according to Merriam Webster, the definition of peace:
-a state of tranquility or quiet
-freedom from civil disturbance
-a state of security
-freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
-harmony in personal relations
she is at peace.
i’m not sure if she ever felt that emotion during her 91 years on this earth.
even just recently, learning more about her early life, while already knowing a great deal about her adult life, i would venture say that “peace” was a word, that she could not comprehend.
to live 91 years...
experiencing extensive hardships throughout life, one can only surmise how she overcame to live day by day.
as the oldest grandchild, i was privy to the closest environment that one could get, to the lives that my mom and aunts lived.
yet even so, my view of my grandma (Mum Mum) and my grandpa (Pap), could not be any more completely different than theirs.
so this is MY story of the woman that i love dearly. it cannot be and is not theirs, although a few parts might overlap with them.
some of the earliest memories that i have, take place at Mum Mum and Pap Pap’s house.
i would spend a lot of mornings at their house while my mom worked cleaning houses.
my grandma would make the two of us coffee, and we would drink that milk and sugar doused concoction from her pink melamine cups.
she would serve me scrambled eggs with ketchup. and i would stare at her huge terranium that sat next to her mustard color vinyl swivel chair in the dining room, from her avocado colored kitchen.
mum mum and i never had a lot of conversation in the early years.
she and my pap did not speak ( i saw them speak twice in my entire life).
and with the lack communication between them, our hours together, were also usually quiet.
but she never had to speak to me for me to understand her love for me.
she would feed me her hidden chocolates.
she would warm up the bathroom via the wall heater, and would indulge me in warm, zest soap scented baths, and would towel dry me with her best, freshly laundered, fluffiest towels.
she would lay with me and scratch my back and if i would move the slightest bit, she would start scratching again.
and oh, the leg aches i endured as a kid - she would rub my legs for hours to dull the aches.
i think mum mum needed a friend.
i think that the pain of the marriage that she suffered in, and the childhood that haunted her, somehow lessened on her soul, as she so tenderly cared for me.
i don’t know why.
my youngest aunt, my aunt renee is only 8 years older than me.
but mum mum treated me differently than even her.
i can only suppose that in me, she saw someone who was not in the middle of the chaos and disfunction that her life held.
i believe that she saw my young tender heart as a chance to see something soft, and to get close enough to touch it in all the ways that she could, to bring it into her own soul.
so my mum mum, became my first friend.
she would listen to me sing.
she would listen to my stories.
she opened her arms wide for the hugs and kisses i would shower her with.
she took me shopping (any kind of shopping would do!)
and she indulged me in my every wish or desire. (which truthfully, i never took advantage of…i just loved to spend time with her)
something about the pure untroubled life i had, and the way i shared it with her - i believe drew her in, close to me.
i remember her shaking like a leaf when my family moved from mckeesport to dubois (actually troutville…how’s that for a culture shock??)
but i remember that sometime around then, she drew up the courage to leave my pap, and to begin a life on her own.
mum mum never had a driver’s license, so she found a thrift store to work in, that she could walk to from her house.
when that closed, she went on to work at the famous Minerva’s bakery on 5th ave in mckeesport.
as i grew older, the communication between mum mum and i opened up.
over shopping trips to the thrift stores, and long lunches at the local chinese restaurant,
i asked her many questions about her childhood, marriage and life.
mum mum shared shared openly with me.
i’m sure not revealing the parts that were locked inside her soul, but she shared a lot.
and because of that, i learned a lot from that petite, strong, johnny bull irish woman.
and over the years, as my own troubles in life entered in, mum mum’s house in mckeesport, was the place i would run to, to seek solace and comfort.
she would listen to me without judgement.
she would beg me not to cry, but to be strong.
she would cram $20 fisted bills into my hand... she would send me cards…
she would pass on her jackets and shoes to me (we wore the same size and the woman had style!)
and quite honestly, mum mum became a very strong force in my life.
she kept me going, would not allow me to quit, and even when i lost my dad, then bill, she was the one who stood beside me... her frail, arthritic arms supporting me, telling me…”keep it together joelle, you can do this.”
i knew i could.
she always reminded me.
but i let my pain out, unlike her, who held it all in.
mum mum never let anything stand in her way of surviving or doing what she felt she needed to do.
living 2 1/2 hours away, she found a way every single time, to be at all of my shows, performances, pageants, and anything that was important to me.
and when i was in mercy hospital for 3 weeks carrying london (with placenta abruption), mum mum would start out early in the morning to catch bus after bus (she HATED buses), to come visit me.
she would show up with flowers and would sit with me for hours on end, before having to leave to make the dreaded bus trips home, ALONE.
i know she had to be unbelievably strong in her life, and she internalized it, so she was a quiet person.
just today, her sister told me, that their mom told them that they never had a choice to not be strong, because life would not stop while they felt sorry for themselves. and her mom would say “You keep going, no matter what comes your way!”
mum mum lived that.
i have never seen her cry, nor have i ever heard her even hum a tune, let alone sing.
i’ve seen her laugh, but never without guarded reservation.
i have observed her generous heart in so many ways, but i have never witnessed a peaceful heart in her, even after she gave her life to jesus.
mum mum lived a wounded life for many reasons, many of which i know, but probably most of which, i can only speculate.
and even at the end, until the very end, she fought and struggled agains many many hurtful odds.
finally at the very end, they found her ways to make her comfortable,
yet she fought to give up. she fought and fought…against any normal odds, until the very end.
and now, she is at peace.
will i recognize her when i see her true smile in heaven?
for it will be REAL! - released from life’s anguishes.
i believe i will recognize it, because i believe that she let me see pieces of it…tiny pieces…
so i will know it!
will she jump for joy, for the first time ever?
i believe she will!
and she will cry in heaven…for the first time…unbridled, vulnerable, tears of joy.
she will be whole, body and mostly SOUL.
she will finally be June (that is her given name…she wasn’t born mum mum in case you wondered!)
in full bloom, free of burdens and chains, wrapped up in the grace only HE can give…His amazing grace.
publicly, i need to speak of mum mum’s daughters.
all 4 of them, one of which is my very own mother.
i will not dare to tell the story of their lives, but i will say this.
to care for, fight for, look after, endure every obstacle for her, and to stay by her side with unending love, after everything….
i stand one very proud daughter and niece.
i am priveleged to call these 4 strong women (are you surprised they are strong???) my family, and can only dare to think that the amazing, enduring qualities that they have exhibited over their lives, and particularly at the end, have a lot, come from the good strong places in mum mum.
she DID give 4 beautiful women that.
i see it.
and i see jesus in each of them.
his forgvieness and grace extended in ways that leave me honored to call them my family.
peace is not easily found.
often times, it is fought desperately for.
June Marie Stearns-Salvi, you were a wounded warrior for most of your life.
you fought, were wounded and sought healing.
today, my precious mum mum, you are there.
and do you know what?
that you gave UP THE FIGHT to reach out for a peace that you have never ever known, is what i am most proud of.
even at the very end, you showed your courage!
"The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It is not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell
No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, "I AM"
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb" - No More Night