One year ago, my mum passed away after a very long battle with cancer. We were at her side and, strange of it sounds, I cherish that moment. It’s not something that I can easily explain.
Some days, it feels as though years have passed since she left us and other feel as though it was only yesterday. I’ve been dreading the anniversary and, as expected, her birthday a few days ago was a difficult day. Today isn’t much better.
I’ve been thinking of what I’d write on this day. At first, I thought about writing about all the things that had happened during this past year that she’s missed. But the reality is that I think that’s too hard for me to do and besides, it’s something I do by myself everyday. When I’m on a run, or whenever one of the kids do something silly or something crazy happens, I always think something along the lines of “can you believe this?!” I still reach for the phone or think to jot her a quick email. I suspect that instinct won’t ever fade.
A few months after her death, rather than have a funeral, we had a Celebration of Life. I’m quite certain she would have *hated* a morose affair and so we celebrated her life by gathering our families and friends and sharing our memories of her. It was a day I will always remember.
I thought I’d share what I said that day.
Thank you all for coming and sharing this day with us. Mum would have surely liked to see you all and catch up on all the news. But she didn’t much like parties or being the centre of attention… so she’s probably the one who made it snow yesterday. She’s probably somewhere waving her hands and wondering what all the fuss is about.
I’d like to extend a special thank you to all those who supported her and my dad throughout her illness. Her friends and this special community. There are too many of you to name individually but we know she felt loved and cared for and never alone.
I’d like to recognize her doctors and nurses; Dr Barakett and Dr Koopman. I’m sure she wasn’t the easiest patient but she trusted her doctors implicitely and we all knew she was getting the best care possible. Her nurses, Nicole and Helene, made a huge impact on all our lives and we’ll always be thankful for your caring and understanding.
The words of support and love these past few weeks have helped me to realize how many people mum touched throughout her life. So many of her peers have shared stories of how they were affected by her strength and how they were inspired by her. So many of my peers like to remind me of how scary she was to them when we were growing up!
A few stories to illustrate this fact:
One summer, I was working with 2 guys who would become lifelong friends, Dave and Ryan. We were bored one evening and, after what were no doubt several beers or rye and gingers, the boys decided to introduce me to the game of Red Ass. We were being idiots and laughing and trouncing each other. Mid-way through the game, I heard something and turned to see Mum on the porch, watching us. Glass of wine in hand, she shook her head at us and asked “just what in the hell are you three doing?” It stopped Dave and Ryan in their tracks and has become lore between the 3 of us – particularly when one of them butchers her accent.
Later that summer – I was maybe 16 or 17, friends and I were out together partying on an island near our home. As my curfew came and went, I was still on the island at the mercy of friends driving the boat to get me home. At this point, I had sort of figured “well, you can’t be more late, right?”
When I finally got dropped off at home, I asked my friends to drop me at the end of our long driveway, in the hopes that no one would hear me and I’d get away scott-free.
As I walked up the driveway, the dogs started to bark from our screened-in porch.
“SHHHHHHHH”, I hissed.
That’s when I looked up, saw the glowing ember of Mum’s cigarette in the dark and heard her say “Don’t bother. I’m Awake”.
Needless to say, I was in deep shit.
Mum raised us to be strong, resilient and independent individuals. When I look at my brothers and my kids, I know how proud she was of all of us and I can only hope to be the kind of parent to them that she was to us – including that healthy dose of the scary part.
What I miss most now and think I will continue to miss for a very long time is not having her with me to share the silly things in life. When my kids say something funny or I get myself into some sort of ridiculous situation, she’s still the first person I think to email or call, and I can’t seem to shake that feeling. So if you are looking for someone to fill your inbox with silly quotes from 4 year olds, let me know – I’m your girl.
But I am thankful that my brothers and I had the kind of relationship with our Mum where we could share things anddespite the fact that we all live in different time zones, we always felt connected to her.
A few hours before she fell asleep for the last time, she looked at me and patted my cheek and told me not to look so worried, to go out and do something.
So let’s. Let’s DO something. Let’s raise a toast to a our mum, our sister, our friend. Let’s vow to remember her as the strong, opinionated, caring, funny, scary and determined woman she was and carry her with us on our adventures and life.