Serious Stuff: Life, Death & My Mom

I generally don’t talk about my private life here—unless it’s something upbeat or I can get a gag out of it. But I’m about to go all dark and dramatic. So if you’re expecting some jokes, I suggest you don’t read this.

My mom is dying.

She’s been dying for years actually, but recently she’s gotten really good at it. No more chemo. Let the Grim Reaper come knocking. She’s ready.

Thanks to hospice, the pain is mostly manageable.

But Mom wants to die in her own home. So family members have been giving her 24-7 care for the last few months. By family members I mean mostly my sister Lisa and me.

(The week Lisa and I took off to attend last month’s San Diego Comic Con was an obvious exception. It was hard on my mom. And it was probably even harder on the family members who filled in for us.)

I’m spending about three days and nights a week taking care of Mom. And that’s fine. (Lots of good talks and bad TV.) But…I’m falling behind in my life.

Free time is scarce. Mostly, I just meet my deadlines and collapse.

So why talk about this now? Well, I guess I want to let friends and fans (many of you are both) know why I’m so hard to reach. So busy. And so very, very far behind in responding to e-mails.

Okay, that’s it. Monday, I’ll be back without the drama. I’m always happy to concentrate on the gags. We’re all here for the laughs. After all, laughter heals. (And pays my bills.)

In the meantime, though, thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

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  1. Sorry to hear about your mother. I lost mine many years ago to cancer, so I have an idea what you’re going through.

  2. Thanks for reminding me that there’s a real person behind the humor. I wish your mother the best. Hospice, though scary to contemplate, is an excellent choice.

  3. John. I could say I know what you’re going through, but each experience like this is unique. I empathize so much with the mental and physical exhaustion you’re experiencing. I feel fortunate that my dad went into full hospice care at the end (his decision). Care-giving is an incredibly tough job that doesn’t get enough respect. You have mine. Much love and strength to you, your sister, and your family.

  4. Bless your heart for sharing, as you have. I love how you approach life and how you are approaching this through your myriad of feelings. I am a mother of two, I have cancer, and I am approaching it with love, huor, art, music and the support of friends and family. I will follow this with parayers in my heart for your strength, and respect for your feelings on however you choose to handle it all. Yes laughter is so very important in it all. Yours, hers (if that is possible) Lisa’s – My brother and sister were just here and we laughed for three days straight. Maybe I’m healed! I see the Dr. again today.
    With prayers and respect,

  5. Oh gosh, I hit submit above without really editing. I CAN SPELL! Of course I meant prayers, and humor ..not what wrote. It’s the message thats important, not the spelling, right? Anyhow for those who read what you wrote, and can relate, and for those who want to see how one can handle it (Cancer) with attitude, art and humor, I invite them to view
    With praise for your work, and compassion in my heart, and a smile on my face for the joy you bring us!

  6. First of all, thank you to everyone here and the dozens of people who’ve written to me privately. I know I’m not alone in facing something like this, but it’s comforting to hear from all of you. So many of you have gone through similar things. Bijou, I especially want to thank you for writing. Caring for someone with cancer is one thing. Actually having it is–well, I really don’t have words. I think you’re right that laughter and a positive attitude help. My very best wishes go out to you. Oh, and as long as we’re suggesting reading material for each other, here’s one I recommend strongly: Cancer Vixen. It’s a graphic novel by New Yorker cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto. Surprisingly funny, informative and hopeful:

  7. Hey John, just wanted you to know we’re thinking about you and praying for you and your mom. We’ve been through the cancer thing with two parents so far and are now caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. I know it’s hard to keep up with life with all of that going on but you seem to do it with grace and humor, and that’s a sign of a real class act. Keep your chin up and don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family when you need it.

  8. Hi, John, I’m a relatively new fan of Last Kiss, but I’ve become quite ardent. My mother passed away at home several years ago from Multiple Sclerosis after years of care from my father, brother, and me. I am sorry your mom is enduring this and that her care has fallen on you and your sister, but I’m glad you have the last bit of time with her. It’s hard now, I know, but it will be a treasure in the future. Know that you and your family are in my heart and prayers, as you are in many others and also know that letting us know what was up really is a good idea. Let your friends and fans know how we can serve you when you need it.

  9. Sorry to hear about your mother’s health. Two years ago, I did the post-treatment 24/7 home care for my mother. (6 days on, 1 day off- too much for 3 months.) It was emotionally and physically draining. (Especially the bad TV turned up REALLY loud.) It will get harder, keep asking for help. In the end, their wish is to die at home, our wish is to help them accomplish their last wish. Then it will be better.

  10. Mark, you couldn’t be more right about the bad TV. And yes, it’s sometimes turned up (fairly) loud. Between the heavy-duty painkillers and the cancer, my mom has trouble following anything with a story–especially anything fast-moving or complex. So it’s lots of crappy semi-news shows with trashy commentary by supposed experts; a bit of reality TV; late-night talk shows; and lots of channel flipping.

    Oddly enough, one of the few comedies she likes is The Big Bang Theory. I’d like to think it’s because the characters are into comics–like me.

  11. Grim. Taking care of mom, proves your sister and you are “a stand-up” people. When your mom needed you, you both stood up and went to work. My mom is always with me even though her body is gone. I hope your mom and the love she created stays with you as well. My heart is with you as your family goes through this journey. (Thank you for letting a total stranger share). 30

  12. My mother passed away from cancer in 1995 still miss her most I think about what she missed in Grand kids and great Grand kids. But I know she is in a better place. She did show us through it all how to fight for your life. My thoughts and prayers will be with you each morning as I read your strip.

  13. I think about you and your kindness to your mom and her bravery from time to time. Just want you to know you are in my thoughts and you do remind me to keep the humor in my journey! (it is not always easy, but it sure helps …it is a choice!)


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