How do you say Goodbye?

Posted September 8, 2014 by


This blog about the loss of my mom has been the hardest to write and a long time coming.

It was October of 1998.I was suddenly jarred awake by the frantic whispering of the two nurses standing at the side of my mother's hospital bed, "What's going, what's wrong?” I ask groggily. They proceed to explain that the tube that was draining fluid from her lungs had come out. I had been sitting in the arm chair writing her a letter that she would never read.

The year had started out good pretty good for me. I had jumped back into sharing my experiences about being HIV positive, I was putting weight back on and I was turning the big four- O! Although this was all very exciting and I was moving forward, a dark cloud was about to envelop our entire family as mother was losing her battle to cancer; melanoma to be exact. I really don't know how long she had it, because it seemed to take forever to diagnose. I just remember quit clearly making a call to see how her doctor’s appointment went, carefully choosing her words she informed me of the results of the tests that confirmed her disease. She quickly followed the results with, "It's not hereditary”. I remember feeling numb as my husband Gordon took the phone from my hand. Asking me what was wrong? He held me as I took in this devastating news. In the following months mom was given chemo pills, but the doctors ruled out the possibility of a bone marrow transplant because she was just shy of 70.

It was fall and I was invited to a co-ed HIV positive retreat in Bolton Ontario. I was to meet my friend Karen from Toronto. Saturday morning I confided to her that I had had a dream that night that the police were looking for me, that I needed to go home. She assured me that it was probably because I had forgotten to leave a contact number. I didn't think too much more about it and Karen and I enjoyed our beautiful surroundings of the changing leaves, meeting new people, and great food. Only regretting having to leave so soon.

I arrived home the next night to several messages from Beth informing me that Mom had been taken to Stratford hospital. The doctor had put in a chest tube to drain the fluid which in turn caused her to have a heart attack. Apparently it wasn't the first. Arriving at the hospital I almost walked right past her bed. I barely recognized her amongst the piles of pillows and the starched white sheets that fought with her complexion. She appeared small and fragile. The skin on her hands was very thin and transparent. She appeared to be in good spirits and chatted with all the family. When they had first brought her in the doctor did not expect her to live the first five hours and Dad was advised to gather the family. The following days Dad and I stayed at the hospital. She was put on morphine and they drained a pint and a half of fluid from her from her lungs. She seemed a bit better, although by night fall she was restless and kept repeating the same words over and over again: "Just give me a minute". The nurses were nice enough to give us the adjoining room, but I chose a chair instead in which to finish my letter, which is where I feel asleep until those nurses woke me up. I anxiously scanned the parking lot at dawn for a familiar face. My sisters Beth and Val had children and my brother had cattle to take care of. I worried that they may be too late as Mom’s breathing was getting labored. Dad was exhausted so I let him sleep until family came.

With the arrival of the doctor we were told that he was afraid to insert another chest tube in fear of causing another heart attack. He shared with us that the first one had been sewn in, but that mom had to have pulled it out. For us this was a clear indication that she had had enough. Luckily, we were all present when she took her final breath on that miserable rainy day in October.

Thinking back now on a story Mom's sister had shared with us about one of Mom's hospital stays. My aunt said the doctor looking at my mom’s chart commented “looks like you need a blood transfusion young lady". Without hesitating Mom said to him, “I don't think so!" As my aunt stood there flabbergasted the doctor said, “Suit yourself” and strolled out into the corridor. Followed by my Mom yelling after him, "I changed my mind, maybe you’re right" I wonder if this was stubbornness or denial?

Our mom was a hardworking, very thoughtful, caring mom. But I felt there was always something missing in her life. She came from a large family with 11 siblings. Being the oldest girl she quickly became care-giver to the younger ones. She told me more than once of how she had to stand on a stool to do dishes at the age of five. Many yrs later she gave up her career as an R.N. to assist my dad on our two farms. As she settled into her role as wife, mother, and grandmother she never had much time to enjoy life. She was there for school projects, to help with homework and bake for church functions, She taught us girls to knit, crochet, and embroidery. She worked endlessly to help bring in the crops. She probably handled more bales of hay than a guy half her age. We always had a huge garden where the dog was always instructed to stay out! It is sad to say that she never got to do the traveling that she craved. And there are now four great grandchildren that never got to meet her. In closing I would like to share this poem in her honor.

"Isn't it strange that those we need.
are those we love the best,
and just the ones that God needs too,
and takes them home to rest."

Rest in peace Mom,
love the church mouse