Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aunt Wilma - What a Gal

The following are some notes I wrote on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 and am just now getting around to blogging...

Sometimes you get news that stops you in your tracks. I got some news like that from my mom this morning in the form of an email. It was a forward from a cousin, Sherron, letting us know that her mother, Aunt Wilma, is now in a hospice after a fall and is not expected to live past this weekend. 

Back up a few years...

In 2007 my family headed to Logan, UT for a Yeates family reunion/95th birthday party for Aunt Wilma. Wilma is my great grandmother, Reta Yeates Stanton's sister and from the moment we walked into the reunion I was impressed with her. She looked a good 20 years younger than her 95 years, was sharp as a tack, energetic and hilarious. When asked to say a few words she jumped out of her chair and started telling us stories - like the time a few years earlier that she had walked into a car dealership and promptly pointed to the red sports car on display as the one she wanted to buy. Her family second guessed her, but she was sure she wanted that car and wasn't going to settle for anything else. Then when the young salesman asked Wilma if she wanted a 10 year warranty she incredulously replied, "10 year warranty? I'm 95 years old! What do you think I want a 10 year warranty for?" They didn't believe her age and IDed her :). She also told us that she is often asked the secret to her long life. She said she always responds, "Attitude!" That having a positive attitude and a sense of humor can get you through any rough spots in your life.

A few years later in 2010 I started really getting into family history and especially wanted to know more about my great grandfather, Claudius G. Stanton. He died in a drowning accident at work when he was just 52 years old and only 2 weeks after my grandmother, his daughter, was married. I can't imagine how hard that must have been. Well, Wilma is one of only 3 people alive (that I know of) that knew Claud. So I called her up to ask her some questions about what she remembered of him. She was so fun and always ready to answer any questions I had. (And apparently she was a fan of Dancing with the Stars because one time I had to call back when my first call interfered with the show haha). I really enjoyed each and every conversation with her. She would joke about how little she could remember and how 'long ago it was,' but she could actually remember quite a bit.

At the end of our last conversation I told her how inspiring she was to me. How I really admired her spunk and attitude, and how I always bragged to my friends about her. Then, almost out of nowhere, she said, "You know, I've been taking a class over at Del Webb Hospital that's all about how to deal with death -- because I'm terrified." I didn't know what to say. How could a 25 year old girl possibly know how to comfort a woman in the sunset of her life? But I desperately wanted to.

So when I got the news that she was so close to death, I cried, because I knew how scared she must be.

I called her daughter Sherron to see if she could let her mom know how much I enjoyed our conversations and that I'd never forget her and her fun personality. Then I told Sherron about my last conversation with her mother and she told me, "Well, she used to be afraid, but I think she's at peace with it now. She's ready to go. She's ready to go and dance with her partner."

A few days later Sherron reported that her mom was telling them she could see people in the room, her parents, husband, siblings, and others that loved her in life.

Wilma passed away a week later on March 13. I know she had a wonderful reunion with family and friends and that she is dancing again.

I'm grateful for Wilma. Not only am I grateful for her memories of Claud, but for her part in helping me learn that our loved ones that have passed on are closer than we think, and that our Heavenly Father will always be there to help and comfort us through any trial or fear we face no matter how small it may seem - even until the very end.

Wilma Yeates Gallagher, 99, was born August 11, 1912 in Millville, UT and passed away March 13, 2012 in Peoria, AZ. As a young adult she moved to California where she married Jackson Myers Allen and had two children, Jack Lynn (deceased), and daughter Sherron Ann. Having been widowed, she married Cecil Gallagher in 1981 and gained four step children: John (deceased), Jill Palozzi (John), Paul (Donna), and Christy Mayo (David). She is survived by 24 grand, great, and great-great grandchildren. Services will be held Monday, March 19 in the LDS Church located at 22034 N. 83rd Ave. Peoria. Visitation will begin at 9am, followed by the funeral at 10am. In lieu of flowers, please make a memorial contribution in Mrs. Gallagher's honor to Hospice of the Valley .

I know, she's blinking in this picture haha, but she's so cute right?!