Sunday, September 2, 2012

"True humor's essence is love." - Thomas Carlyle


My mom died last week.  Because of her dementia, she hadn't spoken in over a year.  The last word I ever heard her say was "yes."  In fact, that was the only word she used for quite some time.

No language, but a big smile.
Another thing she did for a long time after losing her language was laugh.  When someone cracked a joke, she'd grin--even though it didn't seem possible she understood it.  And as it had throughout the years, America's Funniest Home Videos continued to make her giggle.

Taken a few years ago at Christmas.  Mom thought this was a hilarious picture.
My mom always loved to laugh.  Especially at self-deprecation and irreverence.  Five years ago--after my father had died and she'd not only been diagnosed with Alzheimer's but had fallen and broken her arm and spent months in and out of the hospital because of various maladies--she was staying at my house for a while.  I put on Monty Python's Life of Brian, ready to turn it off if it was just too much.  But mom laughed the whole way through.  We howled with laughter together at the end--you know, the scene when the crucified men merrily sing from their crosses:  "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

Mom as a young nurse in Hawaii.
Soon after her diagnosis, she told me she'd been considering suicide.  I told her no one wanted her to do that--that her death journey was part of her life, and we'd all be in this together.  Later, she shared that with a longtime friend of hers, also a former Catholic.  The friend--who also had struggled with illness--said, "I've thought of that too but I'd have no idea how go about it.  Besides, isn't suicide a mortal sin?"  She and her friend laughed hard over that.  And my mom totally cracked up when she shared the story with me.  Sometimes we'd kind of cry and laugh at the same time.


Years later in Hawaii, with her daughters and her favorite drink:  a Lava Flow.


I'll never forgot her 70th birthday, nine years ago.  We had a family party.  When it came my turn to toast, I said: "I'm glad you've lived long enough for me to appreciate you."  She roared!  And whenever I reminded her of the line, she laughed again, like it was the first time she'd heard it.


Our longtime family friends Gary and Laurie wrote a beautiful letter to my sisters and me telling us they can still "hear her laughter rising in the California foothill sun."  

Yesterday I said to Dave:  "When the day begins with paying bills and writing your mom's obituary, you know things can only go up from here."  She would have loved that line.  In fact, I think she did.  Her laugh seemed to echo off the kitchen walls.

They loved nature.  And they were great dancers.  I think they're now foxtrotting in the stars.
Gary and Laurie characterized my mom perfectly as a "gentle soul with toughness and resolve who not only performed the art of motherhood as well as any we’ve known, not only served as caregiver to her husband for decades but here was a woman who allowed her own personhood to blossom beyond her life duties. ... Hers was a special beauty." 

They added:  "She saw you grow and settle, she experienced the future of her DNA as she enjoyed her beautiful grandchildren, she drank deeply of a marriage, friends and the recognition she received as a vital professional and community member.  Most never live so much life."

No one is ever really gone.  All we have to do is think about them and they can be right there.  I've had great conversations with my dad during the five years since he passed.  And I know I will with my mom, too.  I think there will be more laughter.


Mom in her beloved Yosemite, where she worked as a nurse and met my dad.

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