Another departed mother

Posted: April 20th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers | No Comments »

I went to my friend Barb’s mother’s funeral today. Barb’s mom was sick with Alzheimers for 10 years before she died. It seems like a disease that takes people’s lives and suspends them in limbo. For years Joyce wasn’t the person she used to be, but her body was still alive. When it finally gave out Thursday, it caught up with the long-gone Joyce that her family knew and loved.

That had to be a bittersweet relief. In all the time she was sick, the logistics around her care, watching her deteriorate, reacting to the foreign things she’d say or do–must have dominated their thoughts of her. But today they clearly had let the struggles of the recent years go, and seemed revitalized by being able to remember and celebrate the wife/mother/grandmother they once knew.

I didn’t ever really know Joyce–aside from meeting her briefly at Barb’s wedding–but I got a strong sense of what a cool woman she was. She had 4 daughters, 2 sons, and 17 grandchildren. She was a carpe diem kind of mother. Her oldest son said she was always loading the 6 kids into the car and driving off on a wild hare to some adventure.

She loved music and played the piano. One of her sons talked about her banging out Amazing Grace at one point when her memory was nearly gone–with the same gusto that she always had.

A group of the grandchildren got up and sang It’s a Small Word–one of Joyce’s favorite songs. At the second verse their voices trailed off, not knowing the words. Joyce’s 6 adult chuldren piped in with the lyrics–laughing that the song was beaten into their memories.

On another note, it’s wild how my ability to keep pace with a Catholic mass is so ingrained in me. Shelley had told me I’d need to prompt her on the sitting, standing, kneeling–saying it’s as complicated for her to follow as a step class. And for not resonating with me spritually, there is something strangely reassuring about the familiarity of it all. I guess it also reminds me of my mom.

Call it morbid, or egocentric, but I couldn’t help but wonder what my funeral would be like some day. I was so inspired by how Joyce lived. She didn’t make any lasting marks in the business world or breakthroughs in science. She just had a hell of a time raising her children, welcoming her grandchildren, singing, and seeking adventure where she could. I plan to try to do the same.

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