Friday, October 20, 2006

Memorial for our Mongee

For the Telgren family, 2006 is a year we do not want to repeat. In my wife's own words, it has been the year from Hell. We just lost her mother, whom we all affectionately referred to as "Mongee," to a battle with complications related to a stroke she had back in April. The memorial celebration was earlier this week, and it is now sinking in that we will no longer be able to just pick up the phone and talk to her, or drive down to see her.

Her memorial service was "different." She had told us that she didn't want anything that looked like a funeral or felt like a funeral. She wanted us to come in what she was used to seeing us in, even if that meant shorts and t-shirt. We shed tears of both sorrow and joy as we shared stories and memories of Mongee. From water balloon baseball and other numerous games such as Charades, Taboo, and Trivial Pursuit, there was always fun in the house. I remember watching the family dance around together in the kitchen to the tune of "Yakity Yak." I remember listening to her funny stories about family and other people she had known over the years. I remember how she threw herself into the holidays for both the kids and later the grandkids. It didn't matter whether it was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentines or Christmas, anything that had anything to do with the kids was a huge deal. I remember stories about her fierce devotion to her kids, especially when she felt any of them had been unjustly treated. For such a small lady, she sure was a spit fire! The office staff at the school would see here coming and they would scatter. You just didn't mess with any of her kids. If you did anything to jeopardize her family, you had better watch out! Family was of utmost importance to her, which is why she adopted her oldest sister's four children when she and her husband both died. That adoption ran the kid count in their family up to 10! I remember when I was dating my wife going over to her house and it feeling like summer camp because there were so many kids there! For a long time, I couldn't keep straight who belonged there and who the visitors were. There were always a lot of the kid's friends there and they were always welcome. I heard a couple of the kids honestly say that they were really bad kids and that Mongee still put up with them and still loved them and looked out for them. I heard the stories and can only imagine the range of emotions that she must have went through in caring for all those kids. Only someone with a lot of true love in their heart could do such a thing.

I heard several people remark after the service that they had wished they could have known her better. As I reflect on this wish, it occurs to me that there was nothing keeping anyone from this. Distance was not a real issue. I knew my grandmother real well even though we lived four hours away. The reason? My Dad was devoted to driving us out on an average of once a month to spend the weekend with grandma. Time wasn't an issue. We all make time for what we value in life. The issue is that we did not realize the nature of time. Time is the one thing we cannot set aside for later. Once it is gone, it is gone. Mongee was only 55 years old when she died last week. Just a year ago, we buried Papaw, but we never dreamed that a year later we would be saying good bye to Mongee as well. I don't know how much time I have. How will I use my time for what is really important? Time is perhaps the most precious resource that God has given. However, I do not know how much of this resource I will have. Will I maximize my time by investing in what is really important in life, or will I bury it in the ground? God has granted me health, the ability to walk, work, and talk. He has given me wealth, and has blessed me with people who love me. Will I maximize those blessings or will I bury it in career, possessions, work, and things of this nature? Will I be able to enter into the joy of my master by investing in what is truly important, or will I be in the outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth? What is truly important in life, and what do my actions say is truly important?

After the memorial service, several family members came up to me and asked me if I would do their funeral service when the time came. I didn't ask them why they wanted me to do it, but I think it may have had something to do with the fact that this "unusual" memorial was so light hearted, different, fun, and personal. I have to be honest. In a way, it was both sorrowful AND fun doing this memorial because of who Mongee was. I guess the question for me is, who am I going to choose to be? Will the blessing of God shine through me to my kids, their friends, and all who know us, or will I be another guy who has a job and pays the bills? Oh how empty and self centered it would be if I were focused on these things rather than what is really important.

I still have time. I don't know how much, but I still have it. Therefore, it is not too late. I don't have to lament that I didn't get to know someone or someone didn't get to know me. I don't have to lament that I was not able to be more of a blessing or someone was not able to be more of a blessing to me. I don't have to have any of the regrets of wasted time. I can maximize it as the blessing that God intended. I can use it so that my kids and their friends can have fond memories of the Telgrens and how they loved their kids and loved people. It is not too late.

I love you Mongee and I will miss you. Thank you for taking the Proffitt kids and raising them, especially Stacey. She has been my partner, my lover and my best friend along this journey. Who she is says something about you.

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