I wrote this for Patty. I read it at her funeral.
The picture is of my father and her before she got sick.
I have learned four important truths in my life. Four important truths from four important people. And I say they are important because they are simple but powerful and can’t truly be understood intellectually. They have to be learned on an emotional level.
From my mother, I learned how important it is to finish a fight. That it is cruel to walk away from someone mid-argument. And that if you leave too many fights unfinished, they start to act like rust and make things feel stiff and ugly.
My father taught me the importance of grace. That people need to be given a break, even if they don’t seem to deserve it.
Daniel Raffelock has downs syndrome and is non-verbal. But he taught me how to laugh. And that it is important to laugh. That it doesn’t matter how clever or witty the joke is. Laugh anyway.
I love people with good laughs, people that can laugh at simple jokes and laugh hard. My mom had a great laugh, Daniel had a great laugh. My aunt Eleanor had a great laugh. My step mother patty had one of the worlds all-time best laughs. Everyone that knew her, knew that laugh. That intense belly laugh. It was contagious.
At one point in patties life she could laugh like this a few times a day. She could laugh even more once she got together with my father.
Then she got sick. Her body hurt and it became harder to laugh.
But that laughter was still in her. It just didn’t come out as frequently. We’d be lucky to get her laughing like that once a month.
The last time I got her laughing like that was three months before she died, and I won’t tell you what I said to get her going, cause we are in a church and her sense of humor had become kinda raunchy. I like to take the blame for that.
But that wasn’t the last time she laughed. It was just the last time I got her laughing. The last time I saw her laugh was in the hospital. She had a minor surgery. We were all sitting in her room anxiously waiting for her to come back. After an hour they rolled her bed in and we all rushed up to her. She was on life support and she hated that. There were all sorts of tubes in her. She opened her eyes and she saw her children, Kristy, Wayne and I, hovering and telling her that she was going to be ok.
Then she heard my father call to out to her.
“Hey patty! I want my bonka biff? Where’s my Bonka Biff(It’s a type of old timey food she used to make for him)?”
My father can be so tactless and sweet at the same time. It’s a real gift.
Now, like I said, she had all sorts of tubes her mouth, so I didn’t actually hear her laughing. But I swear to God she was laughing. I could see it in her eyes. It was there.
That woman knew how to endure. I think her laughter and her durability were linked. I think her sense of grace that she learned from my father helped. But there was something more. There was something more that helped her push on through the years. She loved life. She really loved it.
She loved life and she loved people. Even when her life seemed so bleak, when she could do nothing more than sit on a lazy boy and fade in and out of consciousness, she still had so much love and that kept her going.
It was a good love. A non-judgmental love. A love that didn’t keep track of visits, or hold vendettas. It had more important things to do. And no time to waste on bitterness.
And that is what she taught me. She taught me that the most important part about love, is to actually feel love. To just feel it. Without analyzing it, or evaluating it in any way. and that when you love purely like that, it gives you strength.
I think my mother would have taught me that lesson eventually. But she died when I was young and she didn’t get a chance. Patty picked up where my mother left off.
I loved Patty, and to say she was like a mother to me would be an understatement.