When my mother asked me to write the second part of her final blog, I knew that it would be my eulogy to her.
In her last blog, she describes her many losses. The gradual decline of her health, quality of life, and autonomy. I know from our conversations that this chipping away at her ability to live was the most emotionally taxing part of this whole experience.
For me, they represented a sequence of little deaths, each accompanied by a period of grief.
I mourned my mother’s ability to ever feel well and healthy again, and gained a deeper gratitude for the privilege I still possess.
I mourned my mother’s mental clarity, what she called “Chemo Brain”. A very real and disheartening phenomenon.
I mourned the deterioration of her physical strength, and her appreciation of her own luminous beauty. First with the effects of treatments on her hair, then the inescapable indignity of a wonky colostomy bag.
It was hard to see my mother’s ability to read and write without hinderance slowly vanish.
Harder still, I mourned my mother’s ability to live a pain-free life. That is, until she was placed in palliative care.
But I was also witnessing something awesome.
After four years of suffering, anxiety, and cancer eroding my mother’s mind, body, and soul, I discovered what remained; who my mother really was at her core.
Despite it all, the woman I visited in room 105 was kind, patient, easy-going, and generous. She was lovely. She was love distilled. Not only did these parts of herself survive the process, but the darkness in which they were set made them shine brighter. The bitterness, and the resentment at the cruelty of life that was robbing her of her future, weren’t there. She had her moments of sadness, of shuddering under the weight of all those losses, but these feelings inevitably passed through her.
Among my mother’s many passions was teaching. I would say it was her calling, one she found later in life. She was the kind of teacher who got to know her student’s life stories. The names of their partners, the names of their children, and grandchildren. The trials and tribulations which led them to leave their home countries and come to Quebec. Here’s a little story about my mum.
Years ago, now, she was beginning her career teaching French as a Second Language at an adult education school. It was mid-December, almost the end of term, and she heard that a student of hers–a young single-mother who was struggling to make ends meet–couldn’t afford to buy her child Christmas presents. The very same day, my mother went out and bought some. She wrapped the presents, and brought them to the school’s director, requesting that they be given anonymously to her student. She told no one about this. The only reason I know it happened is because I was home when she walked in with the packages.
In the grand scheme of things, this small act of kindness is just a drop in the bucket. It certainly didn’t rescue this woman—my mum’s student—from her difficult circumstances, but it did ensure that a child would feel special on Christmas, and I can only imagine how important that is to a parent.
With my mother’s passing I have lost more than a parent. I have lost a great friend (my very best friend, in fact), a confidante, a font of wisdom and love, my writing partner, my ideal reader, and a vital part of my support network.
I think that for all who knew her, she was more than one thing. Always more than just a friend, a teacher, a sister, a daughter, a neighbour. If nothing else, that’s something remarkable to aspire to.
I love you, mum. The best in me, came from you. Au revoir.