Her generous spirit made her that way, willing to take in us stray kids, too young for bars but too old to hang out in parks without getting busted. She loved us and we called her Mama Jill. She lived a little rough, loved her drink and her smokes, but man, that heart of hers. It was miles wide.
Until you crossed her and then she would turn into a wild cat. Some of the fights she and Joe had became legend. Like the time she threw all the clothes from his underwear drawer out on the lawn to mingle with the leftover carne asada she chucked out there too.
It did not ever occur to me that she was not too much older than I until recently. I met her at 18, right before Tim and I got together. Her sons are my age, she had her oldest in her early teens. Jay and Brett are some of the best men I know, solid and steady. Then she had Stevie later, her little girl, her baby.
She received the Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis in November. It was a total shock to everyone. Dizzy spells sent her into the hospital and she came home shortly after and chose hospice. I had an afternoon with her about two months ago...Tim entertained the boys with her horses and pig and giant back yard while she told me about pain and sores and pharmacists worried about her morphine intake lest she become addicted. She was glad to be at home, glad for the nurses and doctors that came to her, laughed a little at the make shift panic button her husband and boys had installed in all areas of the house. But it sucked, you know. We talked about that too. How much it sucks to be in so much pain, to have to say goodbye to your children and your husband...how much it just plain sucked. And then we laughed as she described the memorial she was planning for herself down to every detail.
Saturday there was a huge tent, a taco truck, her favorite rock band, a beautiful cake, kegs and a full bar. Because that is how that woman rolled. She ordered the family to talk about her for a little bit, then leave it and get drunk. And have some fun. It might have felt like a wedding except for the black table clothes and the frequent tears. It was hard, it was hardest when I thought about her as a Mama...when I hugged Stevie and felt that loss flow over me. But we were all there, those kids that we had been now morphed into spouses and parents and we talked about those days, when we had nowhere to go and Mama Jill took us in. She was and is one the greatest examples of a Mama.
Wild and funny and strong and stubborn and fearless and brash and loving and good. Oh, so good.
Miss you, Mama Jill. We love you very very much.