The best thing you'll read all week

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Staff Writer Tim Mullaney
Staff Writer Tim Mullaney

My grandmother passed away on Sept. 1. In the days since, those who knew and loved her have celebrated her life and mourned her passing together — and, amazingly, we also have received an outpouring of well wishes from many, many people who have never met us and never knew “Pink” Mullaney.

Grandma Pink was a world-class letter writer, but she wasn't much of a computer person and never even got on the email bandwagon. So I'm sure she would be somewhat confounded at this turn of events: Her obituary has been picked up by websites such as the Huffington Post and The Onion's “A.V. Club,” and has been read and shared thousands of times, prompting hundreds of comments. (The Huff Post called her obit the best thing you'll read all week — I lifted the title in a shameless bid to get you to read this.)

As her obituary says, my grandmother was constantly introducing her family to new people. So I think it's fitting and terrific that she's now “introducing” us to so many strangers yet again.

She also was not a person who craved the limelight, so I'm hesitant to pile on by posting her obit one more time. But I would like to share it here on McKnight's for a few reasons.

For one, it has some practical advice about pantyhose and possums, which I'd like to pass on as a service to our readers.

Also, my grandmother was a regular visitor at nursing homes and, as the obit says, she was always quick with a hug and kiss. Her passing is a loss to many people at nursing homes in Milwaukee. I've thought of her while on the job here at McKnight's. I think it's especially important to think of her when a troubling story surfaces, and it's tempting to be jaded about the state of elder care or the motivations of certain companies or people. In the future, I'm sure I'll remind myself even more often that Grandma Pink (who was herself a nurse, though she didn't work at a nursing home) is representative of many people in the long-term care community — people who are warm, humble, idealistic and devoted to serving others.

So that's why I want to share this remembrance of Pink. And I encourage you to do something nice today for the people like her whom you know, who might be volunteers or care workers in your facility or community, or who are simply inspirations to you in the work you do. (And, if you're so moved, share comments about them!)

Mary A. “Pink” Mullaney

If you're about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop. Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as "Pink") entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New "Joisey", and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life. We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments.

Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay.

Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them.

Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass.

Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone's name, share their patron saint's story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to "listen with an accent."

Never say mean things about anybody; they are "poor souls to pray for."

Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.

Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged.

Do the Jumble every morning.

Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don't get lost.

Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is "Peat Moss."

Help anyone struggling to get their kids into a car or shopping cart or across a parking lot.  

Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass.

Take magazines you've already read to your doctors' office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, "Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice."

In her lifetime, Pink made contact time after time. Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back.

Above all, Pink wrote -- to everyone, about everything. You may read this and recall a letter from her that touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"

She is survived by her children and grandchildren whose photos she would share with prospective friends in the checkout line: Tim (wife Janice, children Tim Jr., Joey, T.J., Miki and Danny); Kevin (wife Kathy, children Kacey, Ryan, Jordan and Kevin); Jerry (wife Gita, children Nisha and Cathan); MaryAnne; Peter (wife Maria Jose, children Rodrigo and Paulo); and Meg (husband David Vartanian, children Peter, Lily, Jerry and Blase); siblings Anne, Helen, and Robert; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends and family too numerous to list but not forgotten.

Pink is reunited with her husband and favorite dance and political debate partner, Dr. Gerald L. Mullaney, and is predeceased by six siblings.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.