Monday, March 3, 2014

If You're Not Happy, Get Happy

Get Happy!
"If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."

This was advice I overheard Nan giving to one of my siblings one day.  She went on to say, "Do you think I was happy when your father died and left me with all you kids?  Because I wasn't.  If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."  That wasn't the feedback they wanted to hear.

Growing up in a big family has its advantages.  There's too much going on to focus on any one person's issues, and as a consequence you learn how to get up after you fall down.  Nobody cares if you don't want to eat, you're disappointed, you're not happy, you're stressed out, you're depressed, etc.  Really, nobody cares.  And, as a result, most of the time you end up forgetting that you were any of those things.

We're not perfect parents, but we try to do our best.  Nan was not a perfect parent, but she tried her best, and her advice "If You're Not Happy, Get Happy" was her life strategy.  I've yet to meet another person like Nan.  She was the strongest person I know.  She renewed her passport after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and perplexed every medical professional with her fortitude.

Near the end of her life she was unable to speak and had to use a white board to communicate, sometimes we would write our responses too.  Her sense of humor was intact until the end, one whiteboard exchange went like this:

Nan:  Why don't I die?
Me:  I don't know.  Do you want me to help you?
Nan:  That's murder.
Me:  Do you want to do it?
Nan:  That's suicide.  We're stuck. (With a smile.)

She was totally in control of the situation.  She said goodbye to all of us and planned her funeral.  She picked her pall bearers, the readings at her mass, where donations should be directed, and she insisted we have a big blowout party. (Note to Nan: As you requested, several people were very drunk at the party.)

In control until the end.  In fact, she died at home because that's where she wanted to be.  The last six months were very hard and we finally arranged for hospice care to help us.  The first day the hospice nurse came to the house she ordered a hospital bed which was delivered that afternoon.

Always in control, Nan gave the men who delivered the bed a tip and then she gave them the love seat that was moved out of the way to make room for the bed.  I'm not kidding.

She died that night.

"If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."  Words to live by.

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