The Meaning of Life

The last picture ever taken of Jeanne Ellen Greene with her youngest son

Jeanne Ellen Greene, who passed away this morning at the age of 86. Jeanne's death won't be a blip on the radar to most of you; indeed it might not mean that much to me save for the fact that she was married for a time to a man named George Leonard Mullich and had three sons with him, one of whom was me. She was my Mom. You only get one of those in your life and she was mine, and everything that I've accomplished on this planet - for good and for bad - is due in large part to her. Jeanne faced more adversity than most (she was briefly placed in an orphanage when she was a child simply because her mother found the responsibility of being a parent too overwhelming, and when she was an adult she would sometimes waken the house by crying out the name of her favorite sister who had committed suicide years before) and she lived her life by a complicated set of rules that often seemed to cast the world as an arena in which to do battle and the people in it as her opponents. She developed a fearless independence as a result and intrepidly traveled the world by herself, continuing her journeys well into her eighties. Like many mothers and sons, our relationship was a complex and frequently contentious one. Yet despite the tension that grew between us, the debt I owe her cannot be adequately set down in words. She gave me the gift of life, put food in my mouth and paid for my education.

And even more than that, she gave me a master class about human interaction from her one-of-a-kind perspective; a few lessons of which I continue to hold dear to this day and many that I have spent my life in an earnest attempt to unlearn. When she finally departed this world, she did so without leaving a friend in it - which is exactly how she wanted it. That is an aspect of the education she gave me that I reject with all my heart yet it seemed to be the cornerstone of her personal philosophy. Being independent meant going it alone.Perhaps the greatest lesson that she taught me came over the course of the past year, as her formerly granite-like body began to finally betray her and her unpredictable mind eagerly followed. Our interactions became infrequent as the dementia which bored through her brain became too painful for me to witness.

But as her decline weighed on my mind, it occurred to me that she was teaching me one final thing, and it was nothing short of the Meaning of Life itself. It sounds simplistic - almost asinine - when set in black and white, but it is something that doesn't become a reality for most of us until it has sneaked up on us from behind and forced us into a corner that we can't escape from.The Meaning of Life is simply this: that it ends. And it ends far more quickly than we are ever prepared for.I didn't believe in God before Jeanne's death and I don't believe in Him now. But I'll let you in on a little secret: I hope that I'm wrong about that and as you're reading this, Jehovah is opening the gates of heaven to her with trumpets blaring. I know that she'll just cock a suspicious eye in His direction and wonder exactly what kind of con He's trying to pull on her when He does. But it wouldn't be Jeanne if she didn't.

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.