Every dog or cat our family ever had took to my mother like she was an enchanted spirit, as if the rest of us were not even present. Even our pet skunk, who bit everyone, never bit her. I watched that spirit depart from my mom’s body July 27, 2022. As I listen to her dog howling inconsolably for her to return, every utterance that hound emits reverberates deep within my bones too.
Joan Jacqueline Connell was born in Philadelphia on February 8, 1931, the second child of Howard and Eleanor Clements. Eleanor picked up both children one day and left their father when the kids were still small and their memories smaller. She was all my mother knew. So she never got over the loss of her mother who, when mom was still a young girl, contracted fatal colon cancer from working in a factory for 12 hours per day with no bathroom breaks.
A tragedy like that takes some people down. For others, the pain lifts them into another realm where they give back to the world what God so cruelly took from them. This was my mother. There was not a single day she did not mourn the loss of her mother, but I never knew that. I know it now. My mother lived her life as if it was incumbent on her to convey the boundless love of her own mother to everyone she touched, so we could pass it on too. In a very real sense, mom still lives.
The last 15 years of her life she lived with my family here in Hawaii. It was the happiest I ever saw her. So there was hardly an ounce of regret in my voice, although there were ounces of tears in my eyes, when I said good bye to her for the last time, last week. She didn’t hear me unless I held her tight, so I did, until at last she stared at the ceiling above, perhaps looking for the stars to take her away. And even then, her pulse kept going, as if she was hanging on for one last, prolonged goodbye.
In her last days, she had kept saying to me: "I want to go home." "You mean to see your mother?" She nodded.
Goodbye, mom. Thank you for giving and never taking, even though you were the one in need. You brought me into this world, so it was my honor to escort you back to the heavens. My siblings and family and everyone you knew love you forever for what you did for us and for what I know you wish you could have done.
For those reading this, may the constancy of the moon above remind you of our own human fragility. It is the meaning each of us finds in our own lives that gives us a foothold in this vast infinity of the universe. We are what we value. May you love without limit, and may the love you impart traverse the ages.
Please come to remember and to say goodbye to our Joan Connell this Thursday, September 1, 2022, 10 am at the Diamond Head Mortuary on 535 18th Street in Diamond Head. She is survived by her three boys Howard, Mark, and me, Steven, and by her five grandchildren Isabelle, Casey, Charles, Sean, and Emily. I have the urge to go to her room now and show this piece to her like I always did whenever I was proud of something I had just written. I can’t do that now, but I’ll read it to you this Thursday, mom. I hope you’ll like it.
Arrangements Provided By: Diamond Head Mortuary
Notice #: 0001384901-01