Friday, July 1, 2016

Famous Last Words: or I Want to Get Off My Ass

I Want To Get Off My Ass
When my mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer we traveled to Sloan Kettering for a second opinion.  Strings were pulled and favors called in just to get the appointment.  The prognosis was dismal and chemo, we were told, was useless.  But she went anyway.  She went for me.  I told her I didn't care what she decided to do as long as she did something. 

When the doctor arrived, mother explained that she had scheduled a cruise down the Rhine in June.  Without missing a beat, the doctor told her she might want to get her money back.  And so she did.  

It was not a good sign. 

Instead of traditional treatment, she opted to try a macrobiotic diet in an attempt to buy more time.  She drank wheatgrass juice.  She meditated.  She wrote affirmations on water bottles.  And there was prayer, lots and lots of prayer.  But when it was clear the end was near, she gave up raw food and proclaimed that she planned to go out bathed in hot fudge.

That’s exactly what she did.  My mother’s final meal was a slice of pizza and a hot fudge sundae, and her last words were, “I want to get off my ass.”  No deathbed poetry like you see in the movies.

Dying a Good Death

In elementary school a classmate told me I wouldn't go to heaven if I wasn't baptized.  This weighed heavily on my mind, so I woke mother in the middle of the night to find out for sure.  Mother said we would have our own baptism, which I assured her wouldn't count in the eyes of God.  She said that if John could baptize Jesus, she could baptize me; if I believed, then it would count. So with a blessing, she turned tap water into Holy water and I sealed my fate in heaven.  It was her faith that shepherded her toward death without fear.
In those final days she sent out an email to friends and family.  She said, "I love 95% of who I am, 95% of the time.  I am an observer, a dreamer, and a laid back humorist."  

It was a death we should all aspire to.  She died in the home she grew up in, overlooking the lake she swam in as a child.  There was music playing in the background and she was surrounded by the people she loved. 

Her final words kept me going in the days that followed.

Today marks the ten-year anniversary of her death.  There was a time when ten years without her seemed unimaginable.   

A Year Bathed in Goodness

We all inevitably imagine who we will be at the various milestones in our lives.  I never imagined I’d be saying goodbye to my mom in days prior to turning 30.  And I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be at 40.  It’s not a bad place by any means; I just took an unexpected path.  I’ve realized that happiness often depends on the lens through which we view our lives.  We all have our own definition of success and I have found mine.  If we spend too much time thinking about how our lives don’t match up to the dreams of our younger selves, then we are bound to be disappointed.

I always need a project.  If I don’t have something to focus on I end up dating inappropriate people.  I’ve learned from that mistake.  I suppose that's one of the perks of getting older.  So as 40 approaches I want to make the year count.  I want to spend the year bathed in goodness.  I want to get off my ass. 

Want to know more about the grieving process, but don't want anyone to tell you that your loved one is "in a better place"?   Visit What's Your Grief?


  1. I so enjoyed this. My friend Christine shared your project with me and it's wonderful. GOYA ,may not be the original Greek, but it's I'm pretty sure Jesus said it in Feed my Lambs . May you have the best year getting off your ass and doing good. I loved my 40th year! And I'm all about good lunches!!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate the support.

  2. In addition to moving me to tears on the train, you have given me something very useful:

    "I’ve realized that happiness often depends on the lens through which we view our lives."

    Succinct, and spot-on. Thank you--