My mother-in-law passed away six years ago this week. She died in her bed here in this house where we live now.
Almost five years earlier my in-laws had moved in with us so we could help with her care in her declining years, as she disappeared in the gray cloud of Alzheimer’s. You would think these wouldn’t be laughing years.
But we laughed.
I thought about it again when I came across a funny story one of my children had written. “Grandma-isms” are nested in our family conversation all the time, and even in our writing. “Look, I’ve got doubles!” she would say as she pointed to the two engagement rings she wore together (hers and her mother’s). Now, when we have two of almost anything, we’ll say to each other, “I’ve got doubles!”
So many, so many funny things she said. She pointed to Stephen playing in the snow and said, “There’s Tim on top of a pile of apples!” Sometimes we laughed right as the words came out of her mouth, out of utter surprise, and she would invariably wrinkle her nose and laugh with us.
Is it the kind of thing only another Alzheimer’s caregiver could understand? That you can laugh in the midst of such a twilight, inevitably descending? But maybe . . . I think others could understand it too, others who have sometimes known an almost inexplicable lightness of heart in the midst of sorrow.
We cried. Yes, we cried. We felt the heaviness and the difficulty. And we cried out to God to know what to do, when she wanted to go home and couldn’t go home. When she couldn’t sleep. When she slept round the clock. When she talked nonstop. When she stopped talking altogether. When she stopped walking. When she stopped eating.
But laughter is a gift from God. And praise God, through the sorrow, through the darkness, He gives moments of laughter.
Six years ago this week, Mom graduated to glory. She got her mind back, and she got to see Jesus.
She got doubles.