Aging mom was able to stay positive amid loss

Norene Hale, of Collins, died on April 13 at the age of 89. Here are comments made at her funeral by her son John. They point out that mothers and fathers teach us important lessons throughout our lives.

Parents are the first and often the best teachers we have in life. That was certainly the case with Harold and Norene Hale. They taught us so much about life and living – as children and as adults.

My dad and mom also taught us a great deal about aging, the challenges in later life and about the choices we have in responding to them.

I’d like you to take a look at my mother’s obituary – the fifth paragraph, the one that reads, “Norene met the challenges of aging and loss in later life with courage, grace and an ever-present positive attitude.” The one thing I would change in that obituary is to put an exclamation point behind that sentence. Maybe a couple. Maybe 10.

To make the point, I’d ask you to consider the cards she was dealt in later life:

She lost her husband of 66 years – a man whose life was intertwined with hers from the time they were teenagers until his death four years ago.

Because of failing health, she lost her home – a place that she had lovingly cared for and took so much pride in.

In the process, she lost her community and lifelong friends.

She lost most of her possessions – clothes, furniture, dishes and cookware, knickknacks – the things that connected her to her past and that served as much of the fabric of her life.

She lost the ability to drive, and she lost a car that she loved – the car that gave her the freedom to come and go as she pleased.

As her health deteriorated, she lost the ability to live and function independently.

She became dependent on others to do the things for her that we all take for granted – to walk, to get dressed, to go to the restroom, to plan and prepare a meal, to water plants, to bathe or shower.

Now what she lost is not the point. It’s how she chose to respond to the loss that’s important – and where we see the tremendous lesson in life that she provided.

The lesson was this: She never complained. She rolled with the punches. She didn’t dwell on what she had lost. Rather, she remained grateful for what she had.

Her ability to do that – to remain positive, to remain grateful, to accept life’s challenges and to keep plugging away – was something we (family, friends, nursing facility staff, and all who encountered her) marveled at. It truly was an amazing thing to see and experience.

There was no feeling sorry for herself. No taking her frustrations out on others. No going into a deep depression.

Only good thoughts – things like what she said to me several months ago. This was a day when she was just not physically feeling well but was still generally upbeat. After I remarked to her how much I respected her ability to stay positive, she said this: “I’m trying, and I’ll keep trying. I am hoping that every day will be a little better.”

So one of the most important lessons in life that Norene Hale gave us was how to respond to the forces of aging, how to stay positive and how to make the best of a situation that no one wants to find themselves in.

Her attitude and outlook was a rare gift – a gift that she has now given to us. My hope is that we will use it as well, and as wisely, as she did.

So, in the spirit of being and remaining positive, I end with this – a quote of unknown origin that many attribute to Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Norene Hale’s life, and the impact her life had on us, is certainly something to smile about. I’m choosing to do so, and I hope you will, too.

John Hale, of Ankeny, is a former member of the Fort Dodge City Council.