Saturday, August 12, 2023

Saying Goodbye to Mom

 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. 

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