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Jerry Gumbert » Uncategorized Steve Safran's MediaReinvent
  • Saying Goodbye To Mom

    September 5th, 2014

    Maxine Ann Gumbert.

    You don’t hear the name, “Maxine,” much these days. Her father gave it to her in 1930. His name was  Paul Max Hinckley, our grandpa. Grandma wouldn’t let him  name his oldest sons, Paul or Max.  So, he named his two daughters after him: PAUL-ine and MAX-ine.

    And her life began……

    But, it doesn’t end today.

    Yes, a great tree has fallen and opened an empty place in the sky.
    Our North Star, our brightest light has dimmed.
    The blooming flower of our family has laid down.
    The last page has painfully turned.


    We must turn dry the tears in our eyes.
    We must swallow the lump caught in our throats.
    We must leave behind us the sadness of her death.
    For death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity and death is not her last sleep, but her last and final awakening.

    Death does leave us heart-broken and the hole is large. But, love… a mother’s love, blesses us with memories and strength to walk forward. The cracks in our hearts will let the light shine through. We are on our feet, mom, catching our breaths, and we will go forward. We shall forever carry you with us, for you are permanently stitched in the tapestry of our lives as we were in yours. We know we will not walk alone because you left your footprints in our hearts.

    And like you, we choose God and family above all.

    Mom knew no spotlight. She chose to let it to shine on others while she cheered on the sidelines. She was unassuming and probably the last person you would notice in a room, but the one you would enjoy talking to the most. She was real. She was very comfortable with herself. She was highly personable, easy to talk to and, well, pretty darn stubborn when she wanted to be. She was an expert practical joker and funny. Quick-witted funny. Clever funny. And, fun.

    Mom loved to laugh. She was a happy person and she loved to listen to or watch things that made her laugh. As children, she introduced us to Bill Cosby. She bought his comedy records and we would listen to them over and over again. Together. As a family. She was also “into” Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and the Smothers Brothers like today’s kids are into One Direction, Beyonce and Lady Gaga. They made her laugh and it was so wonderful to have a mother who laughed all the time.

    Then there was Erma Bombeck. Mom loved Erma Bombeck. She wrote a newspaper column about Midwestern housewives called “At Wits End” and mom read every one of them. Bombeck wrote best selling books, too. Books like “The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank” and “If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?” She kept those books for her entire life.

    A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take mom to see the Smothers Brothers and Bill Cosby. I had tears in my eyes – not from the comedians, but getting to watch and listen to her bust out laughing.

    We loved her sense of humor.

    The greatest advantage a mother can give her children is love. Unconditional love. A mom is one of the only places you can find it. A few years ago I read a poem about mothers. It goes something like this:

    A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us; when troubles thicken around us, still she clings to us, and kindly she counsels us to help dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.

    Unconditional love is all we know from her. And, of course the words, “you wait until your father gets home!” For sixty years, from 1954 to 2014, she let her children stand on her shoulders, or in my case, carried me on her back. Family was her prize. It defined her in every way.

    And, she was always there. Hundreds of little league games. Years of high school football games. And yes, one “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” school play. That’s love. She was my good luck charm in little league. I played shortstop and she sat five feet behind third base at every game. So every time I looked to my right, she would be there. To cheer a good play, or more times than not to cheer me up after throwing the ball over the first baseman’s head. There. From her, I learned to be there for my family and friends. Other than my children, it is the single greatest gift I have ever received.

    Mom wasn’t the type of person who wanted a “legacy.” She just wanted a family.

    She had five kids in nine years. The first four, Chip, Phil, me and Patty were born in five years. Bill was born four years later. It was a difficult pregnancy, so she stopped at five.

    And, thank God she did!

    Chip had polio when he was two years old. So, little brother Phil made a living from pushing him down all the time. I was late to dinner every night and dad would blow a gasket every time. Patty was the perfect one. The only child to ever have her own room… and we all still resent it. Bill shared a bedroom with Chip and learned very quickly that “life isn’t fair.” And it isn’t.

    Mom was no helicopter parent. She loved us instead. In a lot of ways, she taught us to love ourselves. Now, it took decades, and some of us are probably too good at it now…. But, mom did spend a lot of time motivating and course-correcting us…and it was a full-time job.

    But, we are who we are because of mom. And, I am so proud to have been her son and a brother to her children. To us five kids, Mom was a lighthouse. The guidepoint for our lives especially when we felt most lost. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “friends are angels who lift us up when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

    She must have been talking about our mom.

    I saw mom two days before she died. I brought her favorite chair to the nursing home. When I picked her up to move her from the bed to the chair, her eyes connected to mine and we had a “moment.” When I sat her back down, she put both of her hands on my face, leaned forward and gave me a great big kiss…right on the lips. It took my breath away. She looked up and said, “I haven’t had a kiss like that since dad was here!”

    Life is measured by moments that take your breath away. Dad did that in 9th grade. Mom took his breath away, too. They were high school sweethearts, went off to college and nursing school, received their degrees and got married in 1953. “Some people come into our lives, touch our hearts, and we are never the same.” That was their love story.

    Dad was the only man mom ever loved. She loved him for 70 years. If there was ever a marriage made in Heaven, it was theirs. They were devoted, loving and an example of what a husband and wife should be for all us. Mom grew up with a lot of arguing in the house and she promised herself that her home would be different. Mom never argued with dad. Ever. She loved him too much to be so little.

    Here’s a news flash: Mom got pregnant on her wedding night. Or did she? Chip was born exactly one day shy of nine months after her wedding date. Some of us have been suspicious about the actual conception date, and we kidded her for years about it. 18 months later Phil was born. Yep, mom was pregnant for 18 of her first 25 months of marriage!

    Mom and dad believed in family and for the next forty plus years taught us the true meaning of life…love and family. First hand, we saw things like “unconditional love,” “sacrifice,” “hard work and responsibility,” and “faith.”

    Today, we stand here as a family with deep convictions about those things because of them.

    Into each charmed life some rain must fall. And it did on the morning of August 20, 1997. The love of her life. Her world. Her everything. Was suddenly gone. Dad’s death was devastating to all of us, and it crushed her heart. I don’t think she ever really got over his death and the loneliness. How could you?

    She lived 17 years and 10 days after dad died. She missed him and talked about him every day. Every day until Saturday, the day she died.

    That’s love. True love. Epic love.

    No one has ever measured, not even the poets, how much a heart can hold. But, our hearts are filled with her love and memories of a lifetime.

    Her beauty is a reflection of all of life’s moments – love, joy, and sorrow. Mom taught us about the first two and in death, we now know the third, “sorrow.”

    Mom, I know a son only holds his mother’s hand for a little while, but I will hold on to your heart for the rest of my life.

    You are the star in the sky. And when we look up, we know you will always be there.

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  • Perspective Is EVERYTHING

    March 16th, 2014

    Today was an interesting day.  Here are just a few of the things that happened to me (all true):

    • I woke up with a headache
    • I cut myself shaving
    • The power went out while I was taking a shower and never came back on
    • Both my computer and cell phone were dead when I went downstairs
    • I had no way to contact the electric company about our power
    • Someone took my cell charger, so I couldn’t charge my phone
    • I went to pack my bags for an out-of-town trip I and didn’t have any black socks
    • I got into my truck only to find the gas gauge below “E” — compliments of one of my kids
    • It took me 20 minutes to find a parking place at the airport
    • I sat on a fully loaded airplane for 30 minutes before the flight was cancelled due to a hydraulics problem
    • We deplaned and were told that our new plane was not at the A Terminal and we needed to go to the D Terminal
    • The flight attendant was a jerk and wouldn’t help a passenger with her luggage
    • We finally departed two hours late
    • During the flight, I learned that Michigan State soundly beat Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game costing the Wolverines a Number One seed

    It is 5:30 pm, so I don’t know what this evening will bring.   Ugh!

    Still, each day is determined not by what happens to us, but by what we choose to focus on.  Here are a few other things that happened to me today (all true):

    • I woke up.  Some people did not.
    • I woke up with my arm around the most beautiful woman in the world, my wife
    • Saturday night ended with no problems involving the kids (six kids in six states right now)
    • I shaved with a $6 razor blade — the best you can buy
    • I showered in hot water — at any temperature I wanted it to be
    • Unlike many, I live in a house that has electricity
    • Unlike even more, I have a computer and cell phone to charge
    • I am going out-of-town because I am lucky enough to have a job — something I love
    • Gas is 75 cents a gallon cheaper than it was a year ago
    • Fortunately, the pilot identified the problem with the landing gear before we tried to land
    • My flight was rescheduled and I will get to my location this evening instead of tomorrow
    • I got the exercise I needed walking through Terminals A and D
    • I had the opportunity to assist a woman with two broken feet put her luggage in the overhead compartment
    • I am posting this using WIFI on the airplane – it makes work and life easier
    • The U of M won the Big Ten Regular Season Championship — their first outright title in 28 years — they will be a Number Two seed at The Dance.

    Every day our happiness is determined by what we think and how we react to the world we live in.  We all have a choice.  Plus, I really don’t like black socks anyway.

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  • A Leader and Believer

    August 18th, 2012

    Robert Ratliff is 22 years old.  I have known him for nearly all of them.  I watched him learn to play baseball and earn his way into the Little League World Series when he was 12 years old.  I watched him bury his father (and my dear friend) the following spring.  I watched him learn to play football and at quarterback lead Nolan Catholic High School to the State Championship — a big deal in Texas football land.  And, I watched his disappointment when college recruiters didn’t call.

    Through it all, all of it, Robert did not quit.  He never felt sorry for himself. He never stopped believing.  Never.

    Two weeks ago his mother, Patti, his rock and his everything suffered a tragic brain aneurysm. She is still in ICU and critical condition.  Robert and brother John have been at her side ever since.  Last night, they returned to Oxford.   The first day of classes are on Monday – Robert is a senior and John is a sophomore.  Both are walk-on football players at Ole Miss.  Robert is a quarterback and John is a wide receiver.

    This morning they attended a team football meeting and practice.  At the end of the team meeting, Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze asked Robert to stand up.  Time stood still for a few seconds and then it happened.

    He awarded Robert Ratliff a Division I Football Scholarship for his senior season.  A dream come true.

    In God’s glory, he has walked through life, step-by-step, with an unyielding commitment to being “the very best he can be.”  He is not the tallest or fastest guy on the field – ever.  But, this young man’s heart is unmatched.  His  passion for competition and victory burns deeply.  His love for coaches and teammates is true.

    In so many ways, Robert Ratliff is a champion and a role model to all of us.  For more than six years he was told he couldn’t play D1 football.  But, for six years Robert believed.  Believed in God.  Believed in himself.  Believed in what his dad had always told him – “You Gotta Believe.”

    Robert Ratliff,  we all congratulate you.  We salute you.  We are in awe of you.  We love and adore you.  We believe in you.

    And, no one believes in you more than your mother, our Patti.

    And his journey is just beginning.

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