The question “How are you?” seems probing
to me lately because it’s not one that I feel I can answer simply or truthfully.
My mother died less than two months ago. I miss her. I want to hear her voice.
There are things I want to tell her. While it was an honour and a privilege to
be there for mom in the last week of her life, I was painfully aware that I was
witnessing all her “lasts.” The last time she walked, talked, and fed herself, for
example. In many ways, when I was caring for her, I felt like a mother with a
newborn. I slept less than 20 hours that week. I spent countless hours by mom’s
side—holding her hand and quietly encouraging her. “You’re
so brave.” “You’re almost there!” “Everyone loves you!” For the most part, I
felt calm and purposeful. One of the last things my mom said to me was, “I’m
sorry you have to see this.” I assured her that there was no place I would
rather be. I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me. Although it was
intense and sad, there was a certain grace in her transition.
In less than two weeks, my daughter
Hope will be having her second heart surgery. We learned about its
inevitability just over two years ago. We’ve had time to wrap our heads around
it and accept it, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. Occasionally at
night, it will weigh heavy on Hope’s mind and she will tearfully ask me
existential questions like, “Why are we here [on earth]?” and “Did we choose to
be here or are we forced to be here?” Of course I don’t have any answers
because these are profound and fundamental questions. Questions that sensitive humans
have probably been asking for as long as we have roamed this planet. It’s
heartbreaking to me that she is asking them at the tender age of 11. In a way
though, I am delighted and proud because I know from Hope’s ruminations that
she is deep, intelligent, and spiritual. Is there anything more important than
pondering the reason for existence?
How am I? When I think
about the uncertain future, I get light-headed and nauseous. So I try to refrain
from mental time travel and remain in the present. It’s not at all easy, but mindfulness
brings my attention back to the simple things that I’m grateful for. Like the
changing seasons, crunching maple leaves underfoot, a latte
sweetened with maple syrup, fresh linens, snuggles, a compelling memoir, and the magic of
watching monarch butterflies migrate. For now, my enjoyment of these things is
my gauge for wellness. When caring family or friends ask how I am doing, I guess I’m
not being dishonest when I reservedly reply, “I’m alright.”
On July 31 at 1:46 a.m. I heard my dear mother take her last breath. She was at home in bed lying next to my dad—her life partner and soulmate. I was in the next room. Because he is so heartbroken, I have been staying with dad for the last two nights as he sleeps. For comfort, my dad falls asleep listening to talk radio and last night, around the time of mom’s death, the song “I’ll Be Seeing You” came on. A sign to me that mom is at peace and still very much with us. I dedicate this song to my mother and father. May you be reunited again soon. I love you with all my heart. Always.