This I Believe

Jo Ann - Madisonville, Kentucky
Entered on March 4, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness

Life Goes On

I believe that life goes on. At least that’s what my mother said.

As a girl, her family lived in poverty. She played the piano and sang at funerals to help buy groceries. She lost two brothers, then her parents. Life went on.

As a young woman, a handsome army man with eyes the color of the ocean, asked her to marry him while he was home on a weekend pass in May. At the spur of the moment, he grabbed two of his buddies and drove to the next county for a quick “do you, do you, and now I pronounce you man and wife.” No wedding, no family, no flowers, no music. Then he and his friends got drunk at a roadside tavern while she sat alone in the car. Life went on.

She raised four children on a meager budget while my father spent money as he pleased – a new car every year, an airplane, trips – anything he wanted. She worked endless hours raising a garden to stretch her dollars. I handed her clothespins as she hung clothes on the line to dry in the summer breeze, to cut the cost of electricity. She took hand-me-downs for all of us from older cousins – sewing on a button or bleaching the pit stains to make them look “good as new.” She spent countless days in harsh silence, wondering what she had done to make him mad this time. She buried him when she was 48. Life went on.

Two years later she married a man much older than she. Her life was easier at first, but he aged quickly. She nursed him and cared for him until he died 19 years later. Life went on.

One by one she watched us leave to begin lives of our own. She bravely stood at the door and waved, hiding her tears and knowing that each step brought her closer and closer to being alone. Life went on.

And now, as she lives in a dark and cruel world, I wonder how much longer her life will go on. Who knows what thoughts remain buried deep in her mind after Alzheimer’s disease has stripped her of her health, her independence, her dignity. Who knows if she remembers her own heartaches? Who knows if she can think at all?

She hasn’t spoken a recognizable word in nearly two years, but as her sitter finished reading a poem aloud about a young woman’s heartbreaking divorce, Mama said, “Life goes on.”

And so it does.