Casting Laughter at Life
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— With so many of my friends and family departing this life, I often think of my own demise. I guess this is a natural process of growing older.
While in college, I once asked Father if he ever thought about death. The question must have shocked him because he looked startled. “Why, no Mays, who would ever think about death?” he answered and that was the end of the conversation.
I already had known my family didn’t discuss sex or money and, as I learned, death. Actually, anything deemed unpleasant was never mentioned. The modus operandis was to sweep all bad news under the rug. It’s amazing with such a background I was ever able to develop as a writer and write about topics I cover.
How I miss my parents. What I would give to spend just one more evening with my family. How final death is; loved ones walking out the door and slamming it shut. There are so many words I wish I had said to them and so many questions I wish I could still ask.
I suspect most people feel that way about losing family although I know from my work at the law office that many families are estranged. That is sad because when you lose parents or grandparents, you will regret time that was lost. Patch up silly differences while you still can as there is only so much time.
My list of lost family and friends I wish I could see just one more time grows longer each day. Besides parents and grandparents on both sides of the family, I miss many stellar aunts and uncles. Other special people I was fortunate enough to know include Dr. Brockett Muir, Dr. David Nichols, Andy Turner, Sherman Holmes, Ruby Lee Norris, Bev Silver, Father John Boddie, Cindy Pond, Lee Weber and Herb Davis, just to mention a few.
I’m a humorist at heart and when I start feeling sad about life and death I try to think of the humor in my emotions. My favorite poet, William Butler Yeats, advised readers to “cast a cold eye on life and love,” but I advise readers to cast laughter wherever they can in life.
Once, I asked my father-in-law, Dr. Russell Buxton, if he thought we would know when we are approaching death. He said he thought so. I wish I had thought to ask him what the signs might be. I sure miss having a doctor in the family.
The other day I got to thinking of a layman’s signs of approaching end. It started me laughing. Here’s my list so far.
You know the end is near when . . .
Charles Bristow is friendlier than usual. It’s really ominous if he shows up on your front step with flowers.
When your dog actually comes when you call him. Dogs have a sixth sense. He might suddenly realize this time it’s important to check in with old Mom.
When your cat jumps in your lap and wants to snuggle. Cats are about as interested in humans as a flea. But if the cat thinks this may be his last meal, he may finally show some interest for the lady of the house.
When your lawyer calls you and suggests “we” do an update on “our” will. Scary business! Ever hear of a lawyer who actually called you back after you left a message?
What about if your doctor called suddenly and reminded you it was time for that colonoscopy. That would get your attention. Did he know something you didn’t know?
I once read a report that claimed heart disease could be detected by examining earlobes; “wrinkles” indicated an early demise. I rushed to the mirror to look at my earlobes and saw the death knoll of a wrinkle. Dr. Nichols told me not to worry because I would not die of heart disease.
Why not? I asked.
“Your genes,” he explained, reminding me heart disease was not in my family, but cancer was. That cheered me considerably.
Dr. Nichols was one great doctor. I met him at RGH after suffering a blood clot. “Let’s discover how you will die,” he said.
He told me our demise was written in our genes. We made a list of my immediate family ages and causes of death. Sure enough, my grandmother had died from a blood clot in the exact place as was mine. It was almost as if I had inherited her veins.
Of course, one can change one’s habits and alter fate. If a parent died of lung cancer, for example, one could opt not to smoke. If obesity ran in the family, one could stay on a lifelong diet.
The good news is we can and should make a difference.