October 26, 2009
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!!