My mom has the best laugh. It is a big, loud, robust cackle that comes from her huge heart and beautiful soul. It is a laugh that turns heads, brings joy, and causes others to laugh even when they have no idea what it is she’s laughing about. She also has the saddest cry. Just the thought of it will reduce me to tears, causing me to swiftly become a babbling mess. I have heard and seen both a million times in my 37 years on this earth. So, although I write this through a stream of tears, I am choosing to hear her laugh; to wrap myself up in that joy, to blanket myself in the warmth is a true celebration of her stunning spirit.
Throughout my mom’s battle, she coped with humor. Perhaps it was to offset the horror she was faced with daily; maybe it was to find hope in the seemingly hopeless place she would find herself in; or a way to keep her beautiful spirit alive when she felt like every other part of her was dying; or to comfort us as she knew we were terrified of losing her; or maybe it was all of this and so much more. SO.MUCH.MORE.
But it wasn’t just through her battle she used humor. Humor was always a big part of our lives. Growing up, my mom, brother, sister, and I would sit at the kitchen table for HOURS after dinner laughing our collective faces off. I mean HOURS. Making up stories, sharing real ones, and talking about everything. I remember at family functions she and her siblings would laugh so hard that they were silent (and for them to be quiet is nothing short of remarkable). I remember phone calls with her when I was living across the country, laughing so hard my stomach and face would hurt for days. It was the best reminder that I was never too far away from her.
So it is no wonder we would resort to humor as a coping mechanism when faced with this atrocious disease. Through the fear, we’d laugh. Through the victories, we would laugh. Through the constant stream of bad news, we’d laugh. Through the unknown, we’d laugh. Through the celebrations, we’d laugh. Through the tears, we’d laugh. Not because any of it was “funny”. There’s absolutely nothing funny about Cancer and the barrage of horrendous bullshit that accompanies it. But through our ability to still find enough joy – in anything we could – to laugh, we found abundant strength, courage, faith, hope, and so much love.
Even moments before she slipped into an unresponsive state, just hours before she passed, we laughed. As we stood at her bedside, my sister and I were talking with her, caressing her sweet face and holding her hands. I said to her, “Mommy, you called me last night. Do you remember that? Do you remember calling me, mama?” And without skipping a beat, she turned to me and said, “What did I call you?”
I laughed. Hard. Through big, ol’ elephant tears, I laughed. My sister laughed. My sister’s boyfriend laughed. And my mom smirked and let out a little “ha!” Yes. You read that right. She was dropping comedic excellence right up until the end. THAT is my mom, ya’ll. My funny, gregarious, wonderful mom.
She became unresponsive shortly after that moment; her eyes closed, her smirk faded, her jaw relaxed, and her brow softened. But I hold on to that beautiful moment of joy. I hold onto her sharp wit and the beauty it brought in that most dire time (and countless others). I hold onto knowing that she heard us laugh, saw us smile, and joined us in amusement for one last time.
On the hardest of days, I think of her beautiful smile and infectious laugh, and it brings me peace. When I feel I may die from the suffocating pain of this devastating loss, I think of the joy she brought to so many people’s lives, and the excruciating heartache is slightly dulled. When the gaping hole in my heart and soul literally rips the air from my lungs, I think of the countless moments of joy we had together and how lucky I am to have laughed a million laughs with the woman I am beyond blessed to call my mother and best friend.
In joy, I remember her. In my heart, I hear her. In my soul, I feel her. In my mind, I see her. In humor, we cope.