Celebrating Life

April 1, 2003
My mother, Nell Blaes, was born in Greenville, S.C., in 1905 and would have been 98 years old this month. She was living independently in her own apartment until last September, when she fell and suffered a compression fracture of a vertebra.

By Joe Blaes

My mother, Nell Blaes, was born in Greenville, S.C., in 1905 and would have been 98 years old this month. She was living independently in her own apartment until last September, when she fell and suffered a compression fracture of a vertebra. That injury landed her in a nursing home. After a very brief illness, she died on March 6. I will miss her dearly, but I know that she is in a better place now.

The family celebrated her life at the funeral mass on March 10. Yes, there were tears of grieving as we said goodbye, but the overriding theme was one of remembering her life and telling favorite stories. She really had two lives: one with my dad — who died when she was 68 — and another as a widow for almost 30 years. She was an active, vibrant woman who was devoted to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

I was attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration in Tucson, Ariz., when I received the news of mom's death. Luckily, my wife, Sue, was attending the meeting with me. Since my brother and sister both lived out of town, Sue had become mom's caregiver. She would stop by the apartment and take her out to lunch. Mom even began introducing her as her daughter. Sue helped as I made calls to the rest of the family, and then she took over and made all the arrangements for the funeral.

It was late in the afternoon when we heard the news. I was scheduled to be the auctioneer at a charity auction for the AADPA Foundation. We could not get a flight out until the next morning, so I decided to do the auction. Only a few people knew of mom's death; but after the auction, it was announced. Many people were amazed that I was able to do what I had just done under the circumstances.

Actually, I was in the best place that I could possibly be — Sue, the love of my life, was with me, supporting me, encouraging me, and crying with me. The three most important things in my life – faith, family, and friends were surrounding me and giving me the strength to go on.

My faith told me that mom was now seeing God face-to-face, and she was being reunited with my dad and her family. My family was supporting me with prayers that gave me strength. I was surrounded by so many friends at the AADPA meeting. I cannot remember getting so many hugs in one evening!

I encourage you to remember that in times of great stress, it is faith, family, and friends that gives us the strength to be the best that we can be.

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor — e-mail: [email protected]

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