It is with deep, profound sadness that I write this post, but here it is.
We received news today that my mother passed away this morning, shortly after 9am (Saskatchewan time). She had been weak and ill for a fairly long time – spending most of the past year either in hospital or care home. Back in June, all seven of her children travelled to Saskatoon, where she lay in hospital, not expected to survive the night. We gathered around her bed and said our tearful goodbyes and waited for news of her passing. The night came and went, and the next,…and the next,…and on the third day she woke up and said to my sister “Do they not have any toast in this place?” My sister sent me a text message saying “I think I’m hallucinating!” with a photo of our mother eating peanut butter and jam toast and watching The Price is Right on TV. We were all gobsmacked, but at the same time there was a part of us that wasn’t surprised. Our mom was a tough, depression-era farm woman who pushed through whatever life threw at her, without complaint. She had little time for complaining, or complainers. As children we often heard the phrase “You got a full belly and a dry bum, what are you moaning about?” Knowing what she and my father, who passed away in 1982, had gone through in their lives – poverty, illness, World War 2 (my father fought overseas), the loss of an infant son, and raising seven children on an impossibly tight salary, made us wary of complaining. They were reasonable about it – anyone was allowed to grouse about something for awhile – but say your piece, air your grievance, and then shut up and move on – life is tough enough without having to listen to a bunch of whining. It was a solid way to grow up, and it forged a sense of perspective in us that, to this day, helps provide a bit of context to life’s ups and downs. So when our mother made this rather miraculous rebound from the brink of death, we knew her toughness had something to do with it. Not only that, but she thought it was hilarious that we had all gathered around her bed to say goodbye, and then she didn’t go anywhere. She had no real memory of that window of time, but she would laugh and say “I had you all pretty worried, eh?” Her recovery afforded us some extra time and some extra laughs that we never expected to get. Once, when I was visiting her recently, she said “Are you worried about me dying?” And I said “Nothing you do surprises me mother. If you passed away tomorrow it wouldn’t surprise me. And if you came bouncing down the hall on a pogo stick, that wouldn’t surprise me either.” That made her laugh. And making Mom laugh was about the best feeling in the world. She was a great laugher. You could get her going to the point where she just kind of shook and made a slight, high-pitched squeaking sound. When she was laughing like that, we would call her Precious Pup, and that would get her going even harder – wiping tears from her eyes. Dad could always make her laugh too. We may not have had a lot growing up, but we had a lot of laughs. And we were never cold, and never hungry, and always felt secure in our old house, and that had everything to do with our parents. Losing Dad just after my sixteenth birthday was sudden and unexpected and a tremendous shock. It flattened us all, and devastated my mother. It took her a long time to rally from that, and at the time it was just she and I at home (I’m the youngest of her children, and the others had all moved away by that time.) So we had a few years at home where it was just Mom and me, and as close as we were before, we grew incredibly close during that period of our lives. Even though she had been in a steady, steep decline these past weeks, and we all knew this was coming, losing her today simply and plainly crushes a part of me that won’t ever heal entirely. But that’s only because I loved her very much, and when you love someone that much, that’s the price you have to pay when you lose them. It hurts like hell, but I feel so truly blessed that I got to pay that price.
I’m going to miss that laugh.
We love you Mom. Rest in Peace.