Tuesday, August 29, 2023
I sure do write about death a lot lately. I'm sorry. Apparently, I have a lot to say.
I'm writing this one for two reasons.
Number One: I really botched that obituary. I asked Nicole Strickland about one--Westlawn publishs them on their site without cost--but I still needed to write it before she could do that for us. Well, of course. She didn't know Mom's history, why would she? I felt the press of time, and I wrote it in about ten minutes before sending it by email. It wasn't until I saw one for a friend's father that I realized how badly I'd done it. Mine was sterile.
Jody sent the last uninjured picture of Mom, and she searched until she found the sixties hottie picture of Mom in her single years. At least the photos looked good. For the record, the hand on her shoulder in the color photo is my father's. It was taken on an anniversary dinner outside of an Albert's Restaurant. It's the last good photo we got of her.
Number Two: In my awkward defense, I wrote her a Eulogy where I felt that I would say what I needed to say to tell her story and honor her. We have stated that since we planned her Memorial for a Saturday, people may not be able to make it. Poor planning on my part, I'm sorry. It was a work related faux pas. I planned it for that day after making arrangements with my boss that I would not take on any weekend work.
One cousin had a wedding, one had a night shift on Friday, combined with an intense project on the Sunday. More friends and family had work and predetermined plans that I would not ask them to cancel. Mom had little opportunity to make friends in Edmonton, and most of her friends lived out of the city and had health issues of their own.
My Uncle Duane and Aunt Sandra made it, as did cousin Shawna. My cousin from Dad's side, Karen came too. Bestie Melaida was able to show up. Mom's friend Liz made a surprise visit. All were such a comfort. Thank you.
We are so grateful for your love and condolences, EVERYONE.
There is a deer on her urn because mom loved deer. She used to drink her coffee on the deck at the acreage and just watch them graze from afar. Sometimes she could watch them right on her front lawn. I know she missed them when they moved to Barrhead.
But I still wrote her the Eulogy she deserved, and I still want to share it with anyone who couldn't be there. So here goes...
SIDE NOTE: In the interest of security, I deleted the picture of her urn, her full name and her dates.
"Welcome everyone. This day finds us gathered together to say goodbye to Phyllis. She was a wife, mother, gardener and homemaker. She loved Gordon Lightfoot, The Rankin Family, and Keith Urban. She was also well known for her embroidery pieces.
She took her role as a housewife, and Dad’s partner very seriously, and later when our father started Lean Instrument Services, she took care of the all the paperwork and was involved other aspects such as the hiring of employees.
My mother also took a great deal of pride in making sure our home was clean and beautiful and that there was always a hot breakfast, hearty lunches and an appropriately timed supper. She once told me that since Dad worked hard to provide a roof over our heads and food on the table than it was her job to maintain the house and to feed us all. She always said that a man’s home is his castle and it should be a stress free place where he can be himself. She was Ukrainian, and therefore liked feeding those she loved.
Jody (Before she was vegan) and I really loved a breakfast of sausage strips and a grilled cheese sandwich, and anyone who ever worked with my father knew he only ever took toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches in his lunch. I always appreciated that she didn’t send wimpy sandwiches in our lunches either. I don’t like bread, and she tried to ensure that whatever the filling in the sandwich, it rivaled the bread ratio. I can still taste her ‘kabobs’. She would put cubes of spam and cheese, cherry tomatos and pickles on plastic stir sticks. Better than a sandwich any day.
She loved doing things for her family, the little details. In the winter, she timed our hot chocolate to when she knew Jody and I would arrive home. Speaking of little details... (Bring out the Barbie Blanket and talk about it.)
Does anyone know what this is? It's a homemade Barbie blanket. It's more than forty years old and she made one for Jody as well. I don't know why I kept it all these years, I just really loved and appreciated it. (I passed it around and we discussed it a little. It had cross-stitched red roses and blue birds. The letter 'D' was embroidered in the center.)
If you’ve ever been inside our house, you will remember embroidered pictures on the wall, perhaps even the famous peacock. How many versions of it are there in existence? No one knows for sure. She was a perfectionist and each edition was a little bit MORE perfect than the last—-But still not quite perfect enough for her liking.
Her hands are still now. No more arthritis. No more back pain, no more falls. No more illnesses. She’d been such a survivor, beating cancer, battling back from a stroke, a broken hip, and surviving Covid last Christmas, but it got to be too much to bounce back from. It was time to go.
As hard as it is to say goodbye, we can be glad her suffering is done. Mom was a spiritual person, and I know wherever she is, she’s no longer in pain. That’s the important thing. Today we say goodbye to Phyllis. And now she is free."
Now that I have this off my chest, I intend to go back to editing Her True Name: Volume Three, and writing cat blogs. I don't know if I mentioned this but Her True name: Volume One was her absolute favorite book I'd written. To be honest, it hurts a bit to know she won't read Volume Three. She had a copy of Elaina's Fate, but never did get around to reading it.
She didn't taste the tomato relish Jody made just for her. She didn't get to wear the brand new shirt I brought her the last day she fell. I'll never get to give her the wolf family on a bed of amethyst that I bought her for Christmas.
But that's what happens when you don't see death coming. We really did believe that she would come home from the hospital, and we'd discuss nursing homes. Maybe that's why she passed when she did. Her mother died in a nursing home. Maybe it was time for her to go before that happened to her.
Sorry again for the death blog, but if you read my blog often enough, you know why I write them. And doesn't my mother deserve tributes too?
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Do you know what today is? Today would have been my father's birthday. It's also my late friend Kevin's birthday. This is also the day we cremated my mother.
I debated whether or not to write this blog. It feels a bit tacky somehow. Like I'm looking for sympathy. Then again, this is how I process my grief. I've written blogs for my cats, my father and for Kevin, why would I not write one for Mom?
Speaking of sympathy, I'd like to take this time to say THANK YOU to everyone who offered condolences on Facebook and through texts. Thanks for checking in on us, sending flowers, and asking how we are. It means a lot, and I'm overwhelmed but in love with you all. I think that's why I feel like I'm looking for sympathy. We've already received so much, but I'm not looking for more. I just have information to share and thank you's to send out.
Mom was a trooper, a survivor. She'd battled and lived through cancer and recovered from a stroke. She had diabetes and arthritis. She survived Covid last Christmas. This was her fifth, and last fall. She had a massive sinus infection, which we believe affected her balance and caused her to tumble, but it was a perforated bowel that got her. Surgery was suggested, but it was not a viable solution, and she couldn't breathe.
We would like to thank the staff at Stony Plain Hospital for taking good care of her, and thank you to the University of Alberta Hospital for trying to save her. We would like to thank Nicole Strickland and Westlawn for all their thoughtful care.
Mom died on the long weekend, so we didn't know if anyone could help us until maybe Tuesday. I went into Westlawn on Monday anyway, and was able to speak to someone and get started. I gave basic information. The pressing question on my mind was, "How do we pay for this? Do we use a check? Visa? Cash? How does this work?"
The answer is, all of the above in any way that works for you. Here is a piece of information that I feel is extremely important. The first thing he told me is DON'T tell the bank of her passing just yet. No matter which bank you use, they will instantly freeze all accounts with the deceased one's name on it. I remember going through this when Dad passed. I was pissed off back then, but I understand why it's done now.
It's so that someone can't just clear all the money out with no regard to estate planning, taxes or rightful heirs. I actually do know of a man who died and his ex girlfriend cleaned out his account and left nothing but bills for his kids.
We were able to get started quickly after that. Nicole Strickland was sympathetic, kind and a wealth of information. I could go on and on, but I'll point out that everything was no pressure. She didn't try to convince us to buy extras, not even the casket. (We bought the least expensive one.) We were not pressured into a ceremony or luncheon. She went down a list of things we might want or need, and we purchased a kit to help Jody along with executor duties. Westlawn offers a complimentary obituary to post on their site, but I still have to write it. I'll probably do it after this blog.
Important note: She asked if we wanted to print an obituary in the Edmonton Journal. We said yes until she told us it would be a minimum of $700. Thanks for the heads up, Nicole. We decided against it.
Sanja was helpful too. She helped us pick out the urn. It was difficult at first. Nothing suited Mom. We asked for owls. No owls. She listed off options for photos/ornamentation we could have until she listed the magic word. We both looked at each other at the same time and yelled, "DEER!" Mom didn't collect them, (much) but she LOVED watching the deer that visited at the acreage before they moved to Barrhead. It always made her so happy. So the urn with her name, dates and a clay facsimile of a a deer is on order for Mom, in the specific Times New Roman font I requested.
But I want to tell you of the amazing thing they did that apparently not many funeral homes offer. Nicole told us she had never before known of a funeral home that did this, but wow...did we ever appreciate it. We were not offered the same opportunity for our father. I think they call it 'The Identification'. It allowed me and my sister to go and view the body and say our goodbyes before they cremated her. They had stationary, pens, and markers so that if we wished, we could leave notes with Mom and we were permitted to write on the casket itself if that's what worked for us.
Jody and I wrote notes. Jody wrote of a favorite memory, when Mom used to make Kool-aid popsicles, and she made fudgesicles out of chocolate pudding. I wrote what has been weighing on my mind since her death. I told her I was sorry I couldn't help her that day that she fell for the last time.
I couldn't lift her, I couldn't understand what she was trying to say. All I could do was stroke her hair and tell her the ambulance was on its way. Help was coming.
Days ago, my sister expressed guilt that she felt she hadn't done enough. She felt she somehow failed in some way.. I told her, "You did all that you could, everyday. This is not on you. It was just time, and she isn't suffering anymore." Today she gave those words back to me.
So we wrote our notes and tucked them into her cold, bruised hands. I bought her carnations, her favorites, and placed them in the casket beside her. She looked beautiful, her makeup done in such a way, I kept expecting her to open her eyes and sit up. Even her hair was arranged in soft curls without looking odd for her. No fake fussiness, no hairspray, no phony-looking makeup.
We are holding a memorial for Mom on our own. Tea and coffee, snacks. We're having it at Jody's apartment building. The reason for this is so that we can offer some of my mother's MANY collectables to her friends and family, because we can't keep it all and maybe someone would like mementos.
Jody has claimed all the Nutcrackers. Whoo! She can have them all! But Mom collected Coca-Cola and M&M stuff, eagles, owls, wolves, chefs, salt and pepper shakers of all kinds, and her kitchen was red and white gingham specifically. We haven't even touched the Christmas decorations yet.
Jody is in a state of shock, I think. She deals by cleaning and organizing, trying to process my mother's life as she is the executor. Me, I am sad and angry, feeling guilty, feeling like I should have done more to save her, and other things.
Do you know what makes me the angriest? The thing that makes me cry even as I write it? I knew. I had a bad feeling death was coming for her. Last Christmas I felt that we should have a really good Christmas, just the three of us....Just in case it was her last.
Mom and Jody got Covid. I spent Christmas here, on my computer. Jody spent it at the apartment, alone, trying to recover. I brought her her gifts, but I couldn't come in of course. Mom spent it in a windowless room in the hospital struggling to breath, eating tasteless beef stew, surrounded by strangers.
I regret two things. I regret that we could not give her one last good Christmas, and that when she fell, I couldn't do anything to help her.
But the funeral home let us say goodbye.