The End Game
A Tribute to Ann Axelrod…
September 11, 1916 – March 22, 2004
(Reprinted as written March 21, 2004)
I’ve been immersed in playing the NEW Game.
Today, I’d like to talk about a different game.
It’s a game none of us look forward to, yet each
one of us will play one day:
The end game.
We face this finality with our Mom, Ann Axelrod.
Today, my brother and I fly to Fort Lauderdale to
say good-bye to Mom. If you haven’t faced this,
you will. If you have faced this, you know what
we’re in store for.
“Annie A!” is the Matriarch of four generations.
Over 21 years she mothered six children. I am
#6. Mom has more than 20 grandchildren and
30-something great-grandchildren. On special
days like Mom’s 75th and 80th birthdays, they
all came together to honor her. We need our
own hall just to hold the “immediate” family.
Mom is part old country; full-blooded hot Italian,
West Virginia born and raised, and part New World;
New York sassy and street-wise from living most of
her adult life in the Big Apple megalopolis.
Physically, she’s healthy for her 87 years; with no
chronic disease and only a few minor ailments. But
the scourge of the Alzheimer’s has taken its toll. It
brings its own heinous brand of misery to the end
Mom is not in pain, and the little time she is not
asleep, she knows who is around her. I can’t say
she’s blissful, but from what everyone describes,
she seems peaceful. Knowing that soothes my
spirit, but it doesn’t heal the hurt.
It’s during the end game that we appreciate how
precious time is. It forces us to step in front of the
mirror and reflect, what it means to be alive and
what’s really important.
Life pushes my nose up against the window to my
future without Mom’s physical presence. I’m
comforted by memories of a lifetime. I know her
spirit is and always will be inside of me.
During the end game, what’s precious appears
crystal clear. Pettiness gives way; love emerges.
It reminds us to live more fully every day; not
take any one for granted, yet not take any one
too seriously, either. Life is best when it’s lived
as a game to play, not a sentence to endure.
We see that, in the end, having has little meaning.
Being is what really matters. Given the choice of
having or being, who wouldn’t choose more being?
Mom lived simply, and simply lived. She brought
people together all of her life. From the day she
married Dad she was never alone. She always had
him, her children, dozens of grandchildren and
dozens and dozens of great-grandchildren around
her. She is blessed beyond words.
The other night, I explained what we face to Adam.
It was not an easy conversation. It was time for him
to understand the inevitable. I think it shattered his
world. High testosterone 15-year old boys can’t
grasp the concept of mortality. And really, why
should they? They are in the bloom of life.
I could see the fear of vulnerability in his eyes.
The belly punch punctured his bubble of invincibility,
and he came face to face with the inevitability that
there are things in life Dad has no answer for, and
events over which we have no power to control.
I was sad to bring him news that would forever alter
his world view. It was a passage I hoped we could
put off for a few more years, but it was not to be.
I am blessed to have Mom in my life, every day of
my life. There’s no better legacy, no higher testimony
to a life well lived than to be surrounded by people
you love and who love you.
The end game is the ultimate teacher.
It teaches us that in the end, love is what matters most.
Annie A is surrounded by love. God has blessed her.
Mom, thanks for giving me life.
Thanks for giving me love.
Be at peace.
I love you, Mom.