October 26, 2009

Goodbye Mum

My mum, Joan Smith, died Friday October 23 at 4:30 in the afternoon. She was 5 days shy of her 81st birthday. She had been diagnosed with cancer in June. Gallbladder cancer had metastasized into her liver.

She had suffered from aches and pains for many months but thinking it to be her fibromyalgia or arthritis, she left it too late.

My older brother Steve was here in Parry Sound with her for the month of July. I spent most every weekend of the summer with her.

Sad but brave, she soldiered on; gardening, feeding the birds and her beloved goldfish, meeting her girlfriends for coffee. My son joined my brother and I for a wonderful afternoon boat cruise with my mother throughout the 30,000 islands around Parry Sound.

Throughout September her day to day health seemed to be on a plateau, a remission almost - until she called me to tell me she was in hospital with swollen legs. Her liver was not processing the protein in her system as it should have been. I was anticipating this to be a minor setback until her close friend advised me that Mum was now in so much pain she needed to see me.

Upon arrival I immediately phoned my brother and told him to get back to Ontario as soon as possible. We brought Mum home and cared for her as long as we could but her pain became too much for us mere mortals to manage. The V.O.N. nurse advised us that we should readmit her to the hospital.

One of the last lucid things she said to me was "Did they find the little boy in the balloon?" Sigh.

The staff at the West Parry Sound Health Centre bent over backwards to make Mum as comfortable as possible. One can not adequately pay the nurses enough for what they do. They are fantastic.

Mum was put on a very high dose of morphine throughout her last week. She reacted to the increase in painkillers and was not at peace. During her bad dreams I tried to plant the image of a peaceable kingdom in her imagination, where the lions and leopards came down to greet her, along side the giraffes, zebras and baby elephants.

Another peaceful image I reminded her about was the giant sea turtles at the Bermuda Aquarium. We watched them for hours in 1990 when the two of us were on holiday. Slowly and calmly swimming, and breaching for air, I thought that was an image that would keep her demons at bay.

I was with her when she died. My ex-sister-in-law was there too. I am truly thankful for June for being there.

Mum loved all of nature and was fond animals of all shapes and sizes. Her very favourite creature though was the owl.

Goodbye Mum, you wise old bird. We will miss you!!


Bee said...

Beautiful tribute.

Two of my friends have lost their parents, quite unexpectedly, this week. I'm glad that you were able to be there -- and to plant peaceful images, too.

My sympathy to you and everyone who loved your mom.

David Engel said...

So sorry to hear about you Mom. Sounds like you handled things as best one could. I just observed the anniversary of the passing of my Mom yesterday. She too died from cancer. She'd had breast cancer many years ago, had a radical, then was seemingly fine for 15 or 20 years. Then one T Day her stomach started to bother her. She did pretty well for around a year BUT then had a quick decline and passed away. We all miss Bev.

Be well,


Alaine said...

Hazel, my heartfelt condolences on the passing of your dear Mum. There's rarely a day goes by when I don't think of my dear little Mum and she's been gone for 22 years. We have a lot to be thankful for. A big hug from me. xa

Ingrid Mida said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a wise and spirited lady and I hope you will find comfort in your happy memories of her. Take care of yourself. Grieving is a journey.

Dot-Com said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. By the sounds of it, your mother had a wonderful life. May she rest in peace.

Poetikat said...

I am so sorry to hear you've lost your mom, Hazel. I understand exactly how you must feel. I don't like to use trite phrases, but my thoughts ARE with you as you deal with this sad event in your lives.

Your friend,


Brian Miller said...

so sorry to hear about your loss...just last week was two years since my wife lost her mum. its never easy. my heart to you...

artslice said...

I'm so sorry about your mom. She sounds like she was a very gentle, lovely lady. She was lucky to have her family close. You'll be in my prayers.

giulia said...

Dear Hazel,

I am so very sorry. I'm glad that you were able to be there with her.


Susan & GG

☆sapphire said...

Dear Hazel,

I was shocked to know her passing. I offer my sincere sympathy to you and your family for your loss.
My father had had a cancer, a similar course as she had, and passed away 15 years ago.
I guess she felt happy because she spent time, her last days, together with you, your brother and her family.
I believe she will live in your heart for ever.

Take care


Hels said...

I think losing grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, workmates and friends is a misery. But losing your mum has to be the worst. Even your childhood memories and experiences, largely, are bound up with her - the food the family ate, the holidays and outings, the parent-teacher meetings.

I hope she was aware of, and really enjoyed all the things your family did together in the last months of her life. And I hope you have lots of photos.

Sandra Leigh said...

Hazel, I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing the story of your mother's last days with us. I hope that when my time comes, I will have my children beside me, as your mother did, reminding me of happier times, easing my way. Your mother was a lucky woman.

corine said...

Oh i'm so sorry to hear this sad news. My thoughts are with you Hazel.

booksandacupofcoffee said...

Hi! Hazel (Clever Pup,)
What fond and warm memories of your mum...that you have shared with your readers. I'am so very sorry to read about your loss, but Heaven's "found" angel...(your mum)
Thank-you, and my condolences goes out to you, and your family at this time too.

Alistair said...

Hullo C-Pup,

My sincere condolences to you, your brother and the rest of your family.
You draw a nice picture of your Mum here and from this I'm sure she appreciated all that you and yours did in her illness.

I agree with the lady above who describes grief as a journey, and the memories that follow on that journey do become less painful in time.

I send you my best wishes for the journey.

kind regards......Alistair

PIGNOUF said...

:( -on ne remplace pas une Maman ! Sorry .

Mrsupole said...

I am so sorry to hear of your mother's passing, but I am glad that you were not alone during this time.

Being my fathers oldest child, I had to make the decision for them to disconnect him from life support. A very hard decison, but thankfully my children, and brothers and sisters, were with me. I also chose to donate his body for study at the University and for them to harvest his organs. My solace was that at least two people could see who could not, and then others had their lives improved because of this. I was never approached about this, but approached the nurses to find out. It was all up to me. Everyone in the family was in too much shock and never thought of doing that. I am not sure why I did. I just had to do something, to make something good out of something bad.

My mom has empheseyma and we almost lost her last year, we are now so lucky to be blessed with each day she is still here. Luckily in CA, all the children have equal say. I do not think I could handle the sole responsibilty again.

I cannot tell you that it gets easier over time, because with everyone it is different. I can say that it helped us a lot to talk about our dad. I think it helps to keep them with you.

My prayers are with you, your family and friends. This was a beautiful tribute to your mom.

God bless you all.

willow said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the passing of your beautiful mother. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Hazel.

Extra big hugs from me. ~xox

Diane said...

Hazel, I am truly sorry for your loss. As I've read your blog over the past several months you've mentioned her often, so I know she was a very important part of your life. I'm sure she knew it and felt blessed by her connection with you, just as you feel blessed by her memories.

amourissima said...

I never know what to say during moments, events and times like these. Intentions are always to try to "make things better" but sadly, that is never the case. Beautiful tribute for your Mum. My Mum also favors Owls; Snowy Owls to be exact. My thoughts are with you.

gretchen said...

so sorry to hear this. such a beautifully written and moving post. condolences to you and your family.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Sorry to be late with condolences but I've been away. What a lovely tribute to your mother. Sad as it is for you I'm sure that, in a way, she was happy to go and escape the pain. The owl is a beautiful bird.

Candie Bracci said...

Oh I've just seen it now.I'm so sorry for your loss Hazel.All my sympathy.

California Girl said...

I am sorry for your loss. I lost my mother at age 81 too but it's been 12 years now. I think of her every day and without sadness. Every once in a while tho', you'll really want your "mum". Take the time to grieve.

Ima Wizer said...

I am SO sorry for your loss DEAR Hazel. I am glad your mother doesn't have to suffer in so much pain. I am sure she is watching over you.
Your tribute is beautiful. I wish I could give you a big hug. I know your heart is hurting.
You are in my thoughts. I send you much love and light.

T. Clear said...

Hazel, so very sorry to hear this. I've been thinking about you these past few weeks since you mentioned that your mom was ill, and was saddened to read this post.

May you find peace in her enduring love.


Rouchswalwe said...

Hazel ~ you have my condolences in this time of heavy sadness. I read your tribute just now. It's wonderful that you and your Mama had such a strong love for one another.

Beth S. said...

Hello Hazel,

I only recently found your blog, but the first new post I read was about your mother's passing. It brought back so many memories of my own mother that I caught my breath. I was 25 when my mother lost her battle to cancer. I was alone with her at the time, and I did much what you did - tried to make sure her last hours were filled with wonderful memories and images. To this day, nearly 25 years later, I treasure every wonderful adventure we shared, even though our time together was too short.

Your mother will live on, not only in your memory, but in the eloquence with which you share her with so many others.

With condolences,
Beth S.

The Clever Pup said...

Thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts.

Mum like reading the blog and all your interesting comments.

Your words warm me.

Tina Tarnoff said...

I'm truly sorry you lost your mom, Hazel, but I'm glad you are a strong, great woman. it should be truly seen as a journey, a great journey that we are all partaking. and that this great journey continues. xoxox

secret, fragile skies said...

I am very sorry for your heartbreaking loss. Your post, Mum, was a beautiful tribute. How wonderful for you to have had her in your life.