You knew her as Ruth Ann, Redbird Ruth, Grandma Hi, Mrs. Hi, Ma Hi and Mrs. Hieronymus.
We called her Mom, Grandma and GG.
Everyone called her friend.
Sadly, we lost mom on Wednesday, Dec. 16. She tested positive for covid in the nursing home and had come out of quarantine two weeks later with no symptoms only to have a relapse the next day and sent to the hospital.
Each morning in the hospital, mom texted me letting me know, “I’m still alive.” On the fourth day, a Sunday morning, her text never came. I knew it was not going good and by the end of the day, mom was placed on a ventilator.
The next day, I saw five bright red cardinals and a female companion in our backyard tree. They all chirped as I walked closer and hung around for several minutes. I hadn’t seen a cardinal around for months since we dug out the shrubbery around the house.
A thousand miles away in Arizona, my sister-in-law’s brother saw a cardinal in the middle of the desert. He said he hadn’t seen a cardinal there in years.
They say a cardinal is an angel sent from Heaven. I believe those cardinals were mom’s spirit telling us everything was going to be OK.
And it will be OK, but it’s going to take time. I wrote a column on my dad when we lost him sadly in 1989, 31 years to the day mom passed. This one is equally as hard to write.
It just won’t ever be same during the baseball season to not get a text or call from Mom about our Cardinals. We surprised her with very own life-sized cutout featured at Busch Stadium this summer. She got the last laugh on my brother, who took a startled double take upon seeing that cutout standing up in the car after picking it up from the nursing home.
Mom was the most loving, caring mother a guy could ever asked for. She was always my No. 1 fan and I was able to put a smile on her face letting her know of my recent induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association as a media member. That announcement of that honor was surely by God’s timing.
Mom never knew a stranger. When she met you, you were a friend.
There was nothing hokey about mom. Her love, care and concern were genuine, straight from the heart. She had the love of Jesus in her.
She handed out her famous “Ruth coins” for anyone she said was “caught doing something good.” There are thousands of them in circulation.
Mom had her share of hardships and sorrow in her life, and helped others get through theirs.
She had a gift of gab and put it to good use. It’s folklore that upon hanging up after a lengthy phone call, my dad asked her who was on the phone, and she said, “I don’t know, it was a wrong number.”
My house growing up, as mom liked to say, was grand central station, where all the neighborhood kids came to play. She treated all of them like her own.
I have been overwhelmed by all the posts/comments about mom, and learned of many of the kind things she has done for people. Here’s a sample:
“Mrs. Hi. was the most beautiful person ever. We have now lost this treasure.”
“She always had something encouraging to say, a compliment to give and something uplifting to give.”
“The nicest, sweetest, most genuine, caring, wonderful woman that you thought would live forever.”
“One of the sweetest, most selfless, loving woman I have ever known.”
One of the last things mom said to me during FaceTime was that it looked like my mustache needed a little trimming. Always being a mother to the very end. Thanks mom.
For as a long as I can remember, mom liked to tell her family, “I love you from your head to your tippy-toes.”
The last thing we said to one another, as we often did, was, “I love you forever.”
And I surely will. Fly High Redbird Ruth and send a cardinal to visit me from time to time.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com.