My last post was about my mom, in 2013. This post will be about my mom. She was born July 28, 1955 and passed away on May 1, 2015. She was our everything.
I've been working on this post for weeks and weeks, started then deleted, then started all over again, walked away from it, came back. There is no right or wrong way to explain how I feel, or how I have experienced life growth, set backs, more growth, or death...trust me, although I am living, I have experienced death in one form or another. What I would like to do is share my own experience, so that, when the time comes for you, you have some sort of guide or grid or common place with whatever is going on. Something to connect to. I didn't have warning as to what I was about to experience. I had people say "It will be hard." or "Keep her memories close." or "She lives in you." And some days I wanted to scream and cry and tell those people that they had no idea what I was going through. Some days, I wanted to sit with those same people and have tea or coffee and talk and laugh and cry.
I'm defintinetly not trying to be down in the dumps, or sad, or depressing...but I really want to talk about grief. And mourning. There's a difference between the two. A big difference. And we are all going to be faced with each of these things over and over in our lifetime on earth. We can't stop it. We can't pretend it didn't happen. But we also can't live in fear of it. We have no warning as to when we will lose someone we love. Sometimes, like in my case, we do have warning. What was shocking to me, was that when my mom told me at the age of 14 years old she was sick with Hep C, was that I was suddenly scared of death. Scared of losing my mom. And like the rest of my family, I started to grieve her. Grief is what you feel inside. It's the emotional roller coaster that is attached to the idea and actual act of losing someone you love. But how can you grieve someone who is still standing right in front of you? I don't know. But I did. And I didn't really know it until now.
My mom was really good at living life and making it the best it could be. And she didn't do that with flashy purses, designer clothes, the newest vehicle, or extravagant trips. My mom was humble. And she was adored by a lot of people. She was grounded. I still get told by friends that my mom was an amazing role model for them. Friends who have amazing families and great values, and great goals, and they still found a desire to be more like my mom. Mom did enjoy travelling. She was very blessed to go on trips with my sister and her awesome little family to tropical destinations. Trips with us where she made memories with our kids that they will hold in their hearts forever. She enjoyed ski trips, golfing, fishing trips up North, road trips across Canada and the States, gardening with her friends and family, and just being home. She was a farm wife who worked her butt off, baked thousands of buns, made tens of thousands fresh home cooked meals, she was strong and could haul pails of feed, pull start the skidoo, run a chainsaw to cut wood, fix a dishwasher, pulled calves in the winter with dad, and even enjoyed wrangling the odd 4-H steer. She was fearless. She was an awesome athlete growing up and had this freakish competitive streak in her. She was so damn good at everything she did. She wore the face of a warrior whenever she was tested or put up to a challenge. She was soft and loving, she was hard and determined. She was literally the greatest friend her family and neighbours could have had. She was wicked in Scrabble. But was a terrible singer. Sometimes, not the best driver, she ran over a lot of cats, deer, Dexter when he was a pup, and even hit a cow. But hey, you can't be good at everything.
She did everything with a smile. Well...not the hitting animals with the Suburban part...she was probably screaming and had her eyes closed.
Point is...she was good. She was what people should strive to be like. Her idea of success was exactly what she had...and she was happy. Happiness equals success. Not "things". Items we have in our homes are meaningless in the long run. I love the things I have. I loved the things my mom had. There's some sort of memory attached to everything in her house. But now that she is gone, I don't really want those things. I have a few of her things. Blankets, mostly. And my kids adore those blankets. They say they feel like Grandma is hugging them when they snuggle up in those blankets and watch a movie.
While she was in the hospital, we asked her if she needed anything from home. She had her usual items with her; some slippers, warm pyjamas, a robe, her toiletries. She said she didn't need anything. As time went on, people would bring flowers and little gifts, and she would acknowledge them and was very grateful. She loved flowers. Near the end though, she didn't notice the flowers anymore, or the pictures on the wall that her grandkids drew. She changed a bit, shifted, and she noticed when someone walked in or out of the room. Again, I asked her if she needed anything from home, something that was comforting for her. She smiled, and said "No, I just need my people." That hit me. And it stuck with me. And sometimes I get really emotional thinking about that. Because that is all mom ever wanted. Was to be surrounded by us. Her friends. Her family. Her grandkids. She was the glue that held everyone together. She called the people she loved every week or two and connected with them. She brought people together. She had dozens of people around her near the end of her life. There was family, friends, neighbours, people from our community who wanted to come by and show her and her family support. I was overwhelmed with the number of people who came. Some came for their own reasons, but most came just to be near mom because that is what made them feel good. That is what she gave to people. The feeling of belonging, the sense of family, that connectedness that some people weren't lucky enough to feel in their lives. And they found it in her. She loved "stragglers", the friends of ours that would come to our home for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter...she opened her door, arms and kitchen to so many of our friends who weren't able to get home for holidays. My mom was competitive, yes, but was never in competition with people when it came to being a good friend, host, role model. She didn't even know she was a role model to so many people.
The grief I felt and still feel, started years ago. And it will be with me for years to come. Until I meet mom again. She was the first soul that my soul was connected to. How do you ever replace that? You don't. You learn to work through the mourning. The emotions that come with loss. The sudden tears that appear without warning. The anger. The hurt. The fear. The denial. The sadness. The depression. The laughter. There is happy times when moving through grief. I laugh about things mom would say, like how she pronounced "croissant" with a french accent. Or how she would torture my ears with her singing in the vehicle, she didn't care that she didn't know the words, or couldn't hold a tune, she just sang.
Grief is hard. Mourning is harder. It was easier for me to feel and keep everything inside. The first time I actually let it out, and bawled my eyes out or screamed in to my pillow was hard. It left me feeling exhausted and achy. My head hurt. But there was this feeling of being lighter. I learned some ways to release my anger, and I practiced them. Journalling, doing a bit of yoga, or physically whacking my pillow down on to my bed over and over helped. My cousin told me to try that to release anger, because I had talked to her about feeling so mad. About wanting to yell. But not wanting to scare my kids. The first time I did it, I ended up scream crying. Thankfully, my kids weren't home, neither was my husband, and I felt so good afterwards. It may sound crazy to you, but if you haven't experienced a loss similar to mine, then you just won't understand. I like to educate myself. And I would much rather release emotions than hold them in and become ill with them. Grief and mourning are two very difficult things to work through, but I jumped right in and started. I read about the stages of grief. I thought I had an idea of what I was going to face. But I had no clue. I had no idea what grief was going to do me. To my husband. To our relationship. To my kids. To their schoolwork. To my relationship with my kids. But I did know that the best way to deal with something was to put on that face that my mom wore whenever she was faced with struggles or challenges, and I armed myself with knowledge, I let go of expectations - especially the ones attached to my husband - and I powered through, and still am. We have to be like buffalo...and walk headfirst in to the storm.
I learned that grief can drive a wedge in between me and my husband, I've also learned that we are stronger than that wedge, and together we picked it up and moved it. I learned that my expectations of him were unrealistic. That he couldn't be the one person to pull me out of this. I learned that he lost my mom too. That he misses her so much every day that it distracts him. I learned compassion. I learned that my little boys miss my mom so much, and have lost that same amazing woman that I have lost. That my dad lost. That my siblings, their kids, and their spouses have lost. That my aunts and uncle lost. That my cousins lost. That my parent's neighbour have lost. I have learned that mom reached out to so many people all the time, and now that she is gone, they don't have that phone call, that Facebook comment, that Scrabble game. In loss, we tend to turn inward. We want to be alone somedays. We can't bare the thought of going to a grocery store. The beginning was hard. The kids wondering if grandma was coming back was hard. The reality that she was not coming back was hard.
But it has also been beautiful. The new connections we have made. The talks we have had. The realization that life is messy, and thats ok. The extra long cuddles with my kids. Watching them grow and learn, and work through their own grief and mourning has reaffirmed that we are good parents. That even through times of struggle, we are an awesome, tightly knit little family that can have real conversations about life and death and our fears. We have found a new respect in stepping back and letting each other work through our own things, and then coming together again to move forward. With death comes so much growth. New found strength. And all that hope and wishful thinking I had way back in 2013 is still there, it just maybe looks a little differently now.
My mom mothered us all the way to the end. She gave us a to do list. Just like when we were young and she had us do chores. Her list wasn't written, and some of it wasn't even verbalized to us. But she enabled us to live good lives. She gave us a good example. She fully expects us to keep living life the way we want, to be happy, to laugh our asses off like we did when she was here, to get together and have big, loud, messy meals. To go on little road trip adventures. To pop in to have tea with friends. To spend time at the farm. To spend summers down at the river. I asked her what she would think if Jesse and I moved in to her and dad's house on the farm, the one I grew up in, and she smiled, and said "Oh, that would make me so happy!" And we will, this summer. She wants it, we want it, my kids want it. She wants us to be patient. With ourselves. With everyone. She wants us to be happy. She wants us to move forward, always. Never hold back. To live. To love again. And to be happy to love again. The last thing she would want would be for any of us to feel sad, lonely, down. She would be the first to encourage us, stand us back up, dust us off, and get us going. Seek new friendships. New relationships. New beginnings. She warned that people will be quick to judge, but no matter what, they aren't experiencing what we are. And we can't let other's opinions bother us. Do what makes you happy. Its a sad reality, to know that someone suffering such a great loss will be judged by the very people who are supposed to be there to help them. Loss isn't easy. Grief is lonely. But if you are given a chance to be happy and feel a little better about day to day life, shouldn't you take it? My mom would be the first to tell you yes. Life is too short to feel bad.
We will always do the things that make her proud and happy. We pulled off her memorial service exactly how she wanted it to be. In her community that she loved so much. With the Native singers and drummers walking her in and out. With music she loved. The slideshow she wanted. With her best friends. With her grandkids and all the little kids in her family running around. (That was a rule, we were not to ask the kids to sit still...they're little, they love to run and laugh, and she loved to hear those laughs, so let them be.) And Halle, our little spitfire, walked up and down the aisle clicking her "high heels" on the concrete of the arena and a big smile while she wore her beautiful dress, she eventually joined the rest of the kids while they all ran around chasing each other, laughing and smiling. It was everything mom wanted. And exactly what we needed. We received hundreds and hundreds of hugs, shed tears, shared smiles, laughs, memories, and heartache. We really were blessed to have her. And we will be honouring her again.
July 16th, 2016 we will return to the Hillmond Arena, just as she asked us to, and we will have all of her people, all of our community gather there. She never drank, but she loved a good get together and a little two-steppin', so we booked a band. We will have some food and drinks, share laughs and memories, make new ones and we will celebrate. She wanted to give back to her home, because they gave to her. She was so grateful for the fundraiser our community put on to help four of its' families in need. And she was worried about not being able to pay them back. So this is what we came up with. We will put together this party for her, we will put up a silent auction, and we will give the money raised to the Hillmond Arena. She wanted that. And we have to do what she asked us to do, because she was the boss! And we love our home, and couldn't be more proud of our community, or thankful for their love and support. Mom was a giver, not a taker, and was never one to be the centre of attention - unless she was winning a dice game... point is, she loved to have fun and loved seeing people happy...so thats the theme.
If you want to join us, please do, we will be putting out more info as we get closer to the date. Any ideas for silent auction items are welcome.
I hope that this post brings you some sort of comfort, or maybe a little guidance, or a little different view on grief and those facing it. It isn't easy, and no matter how many people we are surrounded by, it is lonely. And it is something we can only get ourselves through. Its about learning how to be ok without your mom, your spouse, your child...whomever your loss was. Your loss looks and feels different from mine, and there is no time frame on when to "get better" or recover...we will never recover our losses. We will just learn to live without them. It will take years. There will always be reminders of them, always moments where we wish they were here, and little moments where we realize they still are here. They will always send us signs to show us they are with us. It might not get any easier any time soon, but it will slowly get better. Being with someone for your entire life and watching them move through their journey is beautiful and scary. I watched my mom slowly move farther away from me, I saw the signs for years, and it took a long time for her because she was strong, she was determined. She taught us so much in the last two years with out having to say a word. We learned so much from her, about life, we learned about our family and how strong our relationships can be, we learned that when faced with an barricade we will be able to get through it together. We learned that we are strong. As individuals. As a family. We grew so much closer to each other in that time we spent at the hospital. We broke down. We stood up. We really came together. Families are an incredible gift, and we really did luck out. We had family and friends from all over come to the hospital. They brought food, magazines, coffee, we played crib out in the hall, they spent hours in the room with mom, with us, we took over the kitchen and made waffles and bacon, we gathered together because of mom. And we will always do that. Because that is what she wants.