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Julia Sims: Saying goodbye

Posted August 17, 2014
Updated August 18, 2014

Julia Sims with son Will

We knew back in May that it wouldn't last forever. I remember at the time thinking about Ponyboy's line from The Outsiders (via Robert Frost!) "nothing gold can stay."

On Friday, we lost our dear Nini. For years, she watched over us from her kitchen window. She'd call after a big storm to make sure we were OK. She'd check on Will and me when Mike was out of town. And she'd delight all of us with her homemade biscuits and banana pudding. It was like we had our own personal angel right next door!

Her name was Edith Dimney Chandler LaSalla. Everyone called her Dim or Dimney, but Will started calling her Nini as soon as he could talk. We weren't related by blood, but, to Will, she was his grandmother and he loved her. And she loved him right back.

When Will was two or three, Nini and I were outside talking. I turned to see Will drop his shorts and relieve himself right there in the front yard. I was mortified! Nini laughed and said it was the best thing she'd seen in years. Her sense of humor made us love her even more.

One time, Mike and I dropped Will off at Nini's when we had a parent-teacher conference one morning. When Mike picked him up, there was Will at the kitchen table with Nini and dear friend Betty holding a handful of cards. They'd taught him to play poker. She later laughed and told me it was an important skill to have.

Of course, there was her kindness. It was her trademark. Ask our letter carrier who brought his fiancee to meet "Miss Dimney." Ask the professional hockey player whose pregnant wife was treated to some of Nini's delicious treats. Seriously, she was our "gold" standard. You would just break out in a smile when you saw her.

So, when Nini passed away Friday morning with my husband Mike and her two daughters at her side, there was a profound realization that we would have a huge void in our lives. Mike and I both dreaded telling Will.

Of course, like most children, Will took it much better than we did. He simply asked why she died. We explained that at 95, she was tired. He was quiet for a minute and then told us Nini was now an angel in his heart.

We like the idea of that. Although, right now, I think we all wish we could have our angel back at the kitchen window right next door.

Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a grade schooler. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.


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  • Gatsby Aug 20, 2014

    Sweet story....We need these in times like this when it all seems dark.

    Love & Hope are alive & well

  • Frances Foster Aug 18, 2014
    user avatar

    Beautiful tribute to your neighbor. People like Nini come into our lives to teach us a lesson. Hers was loved unconditionally.

  • moo Aug 18, 2014

    That is such a sweet story. So sorry for your loss. The fact that your husband was by her side when she passed away is a real testimony to how much your family loved her and how much she loved your family. Just beautiful.

  • teachpsychsoc Aug 18, 2014

    What a gift Nini was... her love will continue to be a gift.
    I had a neighbor very similar to Nini...when I was in college almost 30 year ago. Her name was Maria. I was literally a "starving college student"... I topped the scales at 103 pounds soaking wet. She was an older Italian Mom, had raised 6 successful kids and never adjusted to cooking just "for herself"... Without her, I honestly would not of had anything to eat on many days.... but she fed more than my stomach.... she fed my spirit during the difficult adjustment to the the "real world" of early adulthood. Rarely does a week go by that I still don't recall some pearl of wisdom from her... I hope Nini's memories reside in all of your family members as well. I'm betting they do....

  • JustMe83 Aug 18, 2014

    What a beautiful story for a beautiful lady!

  • tbk Aug 18, 2014

    I'm so sorry for your loss of such a sweet lady. It is wonderful that your family embraced the time you had with her. These cherished memories will stay with you for always.

  • Ashley Porter Aug 18, 2014
    user avatar

    Such a sweet story! I didn't have a neighbor like that growing up, but my husband did. He still remembers her fondly, as do his parents. How wonderful for you to be blessed with her in the time you were neighbors.