Saturday, January 28, 2012

100 Years of a Life Well Lived

I attended a funeral yesterday for a woman who used to volunteer at Prince George’s Hospital Center. Her name was Marie Mudd Summers and she was 100. When she was able, she would come to the hospital 5 days a week for work for 5 hours/day in various departments throughout the hospital. Everyone who worked there knew who Mrs. Summers was and if you were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get to know her, she had wonderful stories to share. Two notable things about her – she was the granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Mudd and she worked as a secretary for J. Edgar Hoover. She raised 5 children, including one with special needs, and despite the fact that her husband died in 1972, she raised her family, worked, and eventually began her volunteer career. She amassed more than 22,000 of volunteer services to the hospital. I was talking with someone who remembers her telling him that her doctor told her she needed to volunteer 5 days a week so she wouldn’t die. I think she heeded that doctor’s advice!

Mrs. Summers faithfully drove to the hospital five days a week, and when she wasn’t able to drive anymore, she took the bus from her home to the hospital to make sure she was where she was supposed to be. Every Wednesday, her son with special needs used to come to the hospital and meet his mother for lunch. Unfortunately, she had to stop her volunteer service a couple of years ago due to her health issues.

I remember conversations with her about how her family worked so hard to clear her grandfather’s name – as she would say, “he was a doctor who treated patients when they showed up at his house”. How was Dr. Mudd supposed to know who John Wilkes Booth was? There were no phones back then, no radio and TV stations broadcasting “breaking news”. As she said, he was a doctor caring for his patients.

She was always willing to help out wherever she was needed, and she didn’t mind sharing her opinion about something if she felt the need. I remember her coming to the Executive Office every morning to get her cup of coffee.

Back to the funeral – it was well attended and there were so many photographs of her and her family, as well as the many volunteer awards on display that she received over the years from the many places she volunteered. One of her sons and one of his daughters spoke at the service and shared some things about her I didn’t know before.

One thing that disturbs me is that despite more than 22,000 hours of volunteering for the hospital, there were only three people at the funeral who had any association with the hospital (including one person who had retired from the hospital a couple of years ago, one current employee, and myself and I work at a sister facility). Where were the others to pay tribute to her for all of her years of valiant service? I find it unfathomable that no one else could carve time out of their busy schedules to pay their respects to this faithful volunteer.

Goodbye Mrs. Summers. You had an amazing life, and family and friends who will always remember you. What a legacy you left for each and every one of us.