Saturday, October 16, 2010

Games -- for Carolyn, by Bonnie J. Mansell

Just a few hours before Carolyn passed away on Wednesday evening, I learned that she had gone to a Bunko game on Tuesday. It was hard to imagine that only 24 hours ago this precious woman, so frail and worn, had been helped into a wheelchair and taken by car from La Habra to Chino Hills to be at a Bunko game, where she couldn’t even play. Tim assured me that Carolyn had been well enough to go, though she had very little energy.

After I got past the shock, I started thinking about it. If I knew that I was dying, would I want to spend my last evening watching friends play a card game? Of course, Carolyn did not know that her death was only a day away, but she was well-aware that it was imminent.

Honestly, my first reaction was, “Are you kidding?” It seemed, I don’t know, frivolous or something. It’s just that -- if I knew that I was dying, wouldn’t I want to be at home, savoring every minute left with my family? Wouldn’t I want to do something, ahem, spiritual?

Then, as I thought more about this on the way home, I realized something. Yes, I would want to spend every minute with my family and those who mean the most to me; and yes, of course, games are a bit frivolous. But, truthfully, game playing has created some of the best memories I have.

I love playing peanuts or scrabble with Steve and the kids. And I’ve laughed so hard while playing Celebrities, Telephone Pictionary, and SCUM that I’m sure I’ve worked off some holiday calories (or “played” them off, I guess).

Games are certainly not the context in which you would expect to have a deeply spiritual epiphany, yet games provide the setting for many of those ordinary moments that shimmer in the fabric of our memories. And isn’t it, after all, the ordinary moments that add width and depth to our lives? Wouldn't we choose to savor those moments if we remembered how short our time really is?

As I reflected on all this, I began to appreciate Carolyn’s decision. Even now, while I am in good health and death is not often in my thoughts, I love to listen to my family sitting around the table playing games. I like to sit on my bed working a crossword puzzle as I hear them in the kitchen: playing, laughing, staying up later than I have any desire to do.

It gives me confidence that they are fine – that they enjoy being together, choosing, as adults, this healthy, interactive community, whether I’m a part of it or not. So, if I knew that I had only days to live, I can imagine that I would love to be in the room as my friends and family enjoyed games I could no longer play. Frivolous? Maybe. Spiritual? Absolutely.


  1. Bonnie I love the introspection you thought about when considerating the choice your friend made at the end of her days in this story. This story tells as much about you as it does about your friend's end decisions.

  2. Bonnie, I enjoyed your story about your friend Carolyn and particularly liked: "... games provide the setting for many of those ordinary moments that shimmer in the fabric of our memories." Games do bring family and friends together to share in laughter and a challenge to the mind, too, sometimes. Such sharing and closeness are not easily achieved in our hectic lives of today. Although Carolyn was not able to personally participate in the game-playing, her presence among you in her final hours will be cherished by all forever.

  3. This was such an honest look at life and the value of it. What is spiritual anyway? Jesus hung out with his friends and even lounged around with them. I picked my grandson up from school the other day and he said quite wistfully, "We should play Apples to Apples again soon." (His favorite family game)I agreed. I hope I'm enjoying family and friends when I die. Thanks for sharing this precious memory with us Bonnie.

  4. Dear Bonnie,this story and other of your sharings of inner strength, perseverance, and above all faith- have been valuable life lessons to me personally. You have truely mastered finding/appreciating the magic "Like those ordinarey moments that simmer in the fabric of our memories."

  5. Great story Bonnie.
    What a fighting spirit your friend Carolyn had. Even though she knew her health was in jeopardy she didn't sit around moping about it but opted to go and play Bunko with her good friends. I hope my ending will be like that.