Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
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This is the eulogy that I gave at my grandmother's funeral.

Tribute to Addie May

As a little boy, you tend to have certain constants in your life. Grandma was one of those for me. I always knew where to find her. So even though my conscious mind knew of her mortality, my spirit didn't want to accept this. In this way, the expected news of her passing was quite unexpected.

A picture of my Grandma The message arrived to me at work, and under those circumstances, I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. So I made a cup of tea … a sweet blend that reminded me of her love of a cup of honey with a little spot of Brigham tea in it. Ah, but I needed something more … one of Grandma's cookies would be just perfect, but of course, she had not be up to making cookies for many years, and while my sister Kim often imitates her recipe around Christmas time, her cookies were too good to last that long.

But Joseph Smith taught me that the substance of a ritual is not as important as the meaning behind it, so I popped off to the vending machine and found an oatmeal cookie that claimed to be Grandma's. With these in hand, I went down to my computer lab.

Now being alone in a room that sounded like a beehive, I began to muse upon my life with my Grandma…

You see, my life with Grandma began with my first inklings of sentience. When I was less than a toddler, my parents won a vacation to Hawaii. Those of you with children know that the last thing you want with you on a trip of that nature is a cranky year-old with a cold. So they did what most young parents do, they drop-kicked me over to Grandma's. She was so good to me. She would rock me to sleep in her oversized rocker, and sing nursery rhymes that she learned when she was a year old.

But this little Edenic Garden had a bit of a storm cloud. You see, I would cry every time I saw Grandpa.

A picture of my Grandma

But I was wearing Grandma's arm out, and so she pushed me into Grandpa's arms and said, "Take care of the boy, I can't hold him anymore." So howling like a wolf, he took me outside and showed me the sheep, the cows, and the chickens. And then we popped over to the raspberry bushes to sample a bit of the crop. Grandpa and I became good friends after that.

When my parents finally returned they made a small wager as to whom I would go to first, so when they came into the room, they got on either side of me and started calling. Well, I thumbed my nose at both of them and went to Grandma. I was Grandma's boy, and had been ever since.

Each year I would come down and spend most of the summer on the farm, jumping on the haystacks and scaring the chickens … oh yeah, and picking raspberries. Often I crossed the street where a little stream flowed through a small grove of trees. I know what you are all thinking and you're right, it was heaven for a little boy. I made little boats out of twigs and leaves and watched the dragonflies buzz around. One day I found a frog, and not just any frog. This was the largest frog in the world. It was nearly the size of me. Of course, I must say that the frog grew every year that Grandma told me this story. Well, it took me some time, but I finally caught it. It was beautiful. Smooth brownish green skin on one side and pale yellow on the other.

I was pretty proud of myself for catching the frog too, so I thought I'd bring him over so Grandma could admire him. As he had a bit of mud stuck on the top of his head, I carefully washed him off. I didn't want to show Grandma a dirty frog. Then I hefted this alien creature across the street, and at the bottom of the steps I started calling out for Grandma to come and see what I had. By the time she came to the door, I was up to the top of the steps with my last remaining strength hoisted him up for her to get a better view. I believe that most of you can imagine the joy that Grandma felt coming around the corner to see this foot-long frog. She screamed. Now I was surprised, so much so, I dropped the frog. When I finally got my composure and somewhat over my shock at Grandma's reaction, I started to cry and said, "Now look what you've done, you got him all dirty."

A picture of my Grandma

Well, each night I would sleep in Grandma's bed and we would talk most of the night. She would tell me stories about her childhood in Price, and what Leona said to Fern, and what Ernie did--usually telling me the same things every night. But that sort of thing doesn't matter to a young boy, what was so incredible was that she would just talk to me and give me her attention. That was more joy than any toy could give.

One summer I asked her to read me one of the books in her library. I had heard about a movie called Bambi (although I hadn't seen it), and found a book of the same title. It still surprises me that everyone knows of Disney's version, but no one knows of the book that it was based on. It was a 300 page novel that took all summer to read. It wasn't really a story of a deer and how his mother got shot, it was a story of the forest and of life. The story begins with Bambi born in the spring and walks him through his life until his death … in the winter. This story that illustrates the cycle of nature mirrors the journey that we all go through, for we are all players in this drama of life. It isn't Grandma that we cry for, it is for us. For we will miss her and her spunky character. And we will miss that part of us that goes with her.

A picture of my Grandma Many, many years later, Grandma had a series of strokes, so we moved Grandma into my dad's house and I dropped out of school to help take care of her--no, it wasn't that noble, I hated school, and I actually wanted a chance to repay her for her kindness to me as a child. I never realized it, but it was that bonding with me for so many years that actually gave me a greater self-esteem that helped me over the traumas of my life.

Well, it was during this time that she continued to tell me the stories that she used to tell me on the farm. Most of these stories I had quite forgotten. And just about every night after a dinner of tomato and cheese on a bit of toast … yes, most people would call that a sandwich, but since Grandma hated sandwiches, we had to remove the top slice of bread and call it tomato and cheese on a slice of toast. Anyway, after dinner Grandma would begin to tell me her stories, most of which she had already told me at breakfast. But it didn't matter, as the stories would change a little bit every time she told them. Especially the frog, it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

Addie May Simons

Born:1 May 1904
Place:Moroni, Utah
Died:2 Jan 1997
Place:Salt Lake City, Utah
Married: Curtis Barton Abrams
30 Oct 1923
Keith Simons
21 Aug 1955
Children: Jack Abrams
Clyde "Buddy" Abrams
Paul Abrams
Howard Abrams, Sr.

Seeing her in that state where she could barely walk (and for many months she couldn't even do that), I began to see this day. The day that she couldn't tell me those stories. So I set up a video camera in the corner of the room and began getting our sessions on tape. Of course, I had heard these stories so many times that I could often recite them better than she could, but if I didn't laugh on queue, she would think that I wasn't listening. So, if you watch our tapes, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain with the forced laugh.

While sitting alone in my lab sipping my tea, Grandma stopped by for a visit.

"What's all that on your face?"
"Oh hi, Grandma. It's a beard."
"What, do you want to look like Old Joe Bush?" she would always say.
"Don't worry, I'll shave before I get down to Utah. By the way, who is Joe Bush and why do I not want to look like him."

I never did get a good answer to that question, but it was good to talk to her.

"Honey," she would often say, "I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I don't want to die and get stuck down there in the ground."
"To tell you the truth Grandma, I really don't think you'll notice. However, if you want, after you're dead, stop by my place and live with me, and haunt me all you want."
"Oh honey, I wouldn't want to scare you."
"Grandma, you couldn't scare anyone … even if you wanted to."

Grandma, please come by and let's talk like we use to. For I have so many stories I want to hear and so much I want to say … but most of all, I want to say thanks. I love you and I miss you.

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Published Obituary for Addie May Simons

Addie May (Jo) Simons, beloved wife and wonderful mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and friend passed away peacefully from natural causes in Salt Lake City at 1:44 PM on Jan. 2, 1997. She was 92 years old and lived a truly exemplary life. She was an active life long member of the LDS Church and had many important callings in the Relief Society, Primary and Sunday School Auxiliaries.

She was born in Moroni, San Pete County, Utah on May 1, 1904 to Celestia and Andrew Oman. She was born into a large family of twelve children - six boys and six girls. She married Curtis Barton Abrams on Oct. 30, 1923 in Castle Dale, Utah. Shortly afterward, they moved to southern California where they lived for many years. They moved back and forth between California and Utah several times during their marriage, they finally moved back to Utah for good in 1950. One year after their return, her husband of 32 years passed away from a sudden heart attack on Oct. 28, 1951. After four years, she married Keith Simons on August 21, 1955. Together, they spent 30 wonderful years in the peaceful city of Salem, Utah. They loved every minute that they were together. He passed away on May 29, 1986.

She was preceded in death by two sons, one great grandson and her two husbands. She is survived by two sons, Jack Abrams of Price, Utah and Howard Abrams of Salt Lake City, Utah, one brother, Dorse Oman of Sandy, Utah, 13 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and 3 great, great grandchildren.

She was not only a model mother to her sons, each a shining example of the principles she taught them, but her legacy lives on in the lives of her posterity. In addition, she touched many more lives than just those in her own family. Everyone who knew her, knew of her love and caring. She always had kind and encouraging words to say and shouldered the burdens of others, as if they were her own. Whatever she possessed, she always shared generously with both her family and her friends.

Heaven also blessed her with many talents and she worked hard to develop them. Some of her well known talents included a wonderful singing voice and a natural ability in designing and making various types of arts and crafts. She was also well known for her talents in cooking and homemaking. She was especially loved for her hospitality. No one could ever visit her home without being offered something to eat - either a full fledge meal or at the very least a special desert or other treat. She would never allow her guests to refuse her food offerings.

With her beautiful alto singing voice she never passed up an opportunity to share it with others. She studied under BYU Professor, Dr. Robert Madsen and was a member of many outstanding choirs. She performed in hundreds of concerts and cantatas throughout the West, including many in the LDS Tabernacle on Temple Square. With her brother, they shared their talents at hundreds of funerals and church services, bringing much joy and comfort with their songs. She truly touched the lives of all who knew her.

It fitting that her funeral should be held in this beautiful Stake Center, because she and her late husband Keith donated the property upon which this building now stands.

For now and in the future, we will always remember her and love her and remember the principles that she stood for. And even though we are grateful that she has been released from the pain and suffering of old age and we draw comfort in the knowledge that she will now be with her loved ones who preceded her to the Spirit World, we will still miss her sweet spirit, her wonderful sense of humor, her quick wit and her never ending love. Oh how very much we will miss her.

A viewing was held at the Walker Mortuary, 187 South Main St., Spanish Fork, Utah on Sunday, January 5, 1997 between 6-8 PM. Funeral Services were held in the Salem Stake Center.