The top drawer was stuck and I could barely get my fingers in to feel what was preventing it from opening. After a number of frustrating moments with a wooden spoon, I pulled out the drawer beside it and reached in to push an old picture frame down to free the drawer. The contents are many old photographs, documents and keepsakes from my father, my grandparents and my mom. The photo that was stuck was a portrait of my mom at about 20 years old, a beautiful sepia toned black and white of this gorgeous, vibrant young woman, her curly thick hair pulled back from her face and her full lips are in a welcoming smile. She is wearing rhinestone earrings that I recognize from a set she has since given to me and a matching brooch. Her eyes capture you with their pure determination and her flawless, smooth skin glows. She is a stunning woman and at once I understood why this photo stopped me from opening the drawer.
My mom is 89 almost 90 years old and is at the end of her life. She nearly accomplished her wish to die in her home and would have, had the Health Care aide not found her collapsed by the side of the bed with a nearly fatal low blood oxygen level. I flew to be by her side, not knowing what to expect when I arrived and she has now spent over two weeks in the geriatric unit of a local hospital. In her typically stubborn manner, she has rallied, sufficiently to be ready to be discharged next week, but has been assessed incapable of being in her home alone, due to dementia and incapacity to be mobile without assistance. The opportunity to move her to the retirement community where I work part time came up and most of the paperwork is complete to set the wheels in motion.
It is a huge move, away from the city that has been her home for 85 years and the house that she has lived in for the past 56 of them. She and my father raised my brother and I here but my mom was the glue, the backbone of the family. My father's life was an interesting one, fodder for many other blogs. He died at the young age of 67. Mom has been here on her own for almost 28 years. Being in her home has been the single driving force for her life in the past decade and up to 3 weeks ago, I would have bet money on her not ever leaving it. Now, given the choice of living in a Long Term Care home here in Calgary with none of her family nearby, or a move to Victoria where we all are (me, my brother, my husband, her two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren), she chose to trust me to move her to somewhere safe. She has also entrusted me with emptying her home and selling it to finance the steep monthly care fees to keep her going.
I have spent the past two and half weeks in my childhood home, sleeping in it alone for the first time. It has been a period of letting go and saying goodbye. My mom's memory, gracefully has already faded many of the details of the house and she seems quite accepting, if a little frightened, of the change. For me, it represents a huge task, but one that I have found can be paid for with a service that will clear the entire house in 4 days. My brother wants some time to be here but I am leaning towards the fee for freedom method!
Today, I am celebrating the magnificent young woman who smiles at me as I type this from her dining room table. I honour you, Mama, and promise I will take very good care of you and all that you have collected over the years. In my heart, I understand why that drawer wouldn't open, she doesn't want to leave, any more than she wants to be in that creaky, painful old body. I am absolutely certain that the spirit of this being is alive and well inside my mama.
There will undoubtedly be more reflection as the final days here wind down, along with a whirlwind of tasks to be completed. I felt it important to pause today, Easter Sunday, to love and let go of this piece of my mom and to move swiftly to the place where we are now, with joy and anticipation of the time to come.