Sorely missing my mother
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My boys turned seven on May 23, 2017. My mom died on May 25, 2017.
There really hadn’t been any indication that she was seriously ill. She was 69, didn’t exercise and had smoked for around 50 years before giving it up five years before, so shortness of breath was to be expected.
We figured she’d see her doctor and he’d up her inhaler again as he’d been doing for the prior two years. She went into hospital with breathing problems on a Sunday in February and never left.
Her death was a strange mixture of sudden and drawn out. After a dose of radiation made her condition significantly worse, my mom, stepfather and I were sat down by the doctor, who explained that chemotherapy wasn’t an option and radiation was clearly out. She had a primary tumour in her lung that metastasized to her skull and a rib. There wasn’t anything they could do. I asked how long, expecting something in the neighbourhood of a year. Three months. I’ve got to say, he called it accurately.
Those three months passed by remarkably quickly. I’d bring the boys and we’d push her and her oxygen out onto the hospital lawn so she could watch them scamper until one day we couldn’t anymore. The funny thing about last times is that you seldom know this is the last time you will see something or go somewhere with someone. On the last day that she was well enough to go outside, some relatives from out of town showed up, so we couldn’t go out and she couldn’t see the boys play that one last time.
From then on, the decline was fairly rapid. Every day she’d be a little bit weaker, a little bit more drugged, a little bit less there. Once, having been raised by Hollywood to believe that deathbed scenes follow a script, I tried to tell her how much she had meant to me and to thank her for being such a good mother. She turned her head and didn’t say anything. I chalked it up to the drugs and fatigue and decided I’d try again another day.
A few days later, we were in her room watching TV and I thought I should tell her again before there was no more time. I said, “Mom?” her whispered reply was, “Nothing heavy, OK?” She knew me well, too well. Those were the last words I heard her say.
It was about a week later that I got the call that it was likely time. I called my stepdad to let him know and then I walked to the hospital. I don’t know exactly what I was thinking while I walked. I imagine it was pleasant reminiscences and sad projections, but I really don’t know. I got to the hospital, went to her room and sat down. I swabbed her lips with some iced tea and I watched and waited.
I told her how much she was loved and what a wonderful grandma she’d been and how I appreciated all she had done and that it was time now to rest. I cried and I held her hand and I waited. Eventually her chest stopped moving and I waited. After a few minutes, I went to the nurses’ station and let them know. Then I called my stepdad and went back to mom’s room to wait with her until they wheeled her out.
Going through her effects, I came across a picture of her holding her newborn grandkids in the hospital. She has a smile on her face more pure than she had ever smiled before or since, and the way she is cradling them, one in each arm, accidentally forms the shape of a heart. I gave it to my boys and it is on their wall and that is what I see when I remember her.
Mom didn’t want a service, obituary or marker and she wanted her ashes spread over her garden in Minnedosa. My stepdad and I followed her wishes. In retrospect, we followed them too well, I think. The last mortal reminder of my mom’s existence was a brief mention in The Brandon Sun giving her name, birthdate and survivors. That’s it. It wasn’t enough.
On Feb. 23, 1948, Roberta (Bobbi) Ann Johnasson was born in Winnipeg and that is where she would grow up. She would go on to live in Calgary and Brandon, have two sons, three grandkids, three husbands, four cats and four dogs. She was active in her church and drew great pleasure from helping newcomer congregants navigate the various systems and acclimatize themselves to Canada.
She was a sharp wit and keen observer of her fellow humans’ triumphs and foibles. She enjoyed cards and shuffleboard and truly bad TV shows. She made heavenly cabbage rolls and dry turkey for Thanksgiving and insisted on always giving you a piece of coal on Christmas.
As imperfect as any of us, Mom was deeply loved and cherished by most who knew her but none more than my sons, her husband Doc, and me.
She left this world as Bobbi Ann Enns on May 25, 2017, and I miss her.