Today is the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. My friend Jeff Kraker from KARE 11 TV filmed and edited my eulogy that you can view here. Mom inspired me to begin writing my current book, so I feel it’s fitting that I begin a series of new blog posts today.
Below is the Prologue for, SUNDAYS with the Mother of a Clown, a book about her life that I finished writing just before she died. Every Sunday after bringing her to church I’d read her chapters from the book. The fog of Alzheimer’s disease would lift while reading stories about her childhood. The Sunday morning before she went into hospice care I finished the Epilogue and looked up to see her radiant smile.
It’s a cool, spring Sunday afternoon, the smell of lilac drifting in from the backyard. I’m sitting at the dining room table with my lime green MacBook Pro®, hammering out the ringmaster’s script for our upcoming Waldorf school circus. All around me are stacks of old scripts, cold coffee cups, and rubber noses. The phone rings. I pick up and hear my mom’s voice.
“Do you have a minute, Lloyd?”
“I’m on a deadline, Mom. Are you coming to our circus next weekend?”
My mom assures me she has it marked on her calendar before saying, “That’s not why I called.”
“What do you want?”
She clears her throat. “I’ve decided what I want to ask each of my children to do for my end-of-life needs.”
I have no idea what she has in mind for me, the clown of the family. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m about to spend a year in Africa.”
She’s planning her fifth trip to Tanzania, and she is eighty-three, so considering her mortality makes sense, but she doesn’t show signs of slowing down. This trip, she is working to establish a brick-and-mortar counseling school at Iringa University.
She tells me she has already spoken to my brother Jerry and my sister Linda. Jerry agreed to be responsible for her financial estate. I feel like I just dodged a bullet. Jerry is the perfect choice. He’s the eldest, the responsible one. Plus, he has a degree in computer science and has always been good at numbers.
Linda agreed to act as her healthcare advocate. Another bullet whizzes past my ear. Linda, the middle child, is again the perfect choice. Her second son Nicholas is a cancer survivor. She has become expert at navigating the labyrinths of the hospital system and health insurance industry.
What’s left to do?
“I want you to be my spiritual advocate.”
Direct hit. What the hell is a spiritual advocate? Why ask a clown to be responsible for her soul? My mom was practically a Lutheran Mother Theresa, and I don’t even belong to a church. I swallow my nerves and say, “Sure.”
Mom graciously replies, “Thank you,” and hangs up the phone without further instruction.