Thursday, November 6, 2014

Remembering Miss Edna, 1930 - 2014

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: My mother-in-law, Miss Edna, died on Tuesday, November 1, 2014. I feel so lucky to have met this amazing woman, to have known her for seventeen years, and lived with her and cared for her for the past year and a half.

She loved her family, she loved reading mysteries, she loved wearing Chanel No. 5, and she loved everything red, perhaps especially red wine.

There's a great story about Miss Edna that my husband told at her memorial service that really epitomizes her philosophy of living life to the fullest — and I'd like him to share it with you. 

NOEL MACNEAL: On her sixty-fifth birthday, I took my mother to Disney World and invited a couple of friends down. We had her celebration at Epcot. There's a hotel complex nearby where you can rent a pontoon boat and they'll take you out on Epcot's lake to watch the fireworks display. 

I called and explained it was my mom's birthday, and for no extra charge, they provided a birthday cake. We were out on the lake, watching the fireworks and singing "Happy Birthday" to my mom. People on the bridge applauded and said "Happy birthday!" and we waved back. 

And as we're heading back, the boat's engine stalls. It just died and we started drifting toward the weeds. 

Now, anyone else might have started screaming about how her birthday was ruined and we're not going to pay a time, etc. 

But my mom loved it. 

She was laughing the whole time. "Now, this is a birthday, I'm going to remember!" she said. 

The boat driver ended up ripping up part of the table my mother's cake was on and using it as a paddle to get us across the lake and back to the hotel dock. 

My mom was just sitting there, eating cake, saying, "Yes, this will make a great story someday."

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Reds and lovely readers, are there any people in your life who taught you about living life to the fullest? Who were they and how did they share that with you? Please tell us in the comments.


  1. Oh, I am so sorry to hear about Miss Edna . . . what a huge loss for your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.

    Whenever you would write about Miss Edna it would remind me of my mom . . . memories that wrap you up and take you to a warm and loving place. How wonderful to have the memories . . . .

  2. Susan, what sad news for all who knew and loved your wonderful Miss Edna. Your love for her and the special sparkle that she was came through in your writing about her. You and your family are in my prayers.

  3. So sorry for your loss. Enjoyed all the stories you have told us about Miss Edna. The eulogy reminded me of my mom, and it's a Disney story, too. She was about 60 years old the first time we took her to Disneyland. We had to stop her from mowing down the little ones in her excitement to hug Minnie. During the parade she had to be told several times by Disney cast members to please get down from the table - she was short and couldn't see! When she became ill she would get out of breath so needed a wheelchair. Out of breath until we got where we were going and she would pop right out of the wheelchair. She was never afraid to show her joy for anything or anyone she loved.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman, Susan. Thank you for sharing Miss Edna with us even during your grieving.

    My friend Anzie was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer in 1998. And she turned it into a party. She'd tell everyone right down to the grocery cashier she had breast cancer. She got in touch with friends worldwide. And she beat the damn thing, after surgery and radiation and a chemo so severe she had to be in isolation. Since then she has danced, traveled and lived overseas, thrown massive Bastille Day galas, and makes her life a party every day.

  5. Susan, what wonderful pictures and stories. And your son was lucky to have a close grandparent too!

    And Sally and Edith--love hearing these too. It reminds us to seize our days because we won't have them forever.

  6. Thank you, everyone. Grandma Cottie, your grandmother sounds wonderful!

  7. Sorry, that's Cootie. I haven't had enough coffee yet...

  8. Susan,

    What a lovely tribute to a lovely woman. Ross and I regret that we never had the chance to meet her.

    I agree with Lucy - we need to remember and cherish the "Miss Ednas" in our lives while we still have them.

  9. I am so sorry for your family's loss, Susan. I've enjoyed reading about Miss Edna, and I worried about her whenever you mentioned that she was sick. And as Lucy/Roberta said, your son was fortunate to have his grandma so close by.

    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. What a lovely story about such a wonderful woman. I never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Edna, but I feel as though I knew her.

    Your love of Miss Edna, and indeed, your whole family, comes through in every word you write about them.

    All of your hearts go out to you and the family during this difficult time. Virtual hugs for all!

  11. Another delightful story to add to the others you shared with us about your amazing Miss Edna.

    Strong, funny women. Oh, how I adore them! Women who take enormous pride in who they are and aren't afraid to live their lives in their own unique way.

    My mother and her cadre of outrageous sisters have filled my life with drama and hilarity that I used to be embarrassed by when I was little. Now, I just sit back and enjoy the show.

  12. My sympathy to your entire family, Susan. I've enjoyed your mentions of Miss Edna on this blog and am glad her passing prompted you to share more about her and her wonderful attitude about life.

    I have a similar woman in my life--my 93-year-old Mom, who still shows the occasional glimmer of her life-of-the-party self despite the unwelcome guest of Alzheimers at her table. Looking at family photographs usually brings it out. A brief flash of recognition for a person, a place, a time prompts her to turn on her high-wattage smile, which still has the power to light a room.

  13. My condolences on the loss of Miss Edna. She sounds like a wonderful person.

    My paternal grandparents were Depression-era children. The kind who saw something they liked, or their grandkids liked, and bought it "because what good is the money going to be when you're dead?"

  14. What a wonderful Miss Edna story!

    When my Grandfather, Wilfred Osmond, turned 100 in 1999 over 200 people showed up for an open house for him at his senior's residence - he was adored by many. I think his longevity was partially due to his natural curiosity about people and world events. He died in 2002, a week after his 103rd birthday, he had lived in 3 centuries. Here's part of his story:

  15. Susan, my sincere condolences to you and your family for the loss of your precious Miss Edna.

    I grew up in a large family with multi-generations all part of the mix--and the antics of the 'elders' was at times an embarrassment, at others, an inspiration to the younger generations!

    A toast to all the Miss Ednas who enrich our lives with laughter and with love!

  16. I'm so glad to have known Miss Edna just a little as an online friend. I loved her wit and her spunk. I hope I make the most of my later years as she did.
    My role model was a hiking friend who died at 94. She hiked with us until 6 months before she died and her mantra was "Age is a number and mine is unlisted."

  17. Susan, so sorry for your loss. We came to know Miss Edna from your posts and it was nice to see photos of her. And it was especially nice to hear the story of that birthday party.

    Make good memories while you can. We are, when all is said and done, the sum total of our memories.

  18. "Age is a number and mine is unlisted" — love it! Seriously, I'm thinking we should do a JR pillow/tee-shirt collection.....

  19. A human life is a story told by God. ~Hans Christian Andersen

    Sorry for your loss. The people we love are never gone from us; the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.

  20. Susan, you and Noel and The Boy have my most heartfelt condolences on your great loss. What a lovely tribute to Miss Edna, and thank you for sharing her with us.

    We should all strive to be the kind of person who is so loved and so well-remembered.

  21. Susan I feel so blessed to have known Miss Edna through your stories. What inspiration! I too had someone like that in my life: my grandma. Up to the end she put on her bright Avon lipstick, and during the last 10 years of her life, when she had to carry an oxygen tank, she got on the bus every day in Seattle to go to the market, take swimming lessons or simply talk to others. It was at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and she taught me that no one should be exempt from compassion and understanding. Before she stopped drinking, her great advice to ten-year-old me was, "Never mix your liquors." I will forever picture her in her pretty housecoats (she was a wonderful seamstress) and mules - the housecoats always a little too short because she loved to show off her legs, even in her 70s! Wow, it felt good to remember her like that. Sending you lots of love today. Kim

  22. Condolences to you and your family. What a fabulous lady! I love her attitude. I've always said that when things go wrong on a trip or during a celebration, it always makes the best story even if it drives you nuts while it's happening!

    My parents are great role models for living life to the fullest. They have always been curious about the world, near and far, and they made sure their children saw things, read things, experienced things as much as possible. We never had much money, but they taught us to value experience over "things," and that continues to guide me today. I continue to feel that what I learn and do is more important than what I own. After all, you never see a U-haul behind a hearse! ;-)

  23. The few stories I've read about Miss Edna make me laugh. And I love her spirit in this one.

    Sounds like she truly was a special lady.

  24. Much sympathy to you and your whole family. Miss Edna sounds wonderful. I buried my 88 year old aunt on Tuesday. What a lot of history an 88 year old person holds! This week I have been going through her stuff -- and have found great treasures including letters. Give yourself time to heal.

  25. Thank you all so much for your kind words. And I love hearing about the larger-than-life people in your loves, too.

  26. should be "lives" -- but maybe "loves" was Freudian?

  27. Wow. What a lovely remembrance. Sounds like Miss Edna lived one of my favorite aphorisms: "Life should not
    be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body,
    but rather to skid in sideways,
    chocolate in one hand, RED WINE in the other, totally worn out
    and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!"

  28. What a lovely story, Susan. I'm so glad I got to know Miss Edna through your anecdotes.

    I've never had a Miss Edna in my life. I'd probably be better for it if I did.

  29. Ah..thank you so much for this.

    When my mom died, a few years ago, I was at her hospital bedside, and I was crying and crying.

    "Don't cry honey," she whispered. "It'll make your eyes puffy."

    Now I picture her with Miss Edna. They will adore each other.

  30. Hank, they're probably both drinking champagne with Joan Rivers.... : )