Stair-way to Heaven.

There Ya' Are

I learned something wonderful about living a few weeks ago -- at a funeral, of all places.

Then again, maybe it isn't so unusual to learn about living at a funeral. The best and most fulfilling funerals I've ever been to are funerals during which life is celebrated, and examples are shared of a life well-lived. And this was definitely one of those funerals.

If you had known Patty, you would understand. If I had to choose one word to describe Patty it would be "joyful." In all the years I knew her, I never saw her without a smile. She was happy. She was positive. She was upbeat. She was joyful. Even as she waged her personal, private war with cancer, she found reasons to smile and laugh.

And so she insisted that her funeral be joyful. Because she knew that the end was coming, she outlined her funeral and personally invited those who she wanted to speak. She instructed them carefully that this was not to be a tearful, anguished funeral. She wanted laughter and smiles and... well... joyfulness all around.

Joy in the mourning.

And to a great extent, the speakers complied. Her father shared sweet and funny stories from Patty's childhood. A college roommate had the entire congregation laughing as she regaled us with lively stories from their college days. Then her husband, Jay, got up and talked about the heavenly reunion that was taking place between Patty and her grandpa, and how the two of them were probably doing something called the Oopa Dance together. Of course, Jay had to demonstrate the dance, which consisted of a series of moves that were part Hokey Pokie, part Funky Chicken and part being tased.

It was hysterical. I've never heard laughter that loud at a funeral.

And somewhere, I'm sure, Patty was smiling.

Of course, there were also some tender moments during the funeral, and some moments of profound instruction. One bit of wisdom really resonated with me a philosophical approach to living that has made a difference for me on more than one occasion during the past few weeks. I commend it to you. It's called: "There ya'are."

In straight English it would be: "There you are." But you can't say it that way, or you'll miss the whole point. It's "There ya'are" -- almost "There yar," but with a little hesitation between the "y" and the "ar." Sort of like "ya'all."

"There ya'are."

Got it, ya'all?

Jay explained that this simple phrase came to summarize Patty's approach to the vicissitudes she encountered during the last few years of her life. When a rude driver would cut her off in traffic, she wouldn't rage or vilify she would just shrug her shoulders and say, "Well, there ya'are." When she found out she had cancer, she didn't shake a fist at the heavens and cry "Why me?" she looked at Jay and said, "Well, there ya'are." And with each progressive downturn in her health, she wouldn't moan or complain it was just, "Well, there ya'are."

To me, the phrase doesn't suggest resignation or defeat. Once again, if you knew Patty you'd understand that. She was a fighter, and she battled her illness valiantly right up to the end. She fought, she worked, she tried, she suffered and she prayed. She fought so hard that there were some who knew her who wondered if she wasn't accepting the reality of her situation.

But she did. Just a few days before she died, when it was clear that the end was coming, she looked at Jay and smiled weakly. "Well," she said, shrugging her shoulders, "there ya'are."

That wasn't surrender on Patty's part. That was acceptance of life as it is, with its sometimes frustrating, sometimes painful realities.

Patty would be the first to say that if you can do something about whatever it is that is distressing you, you should do it. If you can fix the problem, fix it. If you can change the situation, change it. If it's tweakable, tweak it. Adjust it. Repair it. Make it better.

But if you can't -- and sometimes in life you just can't -- then get ready to do the Oopa Dance.

Because... well... there ya'are.

~ Joseph Walker ~
Copyright © 2009

Joseph Walker began his professional writing career as a staff writer for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, eventually becoming that newspaper's television and live theater critic. Since 1990 he has written a weekly newspaper column called ValueSpeak, which has appeared in more than 200 newspapers nationally. His published books include How Can You Mend A Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World for Deseret Book, The Mission: Inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Warner Books and three ghost-writing projects.  Please take a minute to let Joe know what you think of his story:  Joseph Walker
[ by: Joseph Walker Copyright © 2009 ( ) -- {used with permission} ]

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