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Tears and Laughter

This last month has been a roller coaster ride of celebration and sorrow. My 80th birthday party was an epic Roast that featured a hilarious stage show in which I was grilled, fried, and par-boiled by family and friends… and never felt more loved. 

Last week my family attended my recently deceased granddaughters’ graduation from the University of Arizona. The University awarded Kyah her degree posthumously, and reserved seats for us in the front row of the McKale Center. The graduates were sitting directly in front of us, and as they marched by, I saw the light of anticipation in their eyes. 

Here they were, at the beginning of their adulthood, the richness of the rest of their lives ahead of them, and all I could see was my granddaughter who would know nothing other than the life behind her. My tears welled but did not fall. 

When her department was called up Kyah’s name appeared on the big screen with the date of her birth and death, and underneath the words …Love, Live, and Dance. Her brother, wearing her gown, walked across the stage to accept her diploma, I wept and sobbed openly, maybe for the first time bin public.

Afterwards, we had dinner with a group of her close friends, drank pitchers of margaritas while wearing her treasured Grateful Dead T-shirts, and remembered her sparkle. Emotionally exhausted, we decided to spend the night in Tucson with two of our daughters where we got the last room in the city. We squeezed into two queen sized beds, not particularly comfortable for two tall people but it turned out to be the highlight of a long, draining day. 

I crawled into bed and the ladies talked into the night. I rolled over on my side with my good ear on the pillow but couldn’t fall asleep because I could hear them cackling even with my deaf ear. I raised my head and pleaded that surely, they could babble more softly. They laughed until they cried shouting It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle! He can hear in his deaf ear! I joined in the hysteria and laughed and fell asleep smiling.

“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all”.   

Laura Ingalls Wilder

2 Responses to “Tears and Laughter”

  1. Stevie Moffic says:

    What a moving grieving process this seemed to be. No doubt your daughter will continue to bring so much meaning and joy to your loving family. Just the kind of clownish therapeutic healing you are known for.

    Only wish Rusti and I could have been there.

  2. katelon says:

    So glad you were surrounded by family for your birthday as well as the graduation. How wonderful to know you are so loved and cherished, and see that reflected in how you all celebrated Kyah. It’s great that the U honored her!

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Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.