My Mom the Fighter, a Prayer, the Call and powerful word, the week 6 blog I have not wanted to write.
This is the blog I have written so many times in my head over the last year. I had planned the direct approach, thinking it would be better for me to say the hardest part first – My Mom has died. But even after writing it now, I still find it hard to believe and certainly not any easier to say. This day has come the long way around, with my Mom fighting far longer than anyone had thought she could or had expected her to, mainly because of the faith she had, and her sheer will.
26 years ago when I was 15, I still remember the hush talk around the house, and the conversations around me, but never to me about my Mom’s first introduction to Cancer. She had a breast removed, and I don’t remember how we where told or what was said, but I do remember that it was my Aunt Edna that told us that Mom had an “operation”. As I write this, a memory of my Mom using the bedroom doorframe as an exercise machine to strengthen her arm, and only needing to do 5 stretches, but she would do 10. Pushing higher and harder than she was instructed, so that she could recover faster, typical of the strength and will power of my Mom.
It would continue, because 15 years later, cancerous polyps were discovered, and another procedure and more recovery. 3 years ago it was lung cancer with a third of one lung removed. She was out of the hospital in 2 or 3 days, up and about and if not for the adverse effect of the chemotherapy, she would have been fine. However, the cancer cells that remained after the chemo had other plans, and spread to her esophagus and started to form a tumor that would be the beginning of the end of my Mom’s battle with the horrible disease. The tumor would eventually lead to spots on her spine and other parts of her bones, all too much for the fighter that was my Mom.
The call came just after 8:00AM, and was a little bit of a surprise. You see, Saturday afternoon the day before, my Mom seemed like she was doing ok. Managing the pain, able to even move her arm a little, and taking part somewhat in the conversations going on around her in the room. I am told, that it is not uncommon to have a good day, preceding a bad. After we hung up the phone, we got up, quickly showered and made it to Orangeville in record time.
When we arrived at the hospital, my aunt Edna was holding my Mom’s hand and talking to her so gently, at almost a whisper. Mom’s breathing was very laboured and when she exhaled, there was this little gurgle sound that the nurse described as water on her vocal cords. “It sounds worse than it is,” they both said, and then my aunt, asked me to sit and just talk to her and I did sit, but I found myself unable to speak. Nathalie encouraged me to try, and her herself talked a little to Mom, saying that “it is ok, and that we are here how.” but my words failed me, and I could not come up with anything. Nathalie suggested I read something from my blog, and after another 20 minutes of quiet contemplation, I read the words I wrote for my Mom on Mothers day 4 months ago.
There is someone in everyone’s life that provides unconditional, unwavering love. For most, that person waited to hear your voice, and wished to touch your hand and loved you LONG before you even breathed you first breath. Those who have known true love in their life will certainly understand the feeling this kind of love brings, and even long for it’s emotional energy if it is missing in their life, but the love of a Mother is something that will always be the strongest, deepest and most special love of your life.
When we are young, we take this love for granted, and some times even take advantage of it. When we are teens, we devalue the love by not appreciating it and by sometimes saying hurtful things, but when we are older and perhaps have children of our own, we understand what this love is. It is only then that we can truly learn to love in this way for ourselves. Mothers teach us by showing and doing, and some of what they teach us, they don’t even know.
Thank you to my Mom for teaching me strength, commitment, and for giving me my get back up when you fall down ability and doing it all without even knowing you did it. I love you Mom!
There were a million other words all rolling around in my head, before and after reading this to my Mom, but I was unable to form any of them into sounds on Sunday. I plan to write more in the future, but for now here is what I wished I had said to my Mom.
Thank you for making me the person I am today. Thank you for loving my wife unconditionally, and my children without fail and thank you for giving me the power of whit, and the sense to know when to use it. Thank you for allowing me to grow up in a house, in which I NEVER felt, unloved, unwanted or unnecessary. A house that I only figured out later in life was built with very little money. Thank you for giving me all I needed and more than I wanted, and for blurring the line between the two. You have done an amazing job as a Mother, raising three great children and it shows, because each of us, are raising wonderful children of our own, a true testament to you. Thank you for being the best Mom I could have wished for. I love you.
Over the last 3 or 4 weeks of my Mom’s life, she was having a terrible time when people would leave her hospital room. She said to me a couple of months earlier, “I know I am dying and I am not scared” so I know she had come to grips with death, but I think her biggest fear was dying alone. I think she wanted to make sure she was able to show friends and family that in her death would come strength in family and friendship and companionship, in an amazing way. In replaying the last hours of her life, with an endless stream of people holding her hands and talking to her, and telling stories of her life and telling her, “Thank you” and “I love you”, over and over, I think it must have brought her some joy. Every cousin, niece and nephew was at the hospital on Sunday, and all but one of my Mom’s sisters and one brother was there too. The only person missing was my sister. Janey did talk to my Mom over the phone earlier that day, and she told her that, “she was on her way, and that she loved her”. It could not have been that easy for her traveling, not knowing if she would make it in time.
It was not clear to me, why my Mom was still fighting for breath and struggling as much as she was the whole day, until I picked up my sister at the airport that night and had to tell her that Mom had passed. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she always says a quick prayer before taking off in an airplane and today, she added the words, “If you can’t keep her until I arrive, please take her now.” You see it was then at 4:35PM, in a quiet room in Orangeville, that my Mom breathed her last breath. Janey told her it was ok to stop fighting and that is just what she did.
I wrote my Mom’s death notice in the funereal office, on my phone while we were all discussing her final arrangements. Details of flowers, and procedures and paperwork, all in an echo in the little room, all so very surreal, I found occupying my fingers while putting my family’s names in chronological order by date of birth was helpful. The word that kept popping into my head was truly. Truly, because I have read: “died peacefully, surrounded by family” so many times, that it meant nothing to me. Nothing, that is until I was part of the family surrounding a loved one in their last moments of life. I can say that without a doubt, my Mom TRULY died peacefully, surrounded by friends and family.
Thank you to the many people who have sent messages, cards or letters of condolences over the last week. The outpouring of your well wishes is truly a blessing to my family and me, much like the life of my Mother was a blessing to us all.
Thanks for reading and have a great and safe week.