Celebrating a Life Well-Lived: Random Thoughts


Family and friends gathered in Idaho this weekend to celebrate a life well lived: Mom-in-law Ivalene, who died of complications due to pancreatic cancer.

Since the Celebration of Life service, a few random thoughts have been swirling in my brain:

Random thought #1 — about people

There were the usual suspects at mom-in-law’s service — you know, the kind who love you unconditionally, who would do anything for you, who keep in touch and worry over you when you take road trips alone. Those kind of people.

There were others I hadn’t seen in several years, and the interesting thing was, we picked up right where we left off.

And then there were long-time family friends whose names I’d always heard, but had never met—the kind of people who, after meeting them for the first time, you feel as if you’ve known them for years.

My life is richer from connecting once again with the usual suspects, with renewed acquaintances, with new friends.

People always trump things.

Jack and Ivalene Johnson, 1946

Random thought #2 — about laughter 

Laughter at the memorial of a loved one? Is that appropriate? Why, yes, it is.

I realize there are different kinds of death — the deeply sorrowful kind where the loved one has died too suddenly, too young, too tragically, too painfully, leaving too many broken-hearts behind. Laughter doesn’t naturally bubble up to the surface after such a death.

And then there’s the kind, as in mom-in-law’s case, where the loved one has lived a good full life, and look at how many people she loved and influenced and taught and nurtured. Which means there was abundant laughter at her service during the sharing of memories, and afterward around the dinner tables. And it was quite natural.

And quite appropriate.

Random thought #3 — about things

We’ve all heard the time-worn saying about how no one ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer, right?

Given that we can’t take anything with us, this question, posed by my nephew, Stan: What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving mostly stuff? Or are we leaving influenced lives and positive memories?

Mom-in-law left an amazing legacy as mother, grandma, great-grandma, great-great-grandma, aunt and teacher: a legacy of influencing people with her no-nonsense toughness, her never giving up on anyone (some might call it stubbornness), and her fierce protective love.

I suspect mom-in-law had a front row seat in heaven—alongside husband, Jack, and son, Gary, who you all know as my Hubby—to her commemorative service. And although she wouldn’t have wanted a big fuss (her words), I suspect she was delighted at who gathered.

And I suspect she threw her head back and laughed her delightful contagious laughter as stories were told, and a video of her life was viewed while some in the audience dabbed at their eyes, and good food was shared, and toddlers were corralled, and teens stepped outside to shoot a few hoops, and when finally everyone got up to leave because the janitor needed to clean, hugs were dispensed — all in honor of a life well lived.

Which begs the question: How ought we to live the remaining days of our lives?

2 thoughts on “Celebrating a Life Well-Lived: Random Thoughts

  1. Thank-you for this page. Right now we too are going thru good times then bad then good again. Now “they” say the wrost in our case, ( for my mother-inlaw.
    This is not the first time for me.
    In 2004 they told me I had ‘6’ months to live, than ’12’ months-16 then sent me home to die.
    I know and see and feel what its like to be that person, so thank-you for having this for all of us, for when I was going thru it we didnt have this chance.. again “Thank-You…

  2. Mike, I love the fact that in 2004 they sent you home to die … and you’re still here! So sorry you’re going through this with your mother-in-law. Wishing you and your family all the best during this challenging time.

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