Death

All posts in the Death category

Lost scarf with gold thread

Published September 9, 2014 by megdedwards

Sunset-Vernon_BC-2014_08_11

I  had a beautiful scarf that I bought myself when I was out shopping with my precious first daughter. It was a warm gold and orange and turquoise, just vibrant and fiery and calming all at once.

I was wearing it on the day that I looked into my car’s rear view mirror and saw my friend looking in panic at something on her driveway. The snow was piled high and blocked my view. I thought she saw a dead cat.

But it was her husband. I left my little daughter in her car seat in the parked car and ran over.

When I was alone with my friend’s dead husband I could not leave his head on the ice. My friend had run into the house to get a phone. He did not seem to be alive but I was not sure.  He looked dead. I put my hand on his chest and  I turned him on to his side. When I moved him he involuntarily sighed. It did sound exactly like a man sighing but I also knew that the weight of his body had probably pushed the last bit of air from his chest.

I was alone with him for a minute or two.  It was intimate except that I did not know him and he was already dead.  He did not move.  I knew he was dead but when my friend ran back I pumped on his chest as she took instructions. As we waited for the ambulance I took off my beautiful scarf and put it under his head. It seemed so horribly cold to lie with your bare head on the icy driveway.

My little girl was waiting in the car. I dropped her at her preschool later so that I could have tea with my friend who had lost her husband that very afternoon. My little daughter saw nothing.  She was facing the other direction when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the look of horror on my friend’s face. There was a big pile of snow so I could not see the body of her husband yet, I just saw her look and run.

That is one death. And one scarf. I have lost that scarf now and I have lost a lot of favorite things. I remember thinking, will I still want to wear this scarf later? And I did take it home, once his body had been moved to the truck and we were all inside having tea. I had my scarf. But I lost it later. I keep hoping I will find it in a bag of winter things.

When I went home I was all alone, the kids were in school. I crawled into my bed with all my clothes on. I called my Dad’s wife who was dying of heart break and I said, ‘I did not know who to call but I knew that if I called you I would not be able to make you more unhappy than you already are”.  I knew she was miserable after the death of her beloved, my Dad. She never recovered. She helped me on that afternoon though. It was good to talk to someone.

Later when I took my little girl and her brother to visit my step mom on my deceased Dad’s birthday, so she would not be alone, she was a walking ghost.

Her face was grey, she was thin and under nourished although she made herself soups and took herself off to yoga and listened to audio tapes that tried to tell her to remain present. We cheered her and distracted her but I wish we had taken her home with us to our chaotic, loving home.

She died of a sudden heart attack on her bathroom floor, her sweet little nightgown covering her carefully tended body.  Alone on the floor for days before anyone knew that she had not gone to her yoga retreat. When I heard I was frantic with panic. I thought I had killed her.

Had I left her a phone message that upset her and broke her heart?  Had my phone message about the sexual abuse of my cherubic soft haired baby girl been the final blow? What did I say? I could not remember. Did I leave a message, did I call and ask her to call me back, was I weeping?

But thank god for my big sister, who always wants to solve the pain in the world. She threw in a hook, deep into the ocean and pulled out some words of salvation,  She told me that if my step mother had heard I was in pain she would have called me back. She would have been there for me.

I felt great relief when I realized that my sister was right. I knew that was true. While my pain was almost killing me it would not have killed her. She would have called me and offered her help and love.

My message rang out in an empty house. She was already lying dead on the floor, oblivious to my pain or the curse of a storm cloud that was resting on ‘my happy little family’.

I cannot find that scarf. I have other things. I have my Dad’s wild staring eyes as I tell him I am going home because my kids needed me. I will see you in the spring, Dad.

I have the love of my step mother stamped in my heart. She told me she loved me when we sat by Dad’s hospital bed. She was a proper lady, very similar to my friend who invited the local volunteer firemen in for tea when her husband was carefully stowed away in the truck.

“What do I do now?” she asked me? And I said, “Let’s make some tea”.

We all sat around her table and talked about her husband. She cried a little and reached out involuntarily for his cap when she saw it on the back of the chair.  A repressed gasp, just audible.

I can’t find that scarf anywhere and I was determined that its brush with death would not stop me from wearing it.

I have my happy family; my little girl has healed from her assaults but carries that wound forever inside. She is growing into a preteen ripe with womanly power.  I smother her with love and attention.

I have no Mom anymore. She died the next year, singing and joking and lifting her eyebrows and squinting her eyes to continue contact with her children until the last moment. In my spirit world my dead are wrapped in my beautiful scarf.

Kit Currie – Missing Woman and my Thoughts

Published August 26, 2014 by megdedwards

Fair Play or Foul Play – Awaken my Rage against Violence Against Women

Kit Currie - missing since August 14th - Last seen on Queen and Bathurst inToronto

Kit Currie – missing since August 14th – Last seen at  Queen and Bathurst in Toronto

I am re-posting this post about a missing woman who was last seen at Queen and Bathurst in downtown Toronto, jumping on her bike. As soon as I saw her photo with her wide smile and two braids I thought of a friend of mine. When I saw where she lived and read that she did art modeling like me, I felt an extra affinity.

I feel a ‘fellowship’ with all women but this woman is very like me. It could have been me. Or my old pal from Toronto. Woman and girls go missing every day and they are of all races and classes and sizes. But this one looks like me and that sort of strikes into my heart a little deeper.

I know it is selfish to feel more empathy for a person who looks like you, but I suppose it is human nature. I can picture my friend hopping on her your bike and heading to .. What happened to her? Where is she?

The thoughts that run through my mind (and the police investigators) are: did she have a crazed ex boyfriend, a weird colleague at work? Was she randomly taken? All these things are possible and have happened recently.

There was a woman in Moncton who was grabbed by a strange man and locked in his basement for a month who escaped and can tell the tale now. There was the woman my age who was stabbed to death early in the morning in the alley a few years ago in Toronto when I was visiting my Mom. They did not know why she had been stabbed and I couldn’t help but think, are middle aged woman being randomly stabbed now? But the murderer turned out to be from her homeland and resentful of her position as manager at their workplace.

Obviously I don’t need to look for specific examples of women killed by their ex spouses.

We are always sort of hoping that our actions and our style of living is the right one for survival. We may not say it aloud when we read the news but a quiet voice is saying, ‘I would have avoided that’. It helps us feel safe. But when a fearless strong trusting woman disappears, it sends a shadow over me.

I know there is threat of violence at all times. Women live with that as a constant. It is our underlying reality. It is always there.

Recently I have had a person calling and hanging up the phone at any hour night and day. If I stayed on the line, they stayed for a while and then hung up. I never talked. I remembered what a police man had told me long ago, that if they don’t say your name then they probably don’t know where or who you are. But it still made me feel under surveillance and harassed.

Eventually I convinced my husband that this was something other than an electronic automatic call gone weird. He could see that it was beginning to upset me. He started answering the phone every time it rang and the calls stopped. A male voice was all I needed.

When the calls were day and night I started looking over my shoulder; what man around my neighborhood had been looking at me weirdly. There was the skinny dude looking me up and down at the gas station… Does he think I need to be taught a lesson? Too confident in my body? Is there a man who has become obsessed or decided he hates me? Enough to harass me?

If a man is attracted to you but hates you, you could be in big trouble.

My effect on misogynists is almost immediate. As soon as they see me they don’t like me and I smell them as soon as they walk in the room. I watch and wait for the signs. How quickly do they demean a women in my presence. Do they always turn to the man in the room when they speak? Do they sort of sneer when I talk? Do I see in their eyes the distinct critical light of a man who feels uncomfortable with my body language?

Ever since I was a young woman I take this as an invitation for a fight. Especially when I was a hot tempered young 20 year old I would speak my mind and speak it clearly and see how they reacted. I remember a very big man arguing with me about something at a party and eventually he was looming over me as I sat on a chair below him. I pointed out his body language to him, ‘look at you showing how much bigger and stronger than me you are’!

His face went all red and he left the room. A bright red face in an argument meant I had won. I took it as a flag of triumph if a man who thought he was superior to me would get all red in the face when arguing with me. I would think to myself, well, aren’t you all upset because I have not agreed with you.

If a man tries to push me about I stand up as strong as I can. If there is the presumption that I should be too scared to look him in the eye. That is what I do. I look him in the eye.

I puff up like an angry cat that will not be brought down easily. I swear to God that if I am ever raped and murdered, if that is the way I am going to die, I am going down fighting. I will fight til I die. I will not go down quietly. I will knee the groin and stomp the top of the foot, I will poke eyes out and jam my hand in the throat. I will do some goddamn damage. Just so you know.

I am not weak and I will fight to the death. That is what I start thinking about when I hear of a fifty year old woman disappearing. All of us women do.

For any man that does not know that this is the reality of a woman’s life no matter what race or class or religion or part of the world she lives in, take note! This is what we live with when we bravely go to work at night or lock the doors and close the windows of our apartment at night when it would be nice to let in the breeze.

These are the roaming thoughts of a sister. I hope that Kit Currie is alright. As a woman,  my immediate thoughts are of ‘foul play’. Foul Play, what a term. Like there are rules in this game that was not written by or for women. Foul play: unfair or treacherous conduct especially with violence; not playing by the rules of the game.

My deepest wish is that she had a bit of a break down and will be alright soon. Have strength. Fair play to you. Please don’t be another victim of male rage.

If Van Gough was a woman, he would be my friend Kit..

Bummer, Blues and Visions of a Radiated Sea

Published February 15, 2014 by megdedwards

murmurationI had some good thoughts yesterday but I have forgotten them now.  I am thinking in colours and textures.

Did I have an insight about death? No, nothing there,  just a flash of darkness that passes through me. But not an actual thought. 

We are approaching the first year since my Mom died and I have some pretty strong memories of her cold body. Physical memories that hang around inside of me like shadows.

I find I cannot articulate the sheer outrage of having a soul pass away into the air, leaving a body that gets so cold it is colder than the air. Becomes icy and waxy. I thought that having talked to her and said good bye and seen her body move from life to death would make it easier to mourn. Maybe it has. But it sure is weird. I cannot express it.

I had a dream about trying to warm a small old female cat by the fire. Her legs were so cold I could I thought it was too late. The cold was in her bones.

Mom was one to experience life very intensely. I know she was right there until the moment she opened her eyes one last time. She might have been frightened, but I think she was more curious than scared. She had a brain that was capable of scientific inquiry while her heart raged and her eyes teared.

She died and knew what it felt like to die. She always told me all her terrible nightmares and her thoughts so I am waiting to hear from her. Her death would become an anecdote at a dinner party. She might even get a wobbly chin as she told us. But she is gone, with no looking back, she is off adventuring in some other time and space.

We have boxes of photos and files of writings. We have family history and genealogy. She kept it all so fastidiously, but never did anything with it. Now my sister and I are breaking into boxes marked ‘precious’ and pulling out crumbing letters, shaking out dresses from the 1930’s reeking of mothballs.

A cat broke one of her precious bowls the other day and I was somewhat relieved. One more precious thing that is free.

I was feeling so tired and questioning of myself yesterday. Parenting, in all its glory, was wearing me out. I wanted to talk to my Mom, not for comfort but just for company. It is hard to lose someone who knew you so well that you did not even have to say anything for them to know you don’t feel well.

She would have complimented me and said that I was doing everything very well and I would have felt good that she enjoyed my call. We would have made each other happy by being nice to each other.

I started dancing to music yesterday and it was very nice at first and then it just made me want to cry. It is as if my sadness is bound up in my body and when I move it to music it releases it. It makes me realize that I am holding down the fortress on any given day and emotions are boiling away just under the surface.

I tried a dance work shop a week after my Mom died and the more I released my body to the music the more I wanted to cry. Well I did cry, and my friends were nice enough to not mention it. I just want to talk to my Mom about all that. Take some Vitamin B or D or something,  she would say.

I don’t know why I continue to blog. I don’t need to add my voice to the masses. In the past I would have written in a journal, as my Mom did. Why do I add to this public domain?  No good reason, I am just trained into it now and I feel that some people are comforted to hear a voice that they recognize.

I am overwhelmed by the madding crowd chattering away about so many things. People getting outraged. people stating their opinion, people having opinions about subjects they know so little about. People complaining about this and that. It is exhausting.

We all know the amplification of the voices is exhausting. It is very hard to tell what is important. Everyone’s cause is so important and we need to ‘share’ everything all the time. It makes nothing important, it flattens the horizon; it is white noise.

I had a horrible foreshadowing vision regarding Japan’s radiation of the ocean. I saw quite clearly that we will have to stop eating what comes from the sea, and that one day I may have to tell my daughter not to swim in the sea in case it makes her sick. I don’t want to dwell on this because it is too terrible. It is more important than ‘fracking’ and train accidents even though those are important. But we go ahead with plans to re-open our nuclear plant in New Brunswick, now that it is ‘fixed’.

What a bummer. Sorry, will try to rally and think of a brighter future.

When I first wrote this I decided not to publish it on the blog because I felt bad about being depressing. But I will publish it today because it is here and it is true, and I have written about all the other stages of grief.

But I have to say more.  Is it my change of life, or is something else happening to me? I am feeling a lot of joy. I am celebrating every moment with my loved ones and I feel joy, joy so deep and layered  like the earth’s many layers from crust to burning center. 

We are going to have a party to celebrate a year since my Mom’s home death. It will be nice to see all her friends and family because we all recognize her in each other.

She was confident, proud, beautiful, and a little unpredictable. A talk -too- much, put your foot in your mouth quality. A  snazzy style that was a bit shabby, a challenging mix of indifference and independence and a simple  joie de vivre that lit the eyes.  That was Natalie, she had an effect. It is fun to see her effect ripple through life.

I missed you but I was busy thinking

Published December 2, 2013 by megdedwards

portrati of meg by frankI have gone through a quiet stage. I even hesitate to write in my journal.  Sometimes I feel tired just thinking about putting my thoughts into writing.

But I don’t feel bad or sad at all. I am cruising. I am thinking.

I remember talking with an American cousin of mine about whether natural birth changed the character of the person born. Did the painful and intense process of going through the birth channel make the person different compared to those that were born by opening up the belly and emerging directly into air?

She said something about ‘pra sess’ and I did not know what she said at first but then I recognized the American accent and the word ‘process’.  Now whenever I am thinking about the concept of ‘process’ in  psychological  development I say ‘pra sess’ to myself.

I am ‘pra sessing’.

My Mom died last spring on March 1 st.  I am still thinking about that and what it is like to go forward without a mother for the rest of my life. It did not  happen before time, in fact it happened at a natural time. It all happened very naturally.

Of course, I am shot forward in my head to my death and how many years I have left in my ‘back pocket’ as Mom put it to me one day as I sat in the sun on the phone, and waited for the school bus.

I still cry over missing my Dad. He died five years ago on December 15th. I realize now that his death really broke my heart. I was in such pain I actually felt physical pain in my heart and limbs.  I don’t know why it was so much more painful except that it was more sudden. And he had made he me feel less lonely in this world. Always.

During that time of physical exhaustion and mourning, two adolescent  boys, emerging from sort of squalid childhood hidden behind middle class conventions, sexually assaulted my baby child. We fought back, we protected her, we survived the police, social workers and general ignorance around this issue. 

So here I am, five years later, seriously aged but extremely grateful. In this seemingly short span of time my oldest daughter has grown up entirely and my middle child is turning into a man. My baby is no longer a baby. My marriage is stronger than ever. 

After more than a year looking for work I have given up. The final piece of the puzzle was handed to me when my youngest said she wanted to ‘home school’ again. After a day or two to ‘ pra sess’ I jumped in with my full mind and heart.

We are having a blast of full on love and joy every day. We do crafts and cook and clean. We walk and skate and swim. We talk and dream. Math sneaks its way in with no stress or anxiety. We learn as we go. 

I know that I allowed this time with my other children and I see that my life patterns don’t change. Having a baby at 40 meant extending my type of parenting for another 20 years.

I need to adjust, tighten the belt on the budget, and think about writing for money again!

My Mom moves through me. I feel her enjoyment with my domestic bliss. My Dad smiles on me too. They nod at each other, from their distant peaks,  like faulty Greek Gods, united in their pride.

 

“Looking down and Away”

Published September 23, 2013 by megdedwards

bb 061“I just smiled at a potted plant, thinking it was you”.

She thought she saw me at her table when I was having a long distance phone call with my Mom.

This was when her mind was beginning to go a bit wild.  I did not know it then but it was a sign of things to come.  I could see her in my mind’s eye, smiling at the plant and I felt her affection, it did not matter that the plant was receiving it. We laughed merrily about the absurdity of her giving her glowing loving face to a potted plant.

We laughed a lot in the last years.  We had as much fun as you can have when someone is evidently dying. On my many visits to Toronto the walk from the bathroom to the couch became increasingly like a marathon with pep talks and breaks along the way.  “This is fun”, said Mom, “a sort of fun, if a bit ridiculous…”  as we collapsed on the pillows in exhaustion and giggles.

“The upside of dying is having your kids come around, a compensation of sorts” said Mom, and also, “I can be insightful, in bizarre moments when I am not making jokes or confessing sins”.  Conversation was intriguing and unpredictable, full of unforgettable images, such as this description of a discussion, “We huddle like rugby players and figure out what next to tackle”.

There were times when her spirits lagged, tired of the tricks of her mind; “I have forgotten why I am here. I don’t know where I am, and, I have forgotten who I am”.

She began to live with one foot in the other world. She saw things; she described images in her mind, as you sat before her. Other images, other times, other space. “I see you looking down and away, most likely at your child ”.  I was sitting beside her, seeing myself in her mind, looking away.

Visions were dreams, objects were symbols, actions or fleeting moments were caught and symbolized. Her mind was making a film, writing a novel, dreaming a poem. Her mind was doing what it was supposed to do, move into the ethereal, leaving behind the earthly limitations of time and space.

My Mom’s main advice to me was to write it down. “You won’t have the energy later. Write it down now”.

I am writing.  And I am thinking about mothers and daughters and what they teach each other. What advice do we act on, what lessons are more bodily memories than lessons. Did my Mom teach me how to make bread or do I just remember her hands and what they did.

What did we learn by accident, what lessons were not meant to be lessons?

My Mom decided that 25 years was long enough for her marriage and that we were all old enough to handle the separation. She would make proud jokes about the 25 year deadline. Once I had been married 25 years I entered a panic. It was as if the due date was over, the marriage was ruined, spoiled, unfit to carry on.

But also I remembered how my Mom thought that her time was up when she was 63 years old, the age her mother died.  We set dates in our minds. I had set myself an invisible deadline.  I felt a surge of emptiness and a dread of the future. I was not sure what I was supposed to do.  I was not sure how to proceed.

When I was a young girl my Mom decided to put aside her married life and become a new woman.  I see now that although her actions destroyed the family unit as it was, it also gave me a very strong sense of what it was to be a woman and look after your own self. Her best gift may have been her destruction of herself as a housewife.

From then on I never questioned looking after myself, my rights, my ability to attract a man, or my right to a good sex life that satisfied me. I felt right about asking for and getting what I wanted. And my beautiful older sisters may have had more trouble with that, being brought up by the good housewife.

I did not question my Mom’s right to live her life fully.  What I did not realize was that I thought that I was disappointing her by living with the same man all my life. I slowly became conscious of my own assumptions about the 25th year of marriage and my own buried wounds.

It was her ball busting moves, limited as they were by her hesitant feminism, and not articulate or entrenched enough to give her a real release from her insecurities, that made me the woman I am today.  I was capable of falling unwisely in love and walking away when I saw the unhealthy nature of that love. Afterwards, I had fun searching for the right man.  I knew when I had found my partner, and I knew when monogamy was worth it.  I knew how to express myself so that we could argue if necessary, and communicate without lying.

Just as my mom must have thought her days were almost over as she aged closer to 63, I had an unconscious unarticulated feeling that my marriage would be over at 25 years. My Mom lived for another 20 years longer than her mother. And she traveled every year, enjoyed her younger boy friend, and did acid in her sixties just to see what it was like.

I see now that I can have the long term marriage that she later spoke of wistfully, watching her old friends who had ‘stuck it out’ in the hard patches and then had loving relationships in their elder years. She wondered what that would have been like. She did not go so far as to regret her actions, but she was not too stubborn or proud to question the path she took.

I recognize that a long term marriage is not a lapse of courage, or an easier path, but a path of my own.  I know she never meant to set up separation and ‘independence’ as the only path.  During the painful process of discovering who she was and what she wanted, she did give me the tools for a real and stable relationship.

She would have been happy to see my husband and me out on our 29th anniversary, laughing and kissing. “Oh Meg”, she says from her location in the ether and energy, “But, of course!  You know, I have always thought Joe was a gem”!  And I smile at our other worldly conversation, and I continue to follow her advice, to write it all down.

Red Sun in Morning

Published September 5, 2013 by megdedwards

morning sun

I type in the dark, fingers missing keys, as my daughter sleeps in shadowy futon couch bed in the corner of my study; a grown woman planning her big move to the west coast of the United States. Today she turns 21.

The first fall without my Mom. She has passed away. Passe Compose.

When I first started this blog I had ideas that ran one after another, in a little line, a queue. The ideas had a persistent quality as if they had to be written down.

I enjoyed writing so much that I can’t remember much else about that time except that I stained my teeth with tea and wrote every day.

After a while I began to nag myself about writing for a more demanding audience than just myself.  I ‘should do this or that’. Write for competitions, write for publication.

That imperative shut down the creative juices pretty dramatically.

Then I read Alice Munro non stop and studied short stories and thought about writing.

In the midst of this I was writing a lot of cover letters for jobs that I needed but did not want.  A lot of writerly charm went into those letters.

I got rejected or never heard from most of those jobs. In the same period my Mom died and left a large gaping hole where I had been focusing a lot of love and care.

In the wake of her death some close relatives of mine took it upon themselves to take out their mourning on me in the form of seemingly arbitrary and hurtful criticisms of my very self.

I felt at a loss to respond to any  of it and was glad to have my own family to love and be loved by.

I lost the joy of writing and I did not post much until one day I was sweetly surprised when a  friend of mine said that she had followed my musings on my Mom’s illness unto death. That she had cried and been moved. And I thought, huh. Well, that is really an amazing compliment. It is a quiet answer, a nod and a smile.

All our voices are people waving at each other from a distance.  We like to share common experiences. We are sociable and optimistic.

I have come to some conclusions after my thinking period, For one thing, short stories are actually memoirs and memoirs are short stories.

Also, I still need a job but my persistence and stoicism in applying to dozens of jobs this spring is starting to give me purchase. I have an interview tomorrow and if that does not work I have another job lined up.

I loved my mom and she is still with me in spirit.  She is happy as a spirit. She was always a bit bigger than this earthly world.

I am still in doubt about obligatory relationships where I am not treated lovingly.  I have been forced into an unpleasant matriarchal position; an irritating authoritative figure who must be denied. I am not my Mother. I reject this whole set up and I retreat.  Carry on without me.

Mama – Last Word

Published March 13, 2013 by megdedwards

dusk 020I made one more trip to see mom before she died.

I went straight down to see her and was dismayed to see how lifeless she was. She had not been sitting up for a few days, and she had stopped eating.

I knew that, and I knew what was happening, and I knew why I was there. But when I lifted her hand with her pretty rings on it and it was lifeless, I was shocked.

She was dying, and was already leaving. No squeeze from her hand. No energy in the capable hand that had washed me, patted me, lifted a finger in admonition, cooked me many meals, typed out so many stories.

I leaned over her ear and said “It’s Meg”, she made a small sound. I sat beside her and said the first thing that came into my mind. In the last few years I had done that with her, just released thoughts straight out of my mind into hers. No sensor, no fear. I said, “You must be very happy”, if she could have, she may have moved an eyebrow. “Your kids are all around, and everyone is happy and healthy. You did a good job, you are a good Mama”. She said, “Mama”.

The last word she said to me was “Mama”. Her last word.

I rambled on after that, and said “Do you remember when we went to the cottage, just you and me?” I  was talking about the first thing on my mind. “Do you remember how we had orange pop on our picnic?” She made a ‘Huh’ sound. She remembered, and I was glad I was reminding her of a moment that we shared, when I was about 12 or so, and before I was a young woman and so defensive and easily offended.

Then I told her, “Liz and I are going to go visit Kate for her birthday, and bring her some presents and make her feel special. Do not die while we are gone, wait for us”. We went and saw Kate, who was in high form but loved the presents and cake that we brought her. When we returned we told Mom how much Kate had enjoyed seeing us. I could feel relief in her almost inert body.

She had stopped moving and her feet were very cold. There were no more words out of her. The Cheynes-Stokes breathing typical of a dying person had been replaced by a hard strong breathing that seemed to take over her whole body. I sat beside with my hand on her chest, feeling the breath pound through her lungs and beat her tired heart. It looked like hard labour.

My brother’s face was pale with concern, watching her hard breathing was hurting him. But I said to him, it is almost like the body is doing this all by itself.

At about eleven at night we all prepared for bed, thinking that Mom might have another few days like this. The night caregiver Mafe was settling into her chair when Mom made a sound, and opened her eyes. Then she stopped breathing and Mafe said into the monitor, “Liz, you should come” and Liz flew down the stairs. When she got to the bed Mom was still and quiet.

Liz approached me on the couch in the other room. I was just slowly falling into deep sleep, I had heard a voice, and wondered what it was, but the night was drawing me down. Then Liz woke me and I thought, why would anyone wake me? “Meg, Mom died”. I leapt out of bed and ran to her room.

I placed my hand on her now still and quiet chest. No more deep strident breaths, no more living. No more oxygen, no more heart pounding away in a universal beat; just a quiet body.

Liz and Mafe began to move around in a slow but frantic manner, looking for the clothes that we wanted her to wear. They went into the closets and started pulling out random bags of clothing. They were quiet but I wanted to do some sort of primeval wail. I said something, like “I just want you to know, I am going to make some noises”.

A keening sound was arriving in my stomach and pushing its way up to my throat. Later we thought how funny our behavior was, me warning them of my wailing, them digging through random bags of clothing.

A tableau emerged, of Liz and Mafe crying and washing her body while I sat up by the pillow, with my hands around my Mom’s face. I was holding her mouth up, pushing her mouth shut so she would not be left with her mouth hanging open. I cried and wailed and held on tight.

It was still my Mom but it was obviously not my Mom. She would not have liked anyone to force her to do anything, even if it was to close her mouth for the viewing of her body.

The hard labour of the breathing, the naked woman in the hands of other women and the bedroom setting reminded me of home births. We labored with her, to take her to the next life. I am so grateful for that. There were no anonymous nurses, no matter how well meaning, no bells or harsh lighting. We had complete control of the ‘home death’, as I began to see it in my mind.

Then, just as in a home birth, we made strong tea and sat around her bed. She was dressed in my beautiful wedding gown, a second hand raw silk dress that I had given her. She had on make-up and her hair was brushed. Her head was tilted back as if she had just leaned back and passed out. Her eyebrows were calm and majestic, her mouth calm and almost in a smile. If you knelt beside her you could almost imagine her puckering her lips in a kiss, lifting an eyebrow.

I remembered lying beside her as a little child, when she wanted me to nap. I remembered watching her nap.

At 3 am Liz and I crashed. We had taken all the medicine out of the room and cleaned it out of the detritus of life. It was now a viewing room, cold and empty except for Mom, a candle and Mom’s cat that would not leave her side.

As I crawled into the couch, with a comforter around me, I found myself holding on to a teddy bear that we had cleared out of her room. I laughed inwardly, Mam, are you tucking me up with a bear? And I passed out.

Mama’s other prime caregiver Remia had gone home but on the arrival of our text she turned right around to come back, crying the whole way. She and Mafe sat and prayed for our Mom while we slept. I don’t know if they slept at all.

The next day, when I woke at 6 am I was hit suddenly by the loss. I was never going to take tea to my Mom again. I remembered going up to my Mom’s bedroom when I was a young mother living in her ground floor apartment with my little girl and baby boy. She was the only one up at that early hour. How she gladly dropped her book when she saw me, and put her arms out for the baby.

There was not a time when I sat down on her bed when she did not rustle about trying to cover me with blankets and make sure I was warm. I have so many visions of her, flashes of her being. She does not really feel gone.

The day she lay in state, like a queen or a movie star, we had visits and we sat in the kitchen with family and close friends. We drank very good scotch and we talked and laughed just as she said we were to do.

Now we are preparing for her public Wake on Friday. It should be a Wake  like no other. We do not know what to expect, but that is what is beautiful about  life.

Toronto-20130301-00844

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