were driving in the car in the summer with the windows down. I was about 10 or 12 years old. Grandma had just treated Belinda and me to ice cream. The day before, I had gone to my first ever pig roast at the Lashey’s house and Belinda hadn’t been able to make it. Grandma was always a little bit absent minded so as she was describing how big the pig was, she took her ice cream like this (open arms wide) and it flew out the window, only leaving the cone left! This was a typical kind of story you’d hear about my grandma.
To finish, she had a solid 93 years. I think she’d be pleased to see how life came full swing. I don’t think there’s anything else she would have wanted to accomplish in her life. This is her legacy. We are her legacy.
And now I’d like to invite her grandchildren and great-grandchildren up to read a poem that was one of our Grandma’s favorites, “The House By The Side Of The Road”.