Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Last Laugh

It is always hard to lose a Mom. It is also hard to watch her as day by day she becomes weaker and can no longer fight. It is hard to watch the monitors in the ICU room as your Mom's blood pressure drops hour by hour and is close to flat lining and then mercifully, the ICU staff shuts it off. It is hard to watch the face of your Mom as it changes from one full of health to the pastiness of illness and it doesn't get any better. It’s hard to listen to the doctor while he is holding back his own tears that there is no longer anything he can do for Mom.

It is hard to watch your younger sister, who has cared for Mom for almost 10 years burst into inconsolable tears as Mom's fight is long last over.

It is hard to do these things but it is much easier when you and your brothers and sisters are gathered together and surround Mom's bed. You hold hands with the brother or sister that you might have had arguments with but you grasp that hand tightly because you know each needs the strength of the other.

Each of us says goodbye to her. Each reassures her that we will take care of the youngest and each other.

We talk to one another and make apologies to one another and Mom can hear us. She tries to open her eyes. We talk about growing up and she can her us. We start sharing some of the funnier stories and we laugh quietly at first. Then my oldest sister tells a funny one and we burst out laughing. We hear Mom and it is her last breath and laugh.

And that is the thing I will always remember the most about Mom: her gift of laughter and humor. It wasn’t easy growing up. There were 5 of us and she and Dad managed to raise us on his military salary. Mom would get part-time jobs when times were tougher. But we had food, clothes, shelter, and love.

When we lived in Jackson, I remember in 1969 when Hurricane Camille was coming through. She was a West Virginal girl and had never experienced anything like it. Dad had been transferred to the Seabee base in Gulfport a few weeks before. She made us eat breakfast under the table that morning. I remember it being fun and an adventure, especially when the oak tree began losing branches.

She used to make the most wonderful dresses for us girls but she for ever had to repair mine. I exasperated her because I was a tom boy and tore those dresses climbing fences and trees. There are so many other memories. I remember one time when she went fishing. She had two poles lying on the pier. Before she could grab it, one pole was dragged into the water by a fish. She grabbed the other one, reeled it in and then recast it. After about 4 or 5 times of reeling and recasting, she actually hooked onto the other pole in the water and managed to lift it back up to the pier. She then reeled it in and wouldn’t you know it, the fish was still on.

Her greatest gift to each of us was to allow us to be who we were meant to be. She encouraged us in our endeavors and was pride of us.

But her greatest gift was the gift of laughter. My childhood was woven with the sounds of our laughter. And so it was fitting that her last breath would be a laugh and in her passing, she was still laughing with us.