Submitted by Craig Damrauer

Who are you remembering?
Lenore Damrauer

What are you sharing?
Jokes she sent to my kids during quarantine.

What’s the story behind them?

For the first 100 days of quarantine, my mother would send both of my kids a letter. Each letter was hand-written and contained one joke. She’d take a sticky note and place it over the punchline so the kids had a little more mystery. 

She was being treated for cancer at the time. A very treatable form of cancer. And the treatments left her weak at times and in pain at times but always optimistic. She was a happy and active woman and I’m positive she walked the four or so blocks to the mailbox and back every day during this period. And I can imagine the walk and that it was likely filled with thoughts about my kids and hopes for them. I also think it might not have been all that easy for her but she never mentioned this. She was that way.

There are 200 of the letters and if you look at the handwriting, you can see the days she was feeling good and the days she was in pain. 

This summer, over the course of about 8 weeks, she became totally paralized, we think due to a reaction to one of the chemo drugs. This was a woman who climbed a 14,000 foot mountain the summer previous and who was never not gardening. This was a woman who volunteered constantly and who had a very hard time retiring only a few months before she was diagnosed.

I spent her final 4 months taking care of her, telling her everything I wanted to and showing her the love she’s always showed me. When she died she left an entire circle of family and loved ones at a complete loss.

What we lost was a woman who nobody disliked in any way, who would source and then write two jokes a day, then walk down to the post office box to drop them off. A quiet act of daily love and devotion to her grandkids who live a few thousand miles away. We’re left picking all of this up. The paralyzation began to affect her breathing and in the end she decided she’d had enough. She lived an incredibly fulfilled life and lives on in many of the gentle, giving gestures I see in myself and in my kids, my brother and his children.

Their Projects. Illustration by Yeesan Loh for Grief Grit Grace.