On September 14th, my greatest supporter, confidant and grandma, Muriel Constance Coyne McCloy, passed away. Our connection was strong and her passing leaves a large void in my life. I was her “best bubba boy”, “the prince” and “my love”. To never hear her call me those nicknames again, is stunningly hard.
Muriel was my biggest fan, dependable, positive, generous, full of wisdom and oozed a certain class most people can only dream of. She had a certain way of making people feel comfortable and shaping an entertaining conversation. Nothing was ever off limits. She was engaging; a true conversationalist. She was funny and had a great wit. I loved our visits and not sure how I will replace that memorable time.
She was an ardent supporter of children and families in need. She loved God and lived a full life.
When my grandfather, Joseph Pimentel, known as “Big Joe” (or “grumpa”) passed away in 1997, I made a conscience decision to quit my childhood love affair of playing baseball. The year before he passed, my junior year, from April through August, we played in over 80-baseball games, together. Twice I played three games in a day. He understood commitment and never let me down. He made 3-games a day possible. Traversing across the Metro West, he went to all of my games and was my best friend.
The love, and most importantly, an accepting nod when I walked to home plate for my at-bat, brought me great comfort and joy. I can still hear his famous line, “hit it over the house Luke!” like it was yesterday. I played baseball for him and couldn’t do it alone.
My grandma had an equally important impact, strong enough to carry me through my life. After Big Joe’s passing, she filled a spiritual role and made sure the days of going at life’s issues alone, were over. She had compassion for miles and when my life touched a line of craziness, she was there to provide a guiding hand and emotional support.
Naturally I’ve matured and wondered what life would be like after grandma had passed. It’s a bit surreal to think that time has come. When Big Joe passed, giving up baseball seemed like an easy solution to my grief. This time however, I feel a strong need to be more like my grandmother. Shortly after her passing, my family listed many of the things she loved. We jotted things down in a stream-of-conscious conversation. This act was both a tribute to her and healing for us. Through our memories of her, she was teaching us to love life and appreciate the beauty in the simple things. Butter, sunny days, the ocean, camping, home-cooked meals…these things are what life is about.
The final list was shared with family and friends during her calling hours. It easily quadrupled what I could put down. It is something I need to work on; I’m coming to realize that life is too short not to enjoy all the little things that Muriel loved so much. In fact, I know that as I learn to appreciate (I mean really savor) a little extra butter on my baked potato, I’ll be remembering her. Because even in the face of constant hospital visits, Macular Degeneration in both eyes, and many other serious health concerns, she found a way to see the good and she loved living life.
One of the last times we spoke was on her 80th birthday when I called and interrupted her lobster dinner. She was spending time with her siblings in Oregon. A trip that I had encouraged her to take for a long time. Through our conversation, I could tell that she was enjoying herself immensely; this still provides me with a great deal of comfort. Days after our phone conversation, I received the news that she had fallen and was in intensive care. My wife and I traveled to Oregon to be with her. After a cross-country flight and a two hour car ride, we missed her passing by minutes. This still haunts me. I wanted her to know that I was coming to see her. She meant the world to me and I was on my way.
My biggest honor to her was giving my daughter, Shealagh, the middle name of Muriel. At first she didn’t like the idea and thought it was unnecessary, but later grew fond of the notion that her name would be carried on. It meant a lot to her. I wish there was more I could have given of myself and done with her before she passed. Unfortunately, Shealagh will not have as much time as I experienced with this amazing woman. Regardless, I’ll make sure that my grandma’s flame never goes out. As Shealagh gets older, we will talk about her “GG”, listen to all of the sweet voice mails left for us over the years and look through the our photos and videos. I intend to use “Shealagh Muriel” more often to help me through. What a wonderful reminder of my grandma for the rest of my life.