At seventeen, my mother married an airman, hopped on the back of his motorcycle and travelled across Canada to northern B.C. to begin a new life. When they returned, after the war, it was to a tiny rural home with no running water or electricity, where she gave birth to twins. Two more babies would follow, as would the realization that her husband was a womanizer and sadist, taunting her with his conquests and beating her when she complained. When he finally left her, destitute with four children, she met and married my father, who brought with him a whole new series of challenges, and they had two more children together.
Illness followed her throughout her life, as lung failure in childhood, a broken back when we babies where young, and three rounds of cancer. Now in her late eighties, she lives out her days, cared for in a nursing home. She is frail, and constantly in pain, and yet, her essence remains.
Forever smiling and laughing, my mother embraces the good and bad in life without judgment. She finds delight in the smallest thing, and in every person she meets. I have rarely seen her feeling sorry for herself, and if she does, it is with a “this too shall pass” attitude.
As a teenager, I would cringe when she would engage total strangers in conversation in an elevator, stating the obvious “Let’s all stare at the buttons now so as to not look at one another,” eliciting smiles and chuckles all around. A trip to the mall would involve multiple asides, as she’d say “hello” to this one, or “buck up” to another, likely all strangers, and definitely all warmed by her open warmth.
Her days were spent hovering over the stove or kitchen sink, a tea towel over her shoulder and a song bellowing from her lips, punctuated here and there by a tap dance.
Everything about my mother exudes joy.
Even today, when I call her at the Home, there will be a flurry of activity in the background – staff and peers drawn to her light. “They call me Mom!” she giggles.
As I lie here in my bed, fighting off the demons of depression, I think of my mom, and all that she has endured and take a page from her book.
“We can’t do anything about the things that happen to us,” she might say. “But we can choose the attitude with which we face them. Why cry when laughter is so much better?”
So today, I dedicate this page to my mother: my Laughing Buddha.
Who is the inspiration for joy in your life?