Finding joy in a life well lived

08/03/2014 7:00 AM

08/03/2014 6:28 PM

My mother died last month, less than a week after falling and breaking her hip. Her health had been failing for years, and the fall was just too much for her to overcome.

For better or for worse, her mind was sharp the night they took her to the emergency room, which means she was alert and aware of her dwindling prospects. And when she brushed off the idea of surgery and chose the open bed at the hospice house, she had to have known the full weight of that choice.

My seven siblings and their families drove and flew in from all over the country, many of them making it in time to say goodbye or at least to hold her warm hand one last time.

A bunch of us packed in around her bed the night before she slipped away. As I looked around the room, I was struck by the beauty and sheer volume of our family tree, the branches of which had all sprung from this once strong woman whose body now lay withered and fading.

Some tears sneaked up on me as I watched my nieces gently massage their grandmother’s feet and affectionately stroke her snow white hair as they whispered their goodbyes. Those simple acts of pure love made everything right.

Aside from those few tears that night, I have yet to have a good cry over my mother’s death. I haven’t had the big “bawl” that I had after my father died more than 20 years ago.

At first I was feeling a little guilty over my lack of tears, but those thoughts were quickly replaced by a calming sense of gratitude — for the 86 years of my mother’s life and for the life she gave us.

It sounds strange to admit it, but I have felt real peace and joy since her death. And it comes from knowing that she is finally pain-free, and that her deep faith and spirituality comforted her in her transition.

Last year my mother told one of my nieces how jealous she was of her friends who had already gone to heaven.

“I don’t understand why God keeps kicking me and punching me,” she said. “I just want him to put me on his back and carry me home.”

She’s home now. And she left this good life surrounded by people who love her.

In the end, what more could anyone ask for?

To reach Jim Cosgrove, send email to


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