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Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes

Updated Oct 22, 2013 - 12:12 pm

I laugh at should, too!

The management at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati should be ashamed of themselves. If a veteran's family wants to memorialize their daughter with a 7-foot Spongebob Squarepants headstone, it should be their right to do so. After all, this is America, and this young woman died defending our nation - and our right to have 7-foot cartoon characters at our grave site.

But I digress.

Last week, we lost the matriarch of our small family. My grandmother died on Thursday after months of fighting a cornucopia of illnesses. I was at her side, along with my mom, sister and two uncles, shortly after her admittance to Mayo Hospital. We stayed awake through the night, knowing that she would slip away at any moment. I know this sounds like the "typical" scene that plays out when a loved one passes, but our family has never been typical.

You see, my family laughs at death. Not in the death-defying superhero kind of sense, but in the "no reason this can't be fun" kind of sense.

It's a long-standing tradition with my family.

My dad was an organ donor. When he died, his eyes were donated to two men. One eye was donated to a man in France and the other to a man in Germany. My mom's response? "Oh good! Dad always wanted to see Europe!"

We rolled the family comedy act right into Mayo last week. The doctors and staff didn't know what hit ‘em. The hospital was trying to find the source of an intestinal leak within my grandmother. I was met with blank stares and awkward silence when I suggested placing her in the tub and watching for air bubbles. Our entire crew got a chuckle, but most importantly, I could see my grandmother giggling behind her oxygen mask.

Don't think Grandma didn't have the last laugh. Her will is specific about cremation with NO funeral service. Simply stated, her will reads: "If somebody wants to stop by, see my ashes in an urn and say "hey," they are more than welcome to do so."

The laughing stopped only when the mortuary "counselor" informed us that a basic cremation was just shy of $3,000! Not to worry -- we fell right back into form. I am sure that the mortuary "consultant" didn't appreciate our suggested, less expensive alternatives. Who doesn't like a campfire? I'm just sayin'.

Here's a news flash: Death is a 100 percent certainty. It's going to happen to all of us -- except maybe Keith Richards. My family knows this, embraces it and celebrates. When death comes for you or one of your loved ones, try opening with, "So a reaper walks into a bar..." It's your life and it is your death. Don't let the last moments of your life or a loved one's be spent wallowing in sorrow.


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About the Author

Mike is a Southern California transplant. Although his latest Arizona stint started in 2006, Mike is a proud graduate of Glendale's Apollo High School. Higher education? He stopped counting after 5 colleges. After 15 years of real estate and corporate life, Mike had a crazy idea to give talk radio a try. A short 2.5 years of cutting his teeth on the AM dial, he received the call from KTAR. Mike is now the host of Get Outdoors with Mike Russell, co-host of Mike & Winey on Saturdays and co-host of The Think Tank on Sundays. Mike's special features, The Outdoor Minute and the KTAR Timeline, can be heard daily on both Arizona's Morning News and Arizona's Noon News. Mike hurries home each night to his amazing wife of 11 years, Jodi, and their two children Jillian (9) and John (6). His 95 pound puppy, Champ, is always there to greet him as well. Daydreams of fishing, hunting, and camping keep Mike motivated throughout the day. When he can't hit the lake or get out on a hunt, Mike finds his "Zen" through his passion for family time and gourmet grilling.


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