For 62 years, Lola Gillebaard and Hendrik Cornelis Gillebaard Sr have loved and laughed and fought and cried through all her illnesses, the birth of four HUGE boys, the death of a daughter-law, the death of far too many businesses, and the sale of their beloved home.
In all of these circumstances, I have watched my dear friend Lola stumble—often literally with a leg and foot damaged at birth. She might get down, wallow in depression for awhile but then, it is always her ability to “look for the funny” that allows her to meet a new day.
With dogged determination, she has pulled herself with her walker to get on a stationary bike and strengthen her leg. With equal determination, she has prodded Hank to put on his sport jacket and go down to the dances at the assisted living center. And almost always—but not every time—helped him through the fog that comes with ever-increasing dementia.
It was a shock to get a call from her daughter-in-law on the very day Bill and I were to go to support her at a talent show for the local Rotary Club. Lola (age 87) had worked on her act for weeks, also trying to help first-born son, Hank, Jr in what would be his first attempt at being a stand-up comedian.
“Hank just fell over at 3am after getting Lola her walker. He died instantly.”
Within a few hours I was sitting beside her. She described the scene and then laughed at the fact that she was in the toilet and couldn’t easily get up. “It was the best thing,” she said over and over again. Indeed, Hank did not have to suffer the indignity that this horrid Alzheimer’s serves up.
Within two days, Lola and two of her boys were writing the obituary. Lola said they laughed all the way through it… just as he and she would want.
Consider these lines: “No foulplay is suspected at this time. His body was found wearing the same clothes he wore when he was born.”(Yes, Hank liked to sleep in the all-together.)
“He is survived by his highly-acclaimed comedic wife, Lola and their four (known) sons."He loved the “f” word… Flying… Hendrik is also survived by his brain, as it was his wish for it to be donated to science. ..a desire he felt was a ‘no brainer.’”
I asked Lola for her permission to write this. The empty loss of a life partner will never be overcome with humor. But certainly, the ability to interject laughter offers some balm to the soul.
I think it also keeps us sane.