When my mom died at 49 years old ( I was 21), it rocked me. I was an only child who really connected with his Mom and her own unfulfilled aspirations. They were unfulfilled primarily because of her long list of illnesses and maladies.
My mom died in the Ottawa Heart Institute while awaiting a heart transplant. She had been in hospital in Toronto for 6 of the last 8 months which was over an hour drive from where we lived. She had been transferred to Ottawa 2 weeks before and left the people who had cared for her and gotten to know her in Toronto. I mention this because of the key lesson I learned from my mom’s death – the power of human connection. It is the only thing that really matters.
In Ottawa they didn’t know her. The care was excellent and they made choices based on the best medical evidence. Unfortunately these choices were not what my mom wanted – she was in a medically induced coma at the time. The choice they made was to take her off the blood thinners she had been taking for 30 years. They were worried about her bleeding to death with surgery and other procedures – a very valid concern. However, my mom’s big concern with this was having a stroke and going brain dead. She had seen it before and would rather go out in body than mind. Being trapped in a body that never worked very well meant she lived in her mind most of the time. She was one of the most creative and driven people I have known and trapped by a seemingly invisible illnesses that left her feeling like crap almost 100% of the time.
So that is what happened. A week after the coma, we received a call. My mom had a stroke and was left with no brain function. My dad and uncle flew to Ottawa and unplugged her. She was gone.
I was in my second last semester of University and it was during exams. My last exam ended hours before she died – I like to think she waited so I could get that done. When I got the call from my dad that she was officially gone I took the call on my mom’s phone on her bed.
I have never emotionally released like that before. I cried for hours. A sorrowful, gut wrenching wail of a cry that I recall so vividly.
Happy Birthday Mom. I wish you could have made to see 65 and where the world is (in all its up and trumps). That you could have met your granddaughters especially the one who bares your name.
You made me the person I have become, and your death made me even more into someone who wants to push over the anthills of life. I will always know and live the fighter you were.
In my Mom’s family (they are from Brazil) it is common for everyone to have a nickname. Her given name was Margarida, her nickname was Deidi. But with me and my Dad, I called her Magu. I love you Magu.
PS Her favourite musician was Leonard Cohen, she could listen to him for hours. Rest In Peace Leonard Cohen.