Monday, May 22, 2017
I remember when this photo was taken in a photo booth in the mall near my childhood home. My mom had never been in one before and the first shot has us both looking stunned at the camera. We caught on and this captures the sheer fun that we had together that day. Shortly after that, my mom was found collapsed beside her bed and we began the three year journey that completed with her death in Victoria four days ago.
She died as most of us would wish to go, with her son and daughter at her side, holding her hand, hugging her and sending her out with love. She had been unresponsive for the previous few days and neither my brother nor I had seen her for over a week because of an outbreak of Noro virus in the long term care hospital. I firmly believe that by the time I finally got in to her, she was mostly gone and she never regained consciousness or acknowledged our presence. Still, I got a number of hours of reading Winnie the Pooh stories, singing the songs I remember as her favourites and showering her with loving energy to ease her way in the final days. My singing probably left much to be desired and I got stuck after the first verse of several old songs and had to hum the rest (Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage, but you'd look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two...la la la). I laughed at my attempts as my mom would have done and I hope she got a giggle from whatever deep place she was dwelling.
As it became clear that she wasn't going to bounce back from this downturn and surprise us with a request for a cup of tea as she did last time, the inevitability of her end was apparent. I had stepped out for a bite to eat on the afternoon of her death and my brother had to call to tell me to return quickly. I managed to get there for the last few minutes of her life and had the grace of breathing with her as she drew her last breath. I have never been in the presence of someone dying and it so reminded me of being in the room when my grandsons were born. There is this tremendous exhalation of energy in the very last moment of both birth and death. The world shifts and one soul enters or exits. The palpable experience I had of being present to my mom's life ending was a gift. There is no question she was leaving on wings of love.
I am peaceful and complete with my mom's passing. There is the business of her death which I am working through as her Executor. There is the difficult relationship that I have with my brother which is stretched to the breaking point in the stress and tension of grief. There is an empty space where my visits with Mom and thoughts about how to take care of her existed. There is a "Mama-less" world to negotiate after three years of being very close and connected with her.
We had switched places in the last few years. I became responsible for the decisions and finances of her life. She trusted me to make the choices and although she was frightened sometimes and not certain of what was going on, when she was with me she said she knew it was all okay. I got to take good care of her, be a good daughter and let her know how much I loved her. She was able to tell me how proud she was of me and how much she thought I had done a good job in my life. I am endlessly grateful for the time she had in my city, where I was a five minute drive away and could sit and watch Bonanza reruns with her and brush her hair and be silly with her.
I will miss you, Mama. Keep an eye on us, okay?