Life, Death & Inappropriate Laughter
Mother’s Hand 2010
I’ve had allot of time lately to contemplate life and death and this is what I’d like to share with you. My Family has been watching my Mother’s slow deterioration due to Alzheimer’s for a few years, and in the last 5 weeks, a major acceleration has begun. In watching the suffering, I’m left with the view that we as people are more humane with our pets than we are with humankind…something I find more than strange. I can clearly remember my Father’s very sensical statement after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was given 6 months tops and asked his Doctor very matter-of factly, “Don’t you have a pill I can take?” I remember thinking…man, that’s bold even for my Father and quite insightful. Why would a man, self-sufficient and strong-willed, want to die without dignity… as his 3 Daughters stood by helpless. As it turned out, he willed himself to die and he went out on his own terms, much in the way he lived his life. And I remember always having a sense of humor mixed with all the tears, to the end and ever after. Humor is the greatest healer in all things and I thank God my Family understands that.
With my Mother, it’s much the same. She can’t walk or communicate, but insists on being a Lady to the end. Exactly what that means is a private thing but her strength and willpower never ceases to amaze me and makes me smile just thinking about it. When I think about my Parents and the end of their lives, I am left with this view. Yes, we are sad at their loss (even frightened) but we all believe in the next life with God and we know that they will both be happy and healthy again. I also know just how amazingly lucky and blessed my Family has been in that both Parents have been allowed to die in their own home, in their own bed, at a ripe old age. I don’t know one person in my circle to have a Parent that blessed, let alone both. I could not be more grateful and I know this would not have happened without the determination of my sister Julie. Her love truly has no bounds.
For my own future, I have a 50% chance of getting the Disease, since both my Mother and Grandmother were affected, so I am determined to follow a quicker route. If that means wandering into the mountains and being eaten by a bear, so be it. Hopefully I will still be tender enough by then for the bear to enjoy. In the meantime I will continue to look for humor in all the inappropriate places I can find in regards to both life and death.
I recently had to go sign paperwork at the local Funeral establishment that houses half of my Family that has “gone before”. The other half rests about 5 miles North. Not sure why and when the family lines were drawn but my guess is some were just more frugal than others. I imagine some of them realized dead is dead and no extravagance is going to change that fact. The lady that met me was very sweet and concerned but I don’t think she was ready for a Krisher. She gave me her grave voice until I told her the Dearly Departed wasn’t yet departed and that we are just a very organized Family. Understanding, she went to the business voice. I broke in with my Aunt’s recent internment and explained, that only 40 feet away, her entire bowling team had attended her service in the chapel. I smiled when mentioning her bowling ball and it’s front and center placement at the service. I think her only son was several rows back in the pews. My wonderful spirited Aunt, a Krisher, died at 97 and had the same voice as the lady from that poltergeist movie. My fondest memory of her service was my Mother’s utterance “oh Bullshit” at some exclamation the Minister made. (She was at stage 5). I had great difficulty not shaking my shoulders.
The Funeral Lady continued by asking me several questions about explosive devises which really got my attention. Apparently if you have a pacemaker or metal in your body, you can explode in the crematorium and “they cannot be responsible for the lost remains”. I kept a straight face when I said “Really?…Cooool. I know my Father would have greatly enjoyed that send off”. She smiled tightly and I signed more papers. She then went on about identifying the departed before the cremation. My sister explained this later ” In case they mix you up with a cat or dog”… I also learned that apparently you can also be laid in a cardboard box (included in the price) or something special (extra cost). I don’t know about you folks, but when I go, I don’t give a rats ass if I’m placed in several shoe boxes that have been artfully masking-taped together. Ashes are ashes.
That leads me to give you a brief visual of my Father’s service. He was heavily into fishing his entire life, and in retirement, he turned into a fanatic. When he knew his life was ending, he ask me to turn his remains into fishing lures, knowing full well, if it was possible, I would find a way. Thankfully, as it turned out I was able to change his mind. My idea was a very respectful boat parade leading out to sea, complete with bagpiper, heading to his favorite fishing hot spot. We would circle the magical place in our boats, leaving flowered wreaths after offering a flaming arrow and poetic words… and then gracefully sprinkle his ashes. I originally planned to send him off viking style with the flaming arrow igniting a boat with his remains but my Sisters were concerned with my jail sentence.
In reality, the bagpiper sounded wonderful going out… and then proceeded t0 toss his cookies all over the floor of the volunteer boat (poor guy we didn’t know), when we hit the high seas. My Mother started screaming in the tossing waves and then got seasick as well. The flaming arrow that was supposed to sail over a small memorial boat wouldn’t light in the wind and the wreaths were thrown in a strewed mess. I remember being pelted in the side of the head by a big bunch of petals while my middle sister clung to the boat for dear life. My eldest sister tried to gently sprinkle the ashes which caught wind and hit me full on in the face and mouth. I should have known there would be mischief the moment we pulled from the dock and passed a boat christened “Le Max” (my Father’s name). We made it back to shore, but not before one of my nephews fell into the harbor waters, trying to exit one of the boats. I’m sure my Father was laughing his ass off that day from somewhere high above.
When my Mother does pass on to the other side, we will again attempt a boat ride out to sea. I know my Sisters are already fretting over sea sickness and any mad schemes I may be planning to honor our Mother’s life. That’s the stuff that makes life worth living and laughing at. It’s what does justice to the memory of my Beloved family. I hope we never lose our ability to laugh at ourselves in moments of deep sadness.