The Comedian

On Tuesday I shared my brother’s reflections on my mother and her quest to find her place in this world. In case you missed it, at 81 she decided her calling was to be a comedian.

I didn’t know that at the time – she didn’t mention it to me. If she had, I might have brought her to the open mic night at the local comedy club to see how she did. My guess is she would have been a hit.

After her death many people expressed appreciation for her sense of humor. It seemed to be the one thing everyone had noticed about her.

So today, a couple of stories, one that I am sure she would have told much better as a stand-up comedian than I can tell here. The other her final one-liner, from about a week before she died.

My parents moved into a seniors’ residence a couple of years before my father died. It was expensive, and after his death my mother wondered if she could afford to stay, given that she was not receiving his full pension.

Like any child of the Depression she had concerns about the money running out. But she also had a plan.

She said there were a few people in the seniors’ residence who were miserable. They didn’t enjoy life, had a negative attitude towards everything. The staff and other residents avoided them.

My mother said once her money ran out, she was going to kill one of these unhappy people. She knew she would be arrested and sent to prison, but she figured that would solve her money issues. The government would provide her food and shelter. And prison couldn’t be worse than the residence, which she usually referred to as “the looney bin.”

Her only concern was that the people she planned to murder were so disliked that her plan might not work. Instead of a prison term, she might receive a medal for an act of public service.

We’ll never know what would have happened. She outlived those on her “better dead” list. Nor did her money run out. (And her children have allowed her to become destitute.) But it was funny to hear her plans. She was convincingly serious.

Her last one-liner came shortly before her death in an Ottawa palliative care hospital. In order to manage her pain, she was allowed morphine on demand. but she had to ask; they weren’t going to just drug her to death.

It was about a week before her death, and she was in pain. I pushed the call bell and the nurse came. Mum asked if she could have something for pain, and the nurse left to get it.

It wasn’t quick, and to a woman in pain it was taking too long. Mum asked me “where is she, why isn’t she back yet?”

I explained that they didn’t keep morphine on the floor. The nurse had to go to the pharmacy to get the needed drugs. That wasn’t good enough for my mother.

“Where’s the pharmacy, Vancouver?”

Vancouver, if you don’t know Canadian geography, is more than 4,000 kilometres from Ottawa. In pain, and literally on her deathbed, my mother was still cracking jokes.

Yes, I think she could indeed have been successful as a stand-up comic.



  1. A bit of a sarcastic streak…all good!

  2. S. Martin · · Reply

    Thanks for sharing. My dad also retained his sense of humour on his death bed. I wonder if that generation had a strength born from living through the depression, the war, the cold war…I hope to exit as gracefully when my time comes.

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