Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
“Remember to Do Good and You’ll Never Regret Being Kind”
There’s always all the usual stuff families say about their loved ones when sharing an obituary; timeline dates and formal names, parents and siblings, cities of birth, their kindness, their strength, their intelligence, their love for our Lord, their hobbies, their career, their children – oh don’t forget all those incredible children, grandchildren and even great grands. And then of course there are the beautiful nieces and nephews, and the children and friends of the heart, who all became family over the years. Usually included is a heart-breaking comment for those preceded in death, especially loving spouses and precious grandbabies that stand out, as if printed in bold, so the heart of the reader doesn’t fail to take note. There’s often a good nod for lengthy years of wedlock to a lifetime partner whose military career and service to country, created world class friendships over the years, marking lasting memories on both U.S. and foreign soil. Special mentions often include charities, recognitions, and awards to highlight the events of life elevated to wonderful achievements and successes. A closing section about formal services, holy rosaries, and church receptions with invitations that all are welcome, conclude such public notifications.
This written and informal history will hopefully capture the essence of our mother and mentor and the first prayer partner each of us were blessed to have guide us. She taught us to memorize the prayers of our faith and helped us to understand their importance so they would sustain us in life. She reinforced her teachings using the older children to train the younger ones; each has done their part in helping another to follow her example. The prayers have been a constant companion and source of support for each of us and will continue to keep us connected to God, the Blessed Mother, our faith, and each other.
Our lifeline to the world started in 1946 following mom’s marriage to our father, with several subsequent “major family events” (our births) over the years. So close your eyes and picture this as we journey back in time a little bit: California, in the summer of 1947, Midge ad Dick were a young military couple short on money and long on love, welcoming their first born daughter, Janice Marie into the world. Janice was a beautiful little girl filled with laughter and love. She was a trend setter’s trend setter before that was a thing. She was daring and bold with new adventures at hand. She had to break in those new parents and do it up grand! Janice followed her heart for the Lord and enhanced that with formal schooling. She grew up to be an amazing woman dedicating her time and talent to the Catholic church and having a large and extended family of her own; but aahhh we digress – that is a story for another time. Janice and Mom and Dad became almost immediate nomads with the U.S. Air Force sending them off to Tacoma, WA. It was much too soon for such a young couple with a precious little baby to be so far away from family and friends. But they did as ordered and off they went. California sun left behind, gave way to the notorious and well-known Washington rain and drizzle and rain and drizzle and …Time passed and when asked, Mom loved to share her memory of the gloomy apartment and long walks in the rain with Janice in the baby stroller trying to get some fresh air in the closest thing to a park, the local cemetery.
In typical military fashion, military orders sent them packing and on their way to Montana. Mom and Dad decided it was also time to expand their family, and in the spring of 1951, Steve (Richard Steven) evened up the team: 2 parents and 2 kids. Midge and Dick were still a cute young couple with 2 adorable children and love as wide as the Montana horizon. Steve grew up with an incredible sense of humor generously lavished on the family. He sported a fun and outgoing spirit; readily laughed deeply and loudly, showcasing a smile as broad as the sky. Steve was the friendliest of friendly, with a huge heart for the Lord. His Bible is always readily at hand as is a good jar of his fresh honey. He too has a growing and extended family of his own with new ones still arriving.
But alas a cowboy’s lifestyle was not meant to be: 1952 -- the military said it’s time for move number 3. Away from the wild west they trotted to start up a home in the destination Mom most loved. New Mexico held her heart the entire 94 years of her life; one of the most beautiful places she’d ever seen. She loved her life there with her military man and her two little sidekicks. And just as they were really settling in with church and catholic school and a great little town, the military orders had them foreign country bound. Packing and planning and arrangements were all made to accommodate the little family of four -- with one on the way. Destination: Germany 1955. Just a few months in when flowers start to bloom; weighing in at 5 lbs and several weeks too soon, Marc Anthony arrived in a rush. Mom being Mom, she was very unsettled leaving her baby in the care of others. This tiny bundle caused quite a stir in the household until he was finally brought home to meet his waiting family. Marc followed in the footsteps of his older siblings finding his spot in the growing family; quick with humor and long on good story telling. He was especially kind to animals: his pet frog, Mary who lived under the house as well as saving the tiniest of puppies brought home in his letterman jacket. Frosty was a much loved and treasured family member. Marrying his high school sweetheart, he grew up encouraging faith, the arts and sports in his children and is enjoying the fruits of a large and expanding family.
Midge and Dick moved around a bit while in Germany; doing what the military requires – being highly adaptable to change and transition. They welcomed the opportunity to learn about the culture of the country and taught their children to explore and bloom wherever they were planted. And it seemed they were still missing one little bud. Early spring 1957, just in time for Mom to have a hearty breakfast following a job well done, Midge and Dick bundled up baby number 4: Andee (Andrea Lynn). The siblings squeezed together to make room for another: on the couch, in the car, and at the table. Andee always tried to keep up with the others, encouraged to do what they were doing: building forts, chasing kids, riding bikes, jumping off the roof - because they told her she could. She too found a spot in the ever-expanding family. Andee easily shared her love for the Lord, brightened and colored her world with flowers, music and prose; raised a family of her own and readily welcomed many others into her home.
Time passed quickly and all too soon Midge and Dick found themselves living in a place so cold they just couldn’t stay. Maine 1958: Mom’s first thoughts – Maine froze their hands, their feet and their toes; snow piled so high they requested an immediate transfer. They couldn’t get out of there fast enough! 1959 Midge and Dick were living some of the best years of their life. Sent to Izmir, Turkey and what a delight it was for the whole family. Welcomed by and into Turkish families, they fully embraced the culture; often playing in the ruins where the Apostles walked and visiting the home of the Blessed Mother Mary. The four rowdy, rambunctious, and happy Holmes siblings learned the importance of life outside the U.S., deep and lasting friendships, family, and love. And Pistachios! All those fresh pistachios!!
1961 found Midge and Dick were stateside again, purchasing their very first (and only) family home, and raising their kids in a wonderful little city on the outskirts of town. University Place has been ‘home’ to Midge for sixty plus years. Mom liked to plan and prepare but readily welcomed the unexpected in any circumstance. Last minute guests at the dinner table felt fully welcomed, as if she had known they were coming, generously sharing the already planned and cooked meal to effortlessly ensure there was enough food for all. She was highly adaptable which turned out to be a very good thing as another delivery was about to make its arrival. In the winter of 1964, our ‘little’ brother was born. Hello number five!! They really were head over heels happy (and probably hoping this would be the last one). Midge was very particular this time when choosing this sweet baby’s name. It had to be very, very special. Dean for the first name to be followed by Paul after Pope Paul! Dean Paul! There was no changing that!!!
Dean slept with our parents until bedrooms were shifted. Midge was so delighted with this baby son; he seemed to get whatever he wanted. Mom gave him her heart, and he loved her to pieces right from the start. Dean was very clever and wise beyond years. He easily belonged and worked his way into everyone’s hearts with his sweet little actions and adorable little boy grin. Dean grew up a perfect blend and mixture of all those around him; an incredible sense of humor with the right amount of mischief. Kindness and goodness are the stepping-stones on which he has raised a beautiful family of his own.
Not long thereafter in 1964, Dick received orders to go to Japan. The family elected to stay behind. It was a very hard time as you can imagine. With a new little baby, four more children and her elderly father to manage and only a very elderly uncle in town, she literally had no other assistance to help her cope. The household budget was tighter than tight and spending very wisely to stretch every single dollar was mission critical for this hungry family. She cooked every day, but her specialty and gift of service was providing big Sunday meals for the elderly uncle to help him along. In a single word, Midge did what a military wife does – everything!! She was unstoppable, unshakeable, and courageously strong. Looking back, we marvel at the woman she was and wonder – just how in the world did she manage to do so much, for so long and for so many?!
Midge had several more moves to make: 1966 California, 1967 Virginia and March 1968 finally back home to Tacoma. The duties of a military wife grandly fulfilled. Midge didn’t know it at the time, but one more boy would lay claim to calling her mom. 1981 our last sibling would join the Holmes family. Mom and Dad’s foreign exchange student turned into a lifelong son. Fernando came from worn torn Nicaragua, in need of some stand-in parents. He was quiet and shy and hesitant to speak English but with mom’s strong encouragement (persistence) he learned if he wanted to go out with friends, clearly repeat after her speaking the words exactly as she pronounced them, was his quickest way out. He also learned how to make the perfect bed with military corners, keep Mom on her toes with his great sense of humor and quick wit; as well as how to hold her heart forever, even when he left this family to go back home. Fernando grew up leaving his incredible mark on our hearts, knowing we loved him. He included some of his cultural experiences with us to nurture and develop a beautiful family of his own.
Midge, Mom, Medgey, Magdalena, Mama, Grandma, GGMA, Big Mama, Giant Mama … so many names for one wonderful, beautiful, incredible woman.
Mom’s lifeline and life’s lessons are strung throughout the lives of everyone she touched. She loved God first and foremost and was proud of her Byzantine Catholic faith rooted in her Ukrainian upbringing. She was always the advocate for the underdog and reached out to help others whenever she saw the need. She was a lifelong learner, voracious reader, eager to explore computers when they first came on the scene and readily whipped out her iPad and cell phone to catch up: text messages, see what’s happening in the news globally and locally, dive into a new online book, create and print hundreds of cards and letters for all occasions, and since covid, participate in Mass online. She was always grateful for the changes in science and the world at large which improved the activities of our daily lives. She was amazed at these changes, and often pondered what in the world could possibly be coming next?!
Mom was always thinking of others and what might make them happy. First Day of School Photos for the Teachers where she worked became a tradition which so many have commented over the years how much they loved that day with her – and how much they miss it now. It became the ‘Midge Tradition’. Mom loved traditions – especially those associated with Christmas, Church, Anniversaries, Holidays, calling to sing happy birthday to you on your birthday, and Friday phone calls with her very dear niece, Karen. Mom taught us to care for others outside ourselves and seek to find ways to please and help those around us.
Mom literally traveled the world with Dad and her kids throughout her military life and thereafter, however she also continued to travel extensively through television programs and the adventures others took on their vacations then sharing their stories and photos with her. She was amazed at all there is to see and do in this great world of ours, and the wonder of it all.
Mom was not able to provide her children with an active and present grandmother in their daily lives, so she made it a top priority to make sure all her grandchildren knew she loved each and every one of them, as if they were the only one. She saw the strengths and the beauty in all of them and when opportunity presented, she guided and nudged all of us in a patient and loving way. She encouraged us to ‘always do good’ and reminded us we would ‘never regret being kind’.
Mom welcomed and loved a good hot cup of coffee with the cream just right. Her eyes lit up every time a cup of coffee was offered, or a mocha was given to her as a simple surprise. She loved car rides and flowers and the trees surrounding the back deck. She loved that her children and grandchildren make piroghi and sing the Shvyatay Nikolai song just for her. She loved her family and her little dog, Jax. She loved being loved and giving love in return. Mom loved being hugged and most recently made sure it was known.
Midge’s family thinks the world of her. There is no mountain they wouldn’t climb for her and no song they wouldn’t sing for her. They have years and years and even more years; an absolute abundance of treasured memories stored in their hearts just yearning to be told and retold. There are so many things that cannot be conveyed right here, but if you really want to know Midge – her children, born to her or brought to her through marriage, and her grandchildren, highly encourage you to please ask us. We would love the chance to brag about our incredible mom/grandmother!!
Please join us in celebrating her life on this earth and her admittance to eternal life in Heaven, with all the angels and saints, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have gone before us; including her loving and amazing husband which whom she was reunited on their 76th wedding anniversary. Yes, oh yes … God certainly does work in mysterious and beautiful ways! Hallelujah and Amen! We love you, MOM!!!
Written In Loving Memory by Andee Holmes Handeland on behalf of Janice, Steve, Marc & Dean.
August 26, 2022