Her Laugh


December 23, 2007 is the day my beloved mom passed away. This year will make two long years without her in our lives. I have finally moved passed what has at times felt like paralyzing grief. These days my bereavement is not so intense. I am therefore able to conjure up more positive memories that make me smile amid my sadness. One such memory is my mom’s laugh.

It is hard to describe her laugh.  It wasn’t infectious or ruckus or even contagious. Still, it was unique because it was always sincere and heartfelt.

A few months back I entered a phase of temporary depression based on the fact that I missed hearing the sound of her voice and her laugh.  Don’t get me wrong I can hear it clearly in my mind and can recall it at will, when I think of her. I can picture her laughing with my mind’s eye as I write this and it makes my heart smile.  However, even with those memories firmly implanted, I often find myself desperate for a live conversation with her- reminiscent of our conversations of old- in which we could talk seriously one second and laugh hysterically the next. 

Watching my mom laugh was always the best part of making her laugh, in my opinion.  If she was genuinely tickled by what you said, you knew it instantly.  She had a great sense of humor and was quick to grasp a note of sarcasm or irony.  She laughed easily when you described your own actions in a less than flattering way.  She sensed when you wanted someone to laugh with you or at you, and when you needed to be told you were being too hard on yourself.  So she was careful not to blur the lines by laughing at a comment that needed to be taken seriously.

Years of attentive listening enabled her to be discerning in such a way. It endeared her to many people of varying ages, backgrounds, and ethnic make-ups.  If you were funny you could count on the fact that my mom would recognize it and appreciate your humor.


Watching Her Laugh

How do I describe the way my mom laughed? It began with her mental recognition that a joke or funny observation had just been made by the one talking to her. A glint would enter her eyes. Her expression would visibly brighten as her smile began to form. Her eyes would widen and then simultaneous to her laughter would be the tell-tale cock of the head. Leaning to the left or the right, her head would make a quick cocking motion just as a laugh would break out. Her grin would quickly change into an all out laugh that would last just the right amount of time for the funny observation you just shared.

Now if you were very funny, the laugh would be extended. Of course, that was the type of laugh I most enjoyed with her. If I was at my best, I could keep the laugh revolving. One witty expression following another in rapid succession would guarantee no less than a good minute of just hearing and watching her laugh.

The Most Important Laugh of All

There was one time that making my mom laugh was unquestionably the most important accomplishment of my life. It occurred while she was hospitalized the month before we lost her. After my sister and I decided we had to go against her wishes and call 911 to rush her to the hospital, we endured terrifying hours as she was intubated and placed in the Cardiac ICU.

My first visit with her in a conscious state was about to take place. I didn’t know how alert my mom would be, so felt I needed to take precautionary steps in case she was alert enough to remember how sick I always felt. She truly worried about me constantly. Always aware of any slight alteration of my voice, any small change in my countenance which might indicate a flare-up of any sort. Just by looking in my eyes, she could tell if I was scared, depressed, annoyed or sick. With a mom who is that observant, you have to plan in advance to present yourself in a way that will not worry her when she is already in a weakened state.

I decided humor would be my best defense. If I entered the room laughing and joking around, I figured she would relax about how I was doing. I was truly stressed out and petrified. Seeing my mom unconscious with a tube helping her breathe was almost too much to witness. Trying to suppress those emotions enough that it would not alert her to my inner turmoil took much determination. Love conquers all though, and so for my mom I was up to the challenge.

My husband and I share a running joke based on the hand-shake of the old-schoolers. You know the type - the handshake that took forever to complete. The handshake of the 70’s . It can take place in many different ways, the trick is getting the person you shake hands with to continue it with you. My husband and I have mastered it with each other. We can extend it for as long as the other one wants to play along. We even included my mom in our running gag every now and then. I decided that would be the best way to greet my mom. If it worked, I knew she would feel I was doing OK and was handling her hospitalization just fine. If it failed . . . well failure was not an option, let’s just put it that way.

Now along with the handshake, I decided saying something from that time period would push the joke over the edge. Most men would greet each other with, “Hello, my brother!” I decided to use a gender appropriate version of that greeting, which I learned from my husband.

Entering the room, I broke out into a big smile. My mom and I made eye contact. I got very close to her and extended my hand. When she put her hand in mind, I grasped it with both my hands. My mom’s nickname was “Ocean”, so I said, “Hello Ocean, my sista” Then I broke into my “soul handshake” The regular handshake, followed by the soul grip, followed by the fist knock – front and back. All the time I was holding my mom’s hand so that she would have to duplicate my gestures unknowingly. I remember adding a, “how ya doing my Ocean” in there just to be safe.

The result? Happily, it worked! My mom was using a BPAC machine to get more oxygen in her system. She was unable to talk, but still managed to get the biggest kick out of my Tom Foolery. She was laughing hysterically even though she couldn’t utter a sound. The head cock was there, the bright eyes the wide grin. I had made my mom laugh under the worst conditions imaginable. I had achieved my goal, my mom wasn’t aware of how I was doing and I could relax safe in the knowledge that I had not added to her already precarious situation.

Even though my mom never recovered enough to be released from that hospital, I still remember feeling in awe of her ability to enjoy the moment and have a good laugh. Being in critical condition, for what would be the last 30 days of her life, didn't rob her of her sense of humor.

 I think it is easy to understand why I miss the sound of her voice and the way she laughed. I’d like to think she passed on her sense of humor to each of her 3 girls. I remember times we all spent together just laughing and having a good time. I do miss those days. I absolutely miss my mom. . . Boy could she laugh!

I must add, that it feels good to finally be able to share memories, both happy and sad about my mom.

Even though there will always be an empty space where she belongs, it helps to write about my feelings. 

Here are the links to my memories of mom or "Ocean" as we lovingly called her. 

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Comments 18 comments

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 6 years ago from Delaware Author

Internetwriter, I'm glad you smiled! I still smile when I think of this particular time when she was well enough and strong enough to appreciate our 'hand-shake'. (-:

Internetwriter62 profile image

Internetwriter62 6 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

That is one of the most moving hubs, I have read. It made me cry and then it made me smile. It is true, laughter is the best medicine. Your mother is an amazing woman, and so are so you. I hope God keeps giving you His strength and happy memories of your mother. Thanks you for a beautiful tribute to your mother, expressed in such a beautiful way.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Your welcome Eileen, and thank you for the thoughtful comment.

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Gee that was a beautiful tribute and she would be proud of you knowing up there that she is rembered by the happiness you shared together laughing. thanks for sharing this memory with us.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Katny, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I am glad you can hear her laugh, and I totally understand wishing for her actual voice and laughter. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings with me.

Kathy Rimel profile image

Kathy Rimel 7 years ago

Thank you for your article. My mother passed away a year and a half ago and I can still hear her laugh to, wish it were the real thing.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

ocbill, she has had a lasting impression on those many people she befriended in her lifetime. So sorry to read you are preparing for a similar heartbreak.

ocbill profile image

ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

She is the person most people never forget. readng this is helping me prepar for the inevitable too. Thanks for sharing.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Welcome to hubpages Tibu786! And thank you for your kind words. You seem to be off to a good start by getting involved and leaving comments. I will check out your hubs and return the favor. :-)

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Connie, I truly believe you know exactly how I feel. It's a terrible club to belong to, but other members are easily recognized because there is nothing like the pain we experience when someone we've truly loved has passed away. I am glad the zoloft is helping you, especially since it did nothing for me. lol I look forward to this month ending as quickly as possible, right now it is truly the pits!

Thanks for sharing your pain and recovery with me, it's a big help and comforting.

Tipu786 profile image

Tipu786 7 years ago

OH what a great tribute to a mother. I happy that we can use hub pages to do this and share it. I am a new commer probably 7 day baby in this wonderful , amazing and helpful world of internet

plz guide me

Connie Smith profile image

Connie Smith 7 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

I know how you feel, Jen....November 19 was the three year anniversary of my husband's death. I am only just now really getting over my grief. I will always miss him, of course, but time moves on and it does become easier to deal with as the years go by. After my own near death, I realized that I have to start living again. Of course, I think the Zoloft had something to do with it too....

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Thank you for reading, my friend.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Thanks for sharing your Mom.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Thank you so much Connie. It brings me pleasure to be at the point where memories extend past her death and my grief. Seemed like this time would never come, I'm glad it has finally arrived. Although I am still not looking forward to the 23rd and will be glad when it has passed.

Connie Smith profile image

Connie Smith 7 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

Oh Jen, that was really a lovely tribute to your mother. She would be very proud of it and you as a writer. It was so well written that I could see your mother cocking her head in Heaven, eyes lit up and having a good laugh over the memory along with you as you wrote it. I've always said that one never really dies as long as someone has good memories to share about them. Though the grief of not being able to physically see our loved ones is so hurtful, we are able to share time with them everytime we think of beautiful memories like this one.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware Author

Thank you BK! It was a plesure to read about your mother and father as well. I remember feeling I would never be able to truly laugh again, when my mom first passed away. How thankful I am that turned out not to be the case.

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

A tribute to a mother is oh so special. I love that we can use hub pages to do this and share it. And I know what you mean about laughter - a reminder to all of us to laugh more and share it - it seems we remember laughter sometimes most of all.

It took me forever to realize I could not go to the phone and call my mother - so many years went by. I had to cope by being so very grateful for having her in my life - so every time it pained me I had to balance it with the many words of wisdom (that I now finally understand), her sense of humor, her food, her everything. Along with my father she gave me the strength to be who I am today - otherwise - I'd be a mess!

Thanks for this tribute!

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