Sunday, January 30, 2011

Celebrate Life!

So many times I have been invited to a function after someone dies, and the words begin with, "join us to celebrate the life of so-and-so," ... and the whole event turns out to be a morbid mess of tears.

I was darned determined not to do that yesterday.  Instead, we had a "thank-you party for 'all those people'."  Who?

In my aunt's last seven months of life, she had someone with her 24 hours each day, seven days a week.  Services were split among seven people, who we call caregivers.  In my aunt's stage of Alzheimer's Disease, she could not remember their names, so she referred to them as "all those people."

Instead of having a wake (or visitation) and a funeral, then everyone "coming over to the house" and standing around with long faces streaked with tears ... we reserved a room at the community center where my aunt lived, arranged for catering for some light fare, and then orchestrated a huge "thank you" party to recognize each of my aunts caregivers.

All of her caregivers came, as well as the company President and some office staff.  A number of my large fam-damily came as well.  It was great to see my siblings and my cousins.  My aunt's sons also were there (of course.)  One of them got up first to say a few words, then I took over.

I was fearing that I would "lose it" and become an emotional wreck, but I guess all those years of media training paid off.  I spoke about my aunt and each caregiver and her contributions to my aunt's care on an individual basis, and my voice didn't crack once.  I could tell it meant a lot to them, and it was my pleasure to recognize their work.

I told stories about how each caregiver did something special for my aunt, from the one who gave her the best bath to the one who fixed her the best home-made meals to the one who ordered Chinese (and didn't think I knew), to the one who would scratch her back for hours on end.  I knew what they did... and they may not have known that I knew so much, but I don't miss much.

We gave them a meaningful gift, but also a funny "gag" gift -- a back scratcher. (smile -- you had to be there, but the back scratcher gift made everyone laugh).

It was a great time.  I was told later that I spoke for 45 minutes, and at the end, everyone was smiling, cheering, and clapping.  We had a grand celebration ... just the way Aunt Lee would have wanted it.

This blog will resume its usual content tomorrow.  Thank you for respecting this pause in my blogging content as I reflected on a person who was so much a part of my life for so long, I couldn't let her passing go without comment.

By the way... I am wearing leather jeans over Dehner Patrol Boots with a dress shirt.  That's how everyone is accustomed to seeing me -- in leather.  No big deal... just who I am.  My aunt would have expected that attire, too.

Life is short:  show those you love that you respect their wishes -- throw a party and be happy!

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