Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who Was Nancy Ann Craig Bumgardner?

Tomorrow morning, we will lay to rest my mother-in-law, Nancy Ann Craig Bumgardner. Most of the world will not notice, but I want to share with you just a little about who she was.

Nancy Ann Craig was born in Eldorado (El-door-ay-doe), Arkansas on March 13, 1940.

She lived most of her adult life in Louisiana, loved sports (especially football and NASCAR), the outdoors, animals (especially horses), flowers (especially roses), and Elvis.

Her favorite pro team was the Saints, and her favorite college teams were LSU and Arkansas. She felt torn each year when LSU and Arkansas played each other, and so she would wear a combination of their colors (purple, gold, and red ).

Her favorite drivers were Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

For the past 9 years (since Hurricane Katrina) she lived in Central Louisiana in a small town named Jena (Gina), and I spoke with her very often by phone.

When my wife’s stepfather (Mr. George) passed away a year and a half ago, we tried to convince her to come to North Texas, but after considering this for a while, she told us that she appreciated that, but we had our own lives, didn’t need to bother ourselves about her, and besides, she was very happy where she was.

She owned a modest mobile home, and was very excited when she made the final payment.
She had a handful of friends who helped her in various ways. Of these especially were Rosetta (who would drive her to the grocery store every Thursday, take her to the doctor or pharmacy when needed, and to her monthly trips to the beauty shop), Sonny (who was her handy man and took care of her lawn – she would tell us “Sonny can fix anything! He’s slow as Christmas, but he’s real good.”), and Chris (Sonny’s helper).

Sonny and Chris would visit her frequently to watch and discuss sports. She would cook for them when they came over and really appreciated their company. She affectionately referred to them as her men and would say that they were funny and made her laugh – “but, boy, can they eat!”

She would purchase little gifts and trinkets for her friends and family, especially her grandchildren. She had a mail order catalogue and would purchase these gifts as she could afford to, saving them for when she got a visit.

She did the same for my wife and for me, always trying to think practically for the gifts as well. One example: When we visited her in the hospital, we would stay at her home in the evenings. I found that she had several small but very bright reading lights. I told my wife that these seemed perfect for my Morning Prayer reading, and I would borrow one until I could get my own. That same day, she discovered 4 boxes of those very same lights. Each box had an initial on it – K,G,B, & M, our initials. When we opened them, we discovered that she also had put our initials on each of our lights with felt stick-on letters.

One step into her living room, and it’s obvious what her life was about. There are family pictures everywhere, and especially of her grandchildren. In just one section of wall about 4ft wide, I counted 24 pictures of them.

She was very sentimental as she held on to many things – it seems like almost everything – but especially from my wife’s childhood. We found lots of my wife’s baby things, kindergarten cap and diploma, report cards, etc., right through to her college days.

When she got excited she would quickly shift the weight back and forth between her left and right feet. We call this the Grandma Shuffle, and it might be inherited as we have seen our youngest do the same thing.

If she wasn't sure what to say, she would just say “whatever.”

When her food was ready in the microwave, she would not take it out until the digital readout displayed “Enjoy your meal.”

She was pretty thrifty and you would be surprised what she could do with aluminum foil. One of her aluminum foil inventions was a perfectly cut window shade for her door. She rigged it with a magnet clip to the door so that she could easily open and close it as needed.

She had a plastic ball with red tape mounted to a spring and attached to her mail box at the street. She would lift the aluminum foil shade and look out of her door window. If the ball was sprung up, she would know the mail arrived. She had limited mobility and did not want to waste a trip.

Until recently, we believed that she was in pretty good health for the most part. She had her annual physical in May and said the doctor just thought her blood pressure was a little high and wanted her to keep a record of it for a month.

Rosetta took her to the hospital on June 21 because she could not swallow anything, not even water. My wife and I were on the Marriage Encounter weekend when we received the phone call from Sonny. When I called her at the hospital, she said, “Sonny done went and called you didn’t he? I told him y’all were doing something important and didn't need to worry about me.”

That is how she was; more concerned about being a worry to anyone else than for herself.

We were originally told she had a very small tumor in her neck. Then, we learned it was esophageal cancer. She told me she wanted the surgeon (Dr. McCoy) to tell me about the surgery and what might happen during and afterward. The surgeon did not paint a nice picture, even if the surgery would go perfectly. The next time I spoke with her, she asked if Dr. McCoy told me everything. I said, “Yes.”, and she said, “Well, that’s that.” That was her way of saying she knew it wasn’t good but didn’t want to discuss it further.

The night before the surgery, she told me she was a little scared, but kept asking how Kendra was doing. She told me not to let Kendra worry too much.

She told us, well demanded really, that we not visit her until she was ready to get out of the hospital because there was nothing we could do at the hospital. We later found out that she told Sonny to relay the same thing to her friends.

When we did visit after things weren't going so well, she was unable to verbally communicate, but she was able to get her message across by other means such as pointing, nodding, and mouthing words. Once she asked where the children were. We told her the hospital would not allow them to visit, and that they were with my parents. She pointed to the door of the ICU room and clearly mouthed, “Go home!”

After the first surgery on July 3rd, she never made it out of the ICU. She had a very rough go of it that included many ups and downs, 5 surgeries, and countless procedures.

In the end, we were thankful to be at her side when she passed at 12:45 p.m. on September 5.

We are most thankful however, that she made a decision on July 23 to be baptized in the hospital. Afterwards, she was visited frequently by Fr. Bob of St Francis Xavier Cathedral, and by Fr. Taylor of St. Rita Parish. We were also there with her when Fr. Bob administered the Anointing of the Sick. These are of great comfort to all of us.

There are many different dynamics among family and in-laws. I spoke with Nancy very regularly. I called her “mom” and she liked that. But most of all, she was my friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment