Live, Love, Laugh
Posted November 9, 2011on:
My mother died 3 ½ years ago after a 7 year battle with cancer. She was 83 and lived her life with dignity, courage and determination. In addition to cancer, my mother suffered from schizophrenia throughout her life.
I recently came across one of my mother’s journals written in the 1970s in which she documented her breakdowns and feelings about her mental illness. Without complaining or playing for pity, Mom spoke of her life with gratitude. In spite of her condition, she felt fortunate to have been financially astute so that she could provide for her daughters and afford treatment for her disease. (Mom and my father divorced when I was nine, and she raised my sister and me mostly on her own.)
In contrast to her mental frailty, Mom was physically fit. A club champion golfer, tennis player and swimmer and the first woman to be invited to join the USA Olympic Equestrian Team, she excelled at sport. Only in terms of her sense of self was she a fragile flower who struggled with life’s challenges. Friends and family would step in when Mom’s illness rendered her incapable, filling our house with love and laughter during times of stress and sadness. The tough times didn’t last long, and although Mom would come out of an episode feeling weak and embarrassed by her behaviour, she was able to laugh at her antics and express thanks for the love in her life. Frank Sinatra’s song, Nancy With the Laughing Face, could have been written for Mom.
Several days before my mother died she asked me to publicise her mental illness in order to enlighten people about what continues to be a taboo topic. This, in spite of mental illness – in its varying forms – affecting millions of families across the globe. I have yet to speak with anyone who doesn’t have some form of mental illness in their DNA. My current aim – in honour of my mother – is to build awareness and eliminate fear and prejudice around the subject. If I can contribute to ridding the world of mental disease, so much the better.
I leave you with this final thought: My mother exemplified fortitude, faith and fun. She would often say, “I know that if I can laugh at it I can live with it.” She did. I wish you a life filled with love and laughter.
Remember: There’s a lot of sadness, loss and strife floating in the universe. Counterbalance the negative effects by bringing love and laughter to your life and those of others. Find the beauty. Seek the good. You’ll feel better for doing so as will the people whose lives you touch.
Tip: When all else fails, find the humour in life. A bit of verve and vivacity goes a long way in helping you tackle life’s challenges.
Remember: If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
Anecdote: Shortly before my mother died we invited a group of her friends to the house for chocolates, champagne and conversation. At a time when most people in her position would have preferred to be alone, Mom wanted to surround herself with people she cared about and who cared about her. At one point during the evening, Mom, who was seated in her easy chair with her friends surrounding her said, “It’s so nice to be at my own wake!” and burst into laughter, in which her friends joined. Mom could find happiness in the most unlikely events. As one of her friends wrote to me, shortly after she died, “Your mother laughed like she meant it and loved her friends and family. She lived her life with bonhomie and good will and people left her company feeling upbeat and good about themselves.” Another friend said, “You mother always made me feel welcomed and valued. I valued her enormously..”
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