On Friday, July 31st, I got a call that I was not expecting to get for many, many years. I heard my my little brother’s voice as scared as I have ever heard him as he said, “we might have lost mom.” The paramedics and my amazing nurse sister-in-law, Karen, were working on her. A few minutes later, Karen called me back and asked if I was sitting down. My heart hit the floor. I started screaming and whaling. I was on the floor, crying so hard I nearly threw up in my husband’s hands. I can still remember every second of that earth shattering evening.
It still doesn’t make sense. It still doesn’t seem fair. She was just here for a visit, playing with the kids and acting like her typical self. It still doesn’t feel real. I sit here writing this trying to wrap my head around the fact that I can’t call her. I will never again hear her voice or feel her arms around me.
Somehow I have found the strength to not only get through this past week, but to manage and organize things as needed. I have described it to many people as a strange automatic get ‘er done mode that my brain switched into. However, now as I sit here this evening, with everything done and nothing but time to think, it is setting in. So here I am keeping busy again. Writing a blog post in her memory (I’m sure the first of many) to share my Mama through my eyes, with you.
Last Wednesday we scattered her ashes into the ocean off her favourite beach in PEI, where she lived. I now wear a little piece of her in a sealed locket around my neck, close to my heart. We also held a Celebration of Life gathering just yesterday in my home town of Mount Forest, ON. We filled a room with family, friends and even extended relatives from far away. It was beautiful. I put together a tribute video and a speech and wanted to share both of them on here now.
This is my tribute speech to my Mama, completely unedited and exactly as I read it yesterday. Below this is the tribute video.
Thank you all for letting me share her with you.
I can’t begin to explain the shock of last Friday night. Everything happened so suddenly and it just doesn’t seem fair or real. I’ve learned over the past week that you are never ever prepared to say goodbye to a parent. It leaves an unbelievably painful hole in your heart.
Everyone keeps asking me how I’m doing, how the boys are doing, as people do in these situations. Bob and I were talking about it and agreed that we’re ok, when we keep busy. It’s those quiet moments that get us. A few minutes alone in the shower or sitting in our rooms. It starts to sink in and we start to remember mom. But as much as it hurts, we need to embrace it. We need to cherish her and remember her.
So that’s what I want to do today, but amongst the comfort of all our family and friends. I’m going to try to keep this light and funny, but I’m sure I’ll become a hot mess throughout many parts. So bare with me.
I think one of my first memories is sitting in my room, maybe 3 years old and mom telling me the names of the girls on my new wall hanging. It was the Little Women. She had such a passion in her voice telling me the story. To this day, that is my favourite book and my porcelain Jo doll that mom gave me sits on the desk in my study.
Mom passed so many things on to us, one of which was her love of reading. She always had so many books and made sure we did as well. It didn’t matter what kind of books we read, just that we read. With trips back and forth to our dad’s place in Burlington and camping each summer, we always had lots of opportunities to get lost in books. Now, I also think I inherited the bad habit of having 2 or 3 books on the go at the same time. In cleaning mom’s bedroom this past week, I can see she still had that habit.
Originally I hadn’t planned to write this. I was just going to get up here and put you all through the mess of me winging it. But I’m a writer. Another thing I got from mom. She wrote so much. In journals, on scraps of paper or even inside address books – which she had about 10 of and hardly used them for addresses. She would write out her memories, her opinions. She wrote poems and short stories. We’ve only begun to uncover it all in her belongings and I know Mark, Bob and I can’t wait to read more of her words.
Mom gave me her love of fashion. And maybe just a little bit of her shopping habit. She loved different fabrics, textures and patterns. She could remember nearly her entire wardrobe in her head. Not an easy task, seeing as though she had enough to clothe a small town. Often we would be out shopping and she would find something and say “oh I have those two tops that have this colour in the design!” She held onto her clothes. We’ve all chuckled at her expense over that and I am not really on to judge on that. But I’m so glad she did. The dress I am wearing today was hers. She had it in the late 70s early 80s and actually can be seen wearing it in photos when she was pregnant with Mark.
Mom kept her things. More than just clothes. She took great care of her belongings and cherished them. She taught us kids that it doesn’t mean anything to have the most expensive items. It’s about finding things that make you happy, taking care of them and being incredibly proud at the ability to purchase things you need or want. We were fairly poor growing up and didn’t have the same stuff as some other families or our friends had. But what we did have, we loved and valued. Today, mom has 3 grown kids who understand the need to work for the things that you want and that its ok to treat ourselves with things that will make us happy.
Music made mom happier than almost anything else. At the service in PEI at Mom & Jim’s church, the minister led in playing Let it Be. That was mom’s favourite song. She loved music and encouraged a love of music in us kids. We may not have had much growing up, but we always had something to enjoy music. Even if it was just a busted down old 8 track player from a garage sale. Both of my parents shared great music with us. I can remember a night in Kennilworth, right before Mom moved to PEI. I had loaded her iTunes with tons of music and we got completely drunk singing Beatles tunes at the top of our lungs.
Mom taught us the meaning of true friendships. She encouraged our friends to always hang around and loved to have a full house. And she stayed close to our friends. She was everyone’s best Facebook creeper. Mom was an expert at friendship. Anyone who doubts that needs to only look around this room. In going through her photos, we could see the lasting friendships that she has had. Some for more than 50 years. Mom taught us to value friendships by leading by example. And of course, by being our friend. In her words, she was a mother first and a friend second.
She was my best friend. Truly, honestly, my best friend. When I had something big happen, good or bad, she was the first call I would make. I couldn’t wait to share things with her. From a young age I knew I could talk her about anything. She always planned little things just for her and I. I can remember many nights when she would sneak me downstairs after everyone else has gone to bed. Sorry boys. And we would make popcorn, cuddle on the couch and watch a chick flick. We started in-house spa days when I was around 7. We would sit in our bathroom for hours, talking about school, boys, anything, while doing out hair and nails. Our last spa day was less than a month ago. I was taking a bath at my house and in true mom fashion, she marched right in and sat down on the counter. We talked for over an hour while we painted each other’s nails and went through all the beauty products in my bathroom that she was likely thinking about stealing. I can’t believe that memory was just a few weeks ago and now she’s gone.
She leaves behind so much. Such a legacy. Probably the most important trait that mom passed onto us was how to be great parents. Not perfect parents, but ones who would love the hell out of our children, just as she did with us. She taught us to be loving, kind, open, supportive and so very playful. Her playful nature is one of the things I will miss the most. I would watch mom with Lilly over the years. She would pull the same stunts she did on us as kids. She would pinch Lilly’s behind and then say “what, it wasn’t me!” It was like getting a Birdseye view into my childhood. Even during her last visit just a few weeks ago, she was running around with the kids, playing hide and seek with Cole and getting right down on the ground to wrestle with him. She was an amazing mom, but also an incredible nana.
I feel like I have mourned two people this week. I have cried over the loss of my Mama, but I am also heartbroken for my children and my niece and nephews. They lost there Nana. While Lilly and Mavado will likely keep some memories, Atreyu, Cole and Robin will not really remember her. I broke down the other day thinking about how Cole will never get to experience Nana they way Lilly did and how they are all now missing her from their lives. Mark, Bob and I miss their Nana for them and I will tell them about her. She will live on through us and we will be strong enough to share her with them.
Out of everything that mom gave us, what we have relied on most this past week is her strength. She was such a strong women, even in moments when she was incredibly fragile. Many of you know that our little family has been through a lot. We faced a lot of darkness in our past, but mom was strong enough to see the brighter side and helped us to as well. In looking back at everything we faced as a family, mom always had the ability to push through her pain and still be the goofy, happy and sometimes annoyingly playful mother that she was. She was so strong for us. Mark said something to me earlier this week. He said “you ain’t a rock sweetie” and he’s right. I’m certainly the basket case this week out of us kids. But I was mom’s rock and she was mine. There is a line from a song that her and I used to listen to; “you got me, I got you, together we always pull through.” Mom may be gone, but we’ve still got her. We always will. And with the love and support of family and friends, we will pull through.
We love you mom.
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