Marlys Johnson is a cancer widow, author, speaker & blogger. We first met her through her work coordinating St. Charles Medical Center’s Survivorship Program and her beloved husband, Gary – a CHN Support Volunteer for many years. Her passion for helping others navigate life’s challenges inspires us every day and we are delighted to share her insights.

To read more of Marlys’ work – and discover her love of all things outdoors – visit her blog Cancer Adventures.

Since yesterday’s Celebration of Life service, a few random thoughts have been swirling in my brain:

Random thought #1 — about people

There were the usual suspects at mom-in-law’s service — you know, the kind who love you unconditionally, who would do anything for you, who keep in touch and worry over you when you take road trips alone. Those kind of people.

Jack & Ivalene Johnson, 1946

There were those I hadn’t seen in several years, and the interesting thing was, we picked up right where we left off.

And then there were long-time family friends, the kind of people who, after meeting them for the first time, you feel as if you’ve known them for years.

My life is richer from connecting once again with the usual suspects, with renewed acquaintances, with new friends.

People always trump things.

Random thought #2 — about laughter 

Laughter at the memorial of a loved one? Is that appropriate? Why, yes, it is.

I realize there are different kinds of death — the deeply sorrowful kind where the loved one has died too suddenly, too young, too tragically, too painfully, leaving too many broken-hearts behind. Laughter doesn’t naturally bubble up to the surface after such a death.

And then there’s the kind, as in mom-in-law’s case, where the loved one has lived a good full life, and look at how many people she loved and influenced and taught and nurtured. Which means there was abundant laughter at mom-in-law’s service during the sharing of memories, and afterward around the dinner tables. And it was quite natural.

And quite appropriate.

Random thought #3 — about things

We’ve all heard the time-worn saying about how no one ever sees a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer.

Given that we can’t take anything with us, this question posed by my nephew, Stan: What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving mostly stuff? Or are we leaving influenced lives and positive memories?

Mom-in-law left an amazing legacy as mother, grandma, great-grandma, great-great-grandma, aunt and teacher: a legacy of influencing people with her no-nonsense toughness, her never giving up on anyone (some might call it stubbornness), and her fierce protective love.

I suspect mom-in-law had a front row seat in heaven—alongside husband, Jack, and son, Gary, who you all know as my Hubby—to her commemorative service. And although she wouldn’t have wanted a big fuss (her words), I suspect she was delighted at who gathered.

And I suspect she threw her head back and laughed her delightful contagious laughter as stories were shared, and a video of her life was viewed—some in the audience dabbing at their eyes—and hugs were dispensed, and toddlers were corralled, and good food was shared — all in honor of a life well lived.

Which begs the question: How ought we to live the remaining days of our lives?

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