Day 23: Work #write31days

I’ve been tired and while there are many factors that could be, and probably are, contributing to my fatigue, I think the main culprit is grief.  I say this without any doubt: grief is work.

There was the grief we experienced when we knew my Mom’s days were limited, and when we thought she was going to pass that weekend, or that weekend and then when she finally did pass.  There’s the grief during the celebration of life service and the details that had to be arranged.  There’s the grief in the legalities.  Grief in the kind sentiments from relatives, neighbours, friends and sometimes almost strangers.  There’s the grief in the distance between when you last hugged her and were hugged back and now.  There’s the grief in the day to day tugs and pulls of little ones and your spouse and the life that you’ve gone back to that is supposed to be normal.

It’s tiring.  It’s work.  It’s hard.

[written Dec. 11, 2017 for #write31days in October]

Day 21: Give #write31days

I felt like the longer my Mom’s Cancer progressed that there were fewer things that I could give her.  It felt like my offers to her were piddly but yet it turned out that those were the things that were most precious.

Gifts were of little value to her but she still appreciated drawings from her granddaughters and stories of cute things they’d said or done.

I started using essential oils in July and they became a conduit for us to connect.  On almost every visit after she was in the palliative ward at Parkwood, I would massage her hands and feet with essential oils.  Sometimes I’d let her choose, and sometimes I’d choose for her.  Up until the last several weeks of her life, hand and foot massages would relax her so much that she could go to sleep.  When she battled so much pain and confusion in her last month or so, I was relieved that I could offer her something that gave some peace and comfort.

The use of the EOs gave us a gift that was impossible to find elsewhere.

Day 20: Discover #write31days

It’s funny how your perspective can change.  When my sister and I first went to tour the palliative care ward at Parkwood Hospital, it felt very hospital-like, and the rooms felt dated.  The staff were protective of their patients (well, my sister and I did look suspicious as we hadn’t heard back about a tour and decided to just go and pretend we knew what we were doing) and everything seemed bleh.  There was a friendly volunteer who gave us a good tour of the floor and this elderly gentleman seemed like the only good thing about the floor.

My Mom finally decided on Parkwood because we learned she could continue under the care of her new family doctor, who happened to be a good friend of mine from 20 years ago.  Decision made.

Several months later, I discovered that the palliative ward felt safe, comfortable and the nurses were really angels in disguise.  The whole environment (save for the co-ed ward rooms, but that’s another blog post right there) was lovely and loving and inspiring.  My Mom said her private room felt homey (she only had to endure one night in the co-ed ward room).

Day 19: Brave #write31days

I kept telling my Mom that she was so brave during her last several months of life.  Her prognosis hadn’t given her much to be brave about and yet she lived her days with grace, kindness and love.  She grappled with God at times (“Beth, I had a debate with God last night about free will… but we’re on good terms still”).  She grappled with us sometimes.  She never retreated.  She only persevered onwards.

She continued to do things that mattered to her – like remembering all the names of her nurses, PSWs, doctors, and even the cleaning staff.  She wanted to hear stories of her granddaughters and the sweet things they’d done or said (“Tell me a cute story about Jesse and Kate, Beth”).  She wanted us to reach out to her friends and keep them updated on how she was doing – she was usually more worried about others than she ever was for herself.

Her bravery was modest, and meek but was strong and loud.

Day 17: Grow #write31days

I wonder if I’m growing  

I wonder if I’m growing

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

But it’s hard for me to see 

My mom says ‘eat your sandwich 

It will make you grow up tall’ 

But when I eat my sandwich 

I’m hardly bigger at all 

I wonder if I’m growing 

I wonder if I’m growing 

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

But it’s hard for me to see 

My mom says ‘Wash your hands now 

Then you can go and play’ 

Hey, I can reach the tap now 

For the very first time today 

And I think I must be growing 

Oh I know I’m really growing 

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

And now I know it’s true 


Raffi – I Wonder If I’m Growing

There’s a children’s song I remember from when I was young: “I Wonder if I’m Growing.”  I’ve listened to it more recently when I’ve played Raffi albums for my daughters in the truck, on our way into the city or back home again.  Growth is a hard thing to measure.  It’s sometimes hard to find tangible ways to know that you’re growing, and, for a child, there can sometimes be an expectation that each day there will be noticeable results (at least this is the case for my four year old who asks to be measured each and every day!).

During these past several months, from first diagnosis and prognosis, through each phase and challenge, we all experienced such severe growing pains.  We learned very quickly about catheters and 24hr IV machines and PSWs and CCAC and the nurses who come to your home.  We learned about DNRs and signs to watch for to know when to call an ambulance.  We learned about palliative health care and free medicine for palliative patients.

We also learned about meal trains, and ways that our friends, family and neighbours loved us.

And we learned how to get along better as a family – how to love, forgive and work together in as much unity as we could.

Do I feel stronger?  Do I seem braver?  Not really.

But have I grown?  Probably.