Linda Wimmers, the mother of my childhood best friend Andrea, died of kidney cancer last week. I attended her funeral today. I want to tell you about her in part because I loved her and will miss her very much, but also because she was just the kind of “working mom against guilt” I would like to be.
I met Linda when I was in the sixth grade. I was 11, Andrea was 11 and Linda was 38. At the time, she was not much older than I am now (32). Andrea and I were the fastest of friends and spent many hours goofing around at her house.
Linda, then “Mrs. Wimmers” to me, struck me as the coolest mom ever. She didn’t get in our business when we had long, intense conversations about boys or other pre-teen silliness, but she was more than happy to have us join her in the kitchen to chat, play games and snack on the endless supply of goodies at their house. She was funny, fun and smart at math! Which came in handy, since math was my weak spot. Mrs. Wimmers worked as a math teacher at a local Catholic high school, and at night and on weekends, she was our on-call personal tutor.
Among the many reasons Mrs. Wimmers was the “cool mom,” in my book:
- She let me crash their family pizza night whenever I wanted. And I did–often.
- She always made sure the hot tub was full and running when my friends and I spent the night, so we could boil ourselves in it and then plunge into the snow. Sometimes in the buff!
- She invited me to come along for a family trip to Gatlinburg when I was in the eighth grade. Heaven!
- She talked and acted more like one of the girls than the detached, annoyed mother that you might expect when obnoxious teenagers are running rampant throughout your home.
As I got older, Mrs. Wimmers became more than just my best friend’s mom to me. I grew to look up to her, confide in her and really think of her as my “other mom.” Not that my actual mom was absent or lacking in any way. Linda was just such an amazing mother figure, and I spent so much time with her, that she filled that role quite naturally. So I was lucky enough to have two moms who loved me, looked out for me and were there to listen.
Andrea and I grew into adults, but remained the best of friends. Linda (no longer “Mrs. Wimmers” to me) also remained my other mom, but morphed into my friend, too. She was our travel companion to Italy when we were studying abroad in college, and it was the absolute time of our lives. I’ll never forget drinking wine and eating chocolate on an Italian beach with Linda, toasting Easter and the joy of living.
After college, when Andrea moved away, Linda and I would hang out sometimes. She’d take me to dinner or lunch or drinks, and we talked about Andrea or our other friends, or just life stuff. I always looked forward to spending time with her, because she had this way of making you feel special. She laughed heartily at your jokes. She hugged without reservation. She was one of a kind.
As I became a mother (and later, Andrea did too), I began to realize what a great role model Linda was for us. She worked most of the years she was a parent, and was recognized as one of the best and most popular teachers at her school. She gave her time and money generously to people in need, from her own family members to total strangers a world away. Oh yeah, and the lady knew how to have a good time. She partied harder than any mom I know, had more friends than I could imagine and had a social calendar that was booked solid. Laughter was her trademark.
All the time though, her family was number one. No question. She loved her husband and her children fiercely, and family time was sacred.
At her visitation and funeral, her family and friends remarked about how “lucky” and “charmed” Linda felt all her life, being the recipient of so many blessings and such happiness. But what I think we all learned was that it wasn’t luck or charm. Linda made her own destiny by embracing life and others with open arms. Smiling at each new day. Loving without expectations or conditions. She created a life for herself that she enjoyed and lived fully, right up until the end.
That is the kind of working mom, and person, I would like to be. I will always be grateful for having known and been loved by Linda. I hope she will still keep an eye out for me, wherever she is, and keep me on track to being more like her.