All my life, I have had a best friend, someone who has always been in my corner, someone who has been my biggest supporter, someone who has always made it possible for me to follow my dreams.
But now she is dying ...
My mom is dying.
So much of who I am is because of the exceptional parents I was blessed with.
When I was a baby, I had colic and my dad would put me in my crib and walk back and forth in front of it reading poetry, which is how I fell in love with words and the sound they make, and the rhythm of language.
As I got older, both Mom and Dad read to me every day. When I had my lazy eye operated on when I was nine Mom read Little Women to me; such a gift.
They both taught me from a very young age not just to tolerate those of other cultures, those of other religions, those of other races, those of other sexual orientations, and those who were transgendered, and those with disabilities, but to welcome and celebrate their presence in our human family and their contribution to our world.
Beginning from a very young age, when I would go to Mom and rail against something that was unfair she would ask me if she was the one who could change it. Almost always the answer was no, which I would admit, and she would say, "So go and talk with the person who can change it." This began my life-long work of standing up against injustice and speaking truth to those who have the power to change the injustice.
Dad was also a speaker of truth but his words were also sometimes less than gentle. Mom's skill and gift has always been quiet strength and grace in making a stand. If I am able to persuade people to my point of view, or able to cause people to act, it is because of her.
Mom had a collection of reptiles for many years, including iguanas, a mated pair of basalisks, tokay gekos, anoles, an Northern Alligator lizard, and several tortoises, which she took around to school classes, kids' groups and libraries, to teach the kids that although they may look scary, reptiles are very cool. She was "the Lizard Lady of North Vancouver", whose reputation lived on long after the lizards did.
Mom's mission in the world is as a facilitator to help other people shine, as a mother, as a pre-school teacher for ten years, and most certainly as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an internationa, historical, social, research organization that recreates the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Mom and Dad were the heads of the local group for 27 years, the longest in SCA history, she was for several years the person who assigned who would complete each hand-calligraphed and hand-illuminated award scroll, and most importantly, for thirty years, she was in charge of the local and regional university where she travelled around the Pacific Northwest organizing sessions and giving thousands of people to opportunity to learn and teach. Many, many people discovered talents they never knew they had and she was their biggest supporter.
Mom has always been my best friend, the one who knows me so well that often we are thinking the same thing even though the link to what we had previously said is not obvious or clear to anyone else.
As many of you know, last year I moved from Vancouver to Ottawa, to help pressure the Canadian government on Omar Khadr. When I made the decision to move, the one pause I had was moving 3,000 miles away from Mom and what her reaction would be. When I told her she gave the greatest gift imaginable: she smiled and gave me whole support. I could not have made the move I did without her.
On October 3rd, EVERYTHING changed. I was in the election office of the Premier of Ontario, who is also my provincial elected representative (MLA), three days before the election, helping out as I had every day of the campaign, when I got a text message from Mom saying that she had been to the doctor and he was sending her to the emergency room. Now to put that in perspective, Mom had not been in the hospital for herself since I was eight and she had her appendix out; she had not been to a doctor, except the local clinic VERY occasionally, in 20 years. She had not said anything about being sick.
A week of tests and investigations later, Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Things looked optomistic, and we were all hopeful and expectant that after a course of treatment, Mom would be fine; after all she had projects to finish.
I began to make plans to surprise her with a visit; which a few Kossacks were very generously helping me with. Then Mom told me if I was planning to visit she thought I should wait until closer to the time of the surgery (which was supposed to be in the next couple of weeks or so.) We discussed it over a weekend but had not decided when EVERYTHING CHANGED.
On the Monday, Mom texted me again to say that she needed me to come as soon as possible. I flew out a couple of days later. The next morning she told both my brother and me at the same time that her diagnosis and prognosis had changed: She has uterine and/or cervical cancer as the primary cancer with the possible addition of ovarian cancer. They are still having difficulty nailing down which is the cancer which started it all. But it really doesn't matter at this point which it is, because her cancer is inoperable. She will be continuing (at this point) with chemotherapy for pain and other symptom control. They are not sure how much time she has left, possibly three to six months.
I can't be 3,000 miles away from Mom while she is dying. I don't think it's an accident that I was granted disability in two weeks after I applied in August. Disability is allowing me to stay until at least February 18th, and longer if I need to, with the suppervisor's permission. I am staying in the basement suite that Dan and I shared.
So far, Mom is doing well; she is coughing less, and is keeping her food down. She has graduated from a liquid diet to a soft food diet, which is MUCH more interesting for her. She is still the same Mom I have always known in so many ways.
However, it is tough to see shrink physically before my eyes, to see her sleep so much of her day, to know that one day my rock won't be there. She will always be with me, and in everything I do, but it's not the same.
Losing the three most important people in my life in eight years is just so hard, and I know the loss of Mom will be the most difficult, because she is the only one who has completely understood what I have gone through with Dad's loss and Dan's loss.
Mom is being showered with love from all over the world, and it fills my heart to see her expression when she hears what it is being said to her and about her, and when she sees friends from California and Seattle walking through the door. She deserves this goodbye.
I will be writing more about Mom and about this journey as the days and weeks and months progress. Thank you, dear friends, for being here with open arms and strong shoulders.
Love and Hugs,