Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Life & Death

Patricia Vervoort (nee Mulcahy)
age 21
It's been one week since my mother passed away. She took her last breaths as the sun rose on the 8th of May, 2013. As she left the morning light filled her hospice room with warm pink light. I held her hand.

As inevitable this day was, predicted three years ago when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, I still couldn't believe it happened - I couldn't believe I was there to witness it happen. I don't want to believe she's gone.

She was still living on her own at home (with a lot of help and a lot of difficulty) at the beginning of March. Her turn for the worse seems so fast now, in retrospect ... six long weeks in the hospice, two previous weeks at the regional hospital - those days felt so long, now seem so few. I was with her every day and am so thankful for that. Those days are precious.
9 April 2013
Her last few weeks were the hardest. It was heartbreaking to watch her slowly lose her faculties, lose her ability to fight it, imagine her feelings and frustration. Our one-sided conversations made me miss her voice and valued opinion so much more.

10 April 2013
Our six weeks in hospice saw us go from sharing our favourite tangy coleslaw from Maltese and watching Jeopardy together, to me sitting in silence staring out the window on to the harbour, watching the icebreakers and first lakers of the season, watching the sunrise. In early April she was still raising her eyebrows at me, and using her pointy finger of derision when teased. By mid April, though she couldn't say much any more she could still smile when shown some of the cute baby clothes I've purchased. By early May I was holding my breath while watching hers.
During her final days I sat beside her writing her obituary. I kept thinking about how it was the first major work of writing that I would do without her advice. She's been my best editor, my best source for information and direction. She had wanted to proof read her obituary... I'm sure she would have thought what I wrote was too much, not modest as she was, and too expensive to print; although I think if she could read it now she would humbly approve.

Today I'm sitting writing this at out dining room table which is nearly buried under flowers from her
service. Flowers from friends, relatives, former students of my mother - all with sympathy cards attached. They're all beautiful, all so depressing.
Beautifully depressing sums up the last two months perfectly. During a recent prenatal appointment my doctor kept referring to my mother's death as a beautiful thing; at the time I did not agree, did not understand..., now I suppose I can say that it was. It was a beautiful moment, surreal, an incredible event to be so entwined in. I watched her, felt her, take her last breath. I'll never forget the light.

16 April 2013
I'm 22.5 weeks pregnant now. Feeling the growing life inside me while my mother's life slipped away is an overwhelming gift. I understand that now. It doesn't make losing her now seem fair; how am I supposed to become a new mother again without her? I feel like an orphan - a pregnant orphan. Without this baby I don't know how I would manage. This baby is holding me together like nothing else can - just like Hannah did the year my father passed away.

I don't think it has all sunk it yet - we've been so busy making arrangements, settling her estate, visiting with lawyers, accountants, preparing her service. Today, this afternoon to be exact, is my first alone time in weeks, and the first time I've had to start begin absorbing how much life has changed in such a short time.

I had decided I wasn't going to anything this afternoon. 'Put my feet up and get lost in my thoughts' was my plan. Instead I got lost in one of my mother's travel journals - found this morning among her belongings. It's documents her trips to Bhutan in 2008 and to the Mediterranean in 2009. She wrote as she explored - sometimes in the air, sometimes on buses... scribbling notes on everything from her step count to descriptions of people she met, sights she saw, architecture, landscape, food... - everything. Her handwriting has always been so impeccable, but in moments throughout this journal, as in her final months, it becomes scribble as she travels along the bumpy road.


She lived a full life. She learned as much as she could, travelled as far as she could, loved passionately, fought for what she believed in, and challenged herself every step of the way. She has left me with so much. I know Hannah has a memory full of her Nana, her lessons, mannerisms, what it was like to travel with her. She's lucky, and grateful. Now I'm daunted by the task of ensuring the baby inside me knows the woman who raised me.

...and on that note, more flowers just arrived...

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