Already There — Part 2


By Anthony Kovatch, MD

Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia



Growing up on a farm instilled in her two old-fashioned, time-honored attributes (today some would consider them character flaws): the peaceful serenity of a dove and the chronic compulsion of hard work. My mother-in-law never argued, never spoke a word of obscenity (not even “shoot” or OMG), and was incapable of anger or guile.  Into her seventies and eighties, Mum cut our grass. The meals at Sunday’s extended family dinners were simple and healthy to an extreme, with fostering a prolonged life expectancy in mind — no indulgent frying or garnishing. Our favorite was the ultra-healthy “chicken with skin” (chicken legs enhanced only with the natural flavoring of their own skin!). Indeed, Mum was no fancy cook; however, the haute cuisine provided by our Italian sister-in-law chef Nina was NEVER rejected; rather, it became the centerpiece of the dinner table!

She “eschewed obfuscation” — a popular slogan among the hippies and intellectuals of the seventies — as well as technology and innovation. At family gatherings, nothing was more true blue than Mum washing all the dirty dishes by hand while the rest of us relaxed on our keisters, drinking coffee and bemoaning having to work the next day.


Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone

     Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;

Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,

     And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.


— “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by English poet Thomas Gray.


The highway of her simple life was surely without the “tollgates where you buy your way with tears.” Raising 12 children during the 1960s and 1970s was surely no garden of roses or lilacs. I once asked her how she and Jack endured and kept the “plane from crashing” during those turbulent years of raising indignant teenagers; the answer had something to do with trusting that God was always their copilot. Before her death, in a pretend interview, I demanded her to answer the question: “What advice would you give to the parents of today in raising their own children?” Her answer: “No! — parents have to be able to tell their children ‘No’!” Wisdom from a life of endless giving, self-deprivation, unconditional and sometimes unrequited love.

Although I only account for half of a legacy, I know Mum had a profound effect upon my attainment of happiness and self-worth; and to my last breath as a physician, her blood will continue to “run through my instruments and her laugh will be in my soul.” Her blood will run through my own son Tony’s accordion when he wants to “capture the feeling of being in a beautiful place”; little does he know it, but he has already been there.

In my attempts to humor Mum and warm her deathbed, I tried to convince her failing consciousness that she was being nominated by the Pope for sainthood. There was no reaction, as if she was long gone and just checking in now and then to be sure we were coping. On her last Saturday night, after Mary and I returned from church services, I whispered that she would soon be getting a glimpse of Heaven. Fool that I am, I should have known that she was already there!

And that the grass was cut and the dishes were washed — in Heaven, as they had been on earth.


On some fond breast the parting soul relies,

     Some pious drops the closing eye requires;

Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,

     Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.


Addendum — Readers might ask: “Why is the author, this mere in-law, so determined to claim son-hood?”  Answer: He is convinced that Heaven encourages legacy admissions.


Spanning 91 years: The oldest and the youngest of the Lyons Family begin a beautiful relationship!  As per Frank Herbert:  “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”