Conquering the grief

Published 9:14 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

On March 21, 2009, Hannah May Picot Cooper passed away at age 57 due to complications related to pneumonia. She was my mother and the closest person to me to die in my life. It was unexpected, sudden and devastating.

I’ve never known such pain in my life as what I experienced after I got the call from the ER doctor that she had passed after being revived three times in the ICU. She fought hard, but her pain was too great and her illnesses too numerous to overcome. (She’d had more than 50 surgeries.)

My mother was a unique person. She taught me how to laugh when life gives you very little or even nothing on which to survive. She taught me how to put others first, even when you can’t afford to. She taught me how to explore beyond my boundaries and find things in life worth savoring — mostly food.


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Basically, what she taught me was the hardest thing for most people to grasp — how to live life without letting life live you.

So, in her passing, I can only do what I was taught by such a great lady. To conquer my grief, I picture my mother where I think she most wanted to be in life. Now, being that I am not a religious person, I won’t venture to call this place heaven but I know it’s heavenly to her.

Whenever I think of her now, I see her at this huge, joyous party somewhere with all the friends and family she’s lost, getting a big hug from her father that she lost when she was only 7. She has no more pain or worries. And the biggest decision she ever has to make now is with whom she will have her first dance, Sam Cooke or Barry White. (She loved them both so much.)

Most important, I picture her smiling more than life ever gave her reason to. And I laugh and smile with her, just as we did here on Earth. In those moments when life without her seems unbearable and the grief sets in, I go to that picture in my mind’s eye, and the grief is conquered.

We all find our own ways to cope with the loss of a loved one. I am trying very hard to do so in a way that honors a woman who was so very comforting, funny and special to so many people. She wouldn’t want my tears — though there have been so many — only my smiles, my laughter, and the knowledge that she’s no longer in pain.

Rest in peace, Ma. Save some hors d’oeuvres for me at the big party. I promise to meet you there someday.

This column is dedicated to the loving memory of Hannah May Picot Cooper, my best friend, my biggest fan and supporter, and the lady who taught me how to be the man I am today.