DJ Badger:  The News and the Journal

Entry Fifty-Two.
Friday, 2007.08.24, 10:23 AM CST.
The Atari Basketball story (from the funeral).

It is difficult to believe that it has been three weeks since we buried my mother.  In some ways, it feels as if it only happened about a week ago, and in others, it seems like a long time away.  I am still trying to heal up, but it is hard.  Very hard.  Every day, I have at least one good crying spell.

More than anything, I'm concerned about Dad.  Mum was his best friend in the world, and took care of him, from handling his financial matters to getting his insulin shot ready for him before he woke up almost every morning.  Although Lanna and I go to visit him often and we speak on the phone at least once (usually twice) per day, I feel bad because I can't be there more often.  He assures me that everything will be okay, and we help him out as much as we can.  Lanna has really gone above and beyond the proverbial call of duty, helping him organize his bills and balance his checkbook.  I really am lucky to have such a wonderful wife.

I wanted to share a special writing that I put together for the minister to read at the funeral.  The minister really liked it, and I received a number of compliments about it from people who attended the service.  It not only conveys a little about how much my mother meant to me, but also explains the type of person that she was.

Please note that there are some words in ALL CAPS.  I know that is annoying, but originally I had intended to e-mail the writing in plain text to the minister, and I needed to emphasize certain words in the writing without using bold text or italics.  I could have gone back and changed those to italics, but I wanted to present the writing to you just as I presented it to him.

When I was a very young child, I started playing video games. I quickly developed a fascination with them that has continued to this day.  (I cannot deny that I'm somewhat of a geek.)  Mom always enjoyed them too, even into her elderly years, and during the last decade, it was rare that a Christmas would go by without me giving her some sort of video game as one of her presents.

Way back in 1981, for Christmas, my parents saved up their money and gave me my first Atari 2600 game system.  That was the REALLY old one, with the blocky graphics and the repetitive gameplay - but in 1981, it was the top of the line, and it still remains the best Christmas present that I ever received.  Mom and I played that thing for countless hours.

In mid-1982, as we were out shopping, I convinced her to buy me the "Basketball" cartridge for the Atari.  The graphics and gameplay were TERRIBLE by today's standards, but to me it was a lot of fun.

To put it very nicely, Mom wasn't that good at it.  It was a very simple game, but she could never get the timing down right.  She was great at lots of other games, but not at this one.  Whenever we sat down and played "Basketball," I would simply run by her, immediately steal the ball, run down the court, and make the basket.  Over and over. I was relentless.  She never had a chance.

Even though she was frustrated with it, she continued to sit down and play Atari "Basketball" with me.  We played for hours, and I don't remember her ever beating me at it.

Well, even though I was only ten years old at the time, I still had a vague understanding of two very important things:

1)  I knew, deep down, that she wasn't playing the game to win.  She knew that she couldn't. She wasn't even playing it to enjoy herself.  She was playing it because she knew that it made me happy, and she was sacrificing her time so that I could enjoy myself.

2)  I knew that no matter how long played "Basketball," no matter how long the games lasted and no matter how many times we played, there would inevitably come a time that we would play the last "Basketball" game that we would ever play, because eventually - whether that final game was that very afternoon or years down the road - Mom would eventually pass away, and we could never play any video games together again.  There was no avoiding it; I was a morbid kid, and to me, mortality was just a fact of life.

It was that second one that really hit me hard.  Obviously, I never wanted to lose my mother, but even at ten years old I knew that she couldn't live forever, and neither could my dad, and neither could I.  No matter what we did, we couldn't prevent it.

However, there she was, taking her precious time suffering through this stupid game just to make her only child smile On at least a couple of occasions after playing "Basketball," after Mom left the room, I just sat there and cried quietly to myself while I pondered this.  Until a few days ago, she never knew that.

You see, Mom was a person who really enjoyed having fun - but she especially enjoyed watching the people that she loved having fun.  I can't tell you how many sacrifices - of time and money - were made by her over the years, just so that I could enjoy myself.  When I was young, she was constantly taking me out shopping, or taking me out to eat at Chuck E. Cheese, or just sitting down playing video games with me.  In my later years, she and my dad used their money to buy the sound and light equipment to start my very own mobile DJ business.  That was how much I meant to my mom.

I always told her "thank you," but I could never truly convey how much I appreciated everything she did for me.

It is my memory of Mom's drive to make other people happy that makes me 100% certain that she wouldn't want anyone here to be shedding a tear for her.  Mom wouldn't want anyone here to be saddened by our loss.  She even said that while lying there in her hospital room.  She would want us all to celebrate her life, and in doing so, to go out and experience life for ourselves, and to share our lives with others, and ENJOY LIFE.

Certainly, we can all sit here and be all gloomy and sad about it, and for a lot of us (myself included), we are not really "supposed" to have any other choice.  But Mom saw things differently.  She wanted people to have fun, whether she was having fun or not.  She wanted the people around her to feel like they mattered, and she wanted people to enjoy themselves.  She didn't like to draw a lot of attention to herself - she wanted to be there for others.

Today, after the service, we are asking that everyone meet up at Goldie's restaurant at the Ne-Mar center to share some time and memories together.

Do you know what Mom would want you to do after that?  She wouldn't want you to go home and cry over her.  She'd want you to go watch a good comedy movie, or a good horror movie - she loved both.  She'd want you to go fly a kite in the park or take the time to play with your kids or your grandkids.  She'd want you to call a few friends over for a few rounds of dominoes, or Uno, or even poker.  She'd want you to pick up the phone, call up someone with whom you haven't spoken in a while (like your parents, or your children), and just take a few minutes to tell them that you LOVE them.  Mom wouldn't want you to sit around worrying about her.  She would want you to HAVE FUN and ENJOY your LIFE.

That was the type of person that she was, and that's why we should all be gathered here today - not to mourn her passing, and not to mourn OUR loss.  We should be gathered here today to CELEBRATE life.  We should be gathered here to celebrate the life that SHE lived, and to celebrate the lives that WE are blessed enough to continue to live.

Let there be no doubt that whatever she would have wanted, I've still been mourning her passing every day, and I am going to miss her tremendously.  When she was out at SouthCrest, there wasn't a day that went by in that hospital room that I didn't go visit her.  Even though her lungs were failing, her mind was still as sharp as a proverbial tack, and she and I shared some great conversations and discussed some wonderful memories.

It was during one of her "good" times in that room, one of the times during which we really thought Mom was going to "make it," that she and I discussed what we would do when she got better and went back home.  I assured her that I would come over to visit her and Dad more often.  I knew that Mom wanted to see her grandson again, and I knew that we had lots of movies to watch together, but I figured - at least at the time - that I had an even better idea than either of those.

As I sat there at her bed, holding her hand, I told her that whenever she got out of there, we would need to sit down again, for old times sake, and play some old video games on the Atari 2600.

From behind her oxygen mask, weakly but still joyously, she peered over at me and said:

"Just... not... Basketball."