We all have those memories when we were kids. The random moments that we faintly remember; birthday party, a holiday, or those silly things your family would do, that you swore you would never duplicate. As we get older we can remember only a fraction of what we once thought was so important in our young lives… One of my first memories is one of sadness, but also comes with a beautiful story of hope, gratitude and has shaped me into the woman I am today.
I’m thankful for that, as hard as it was.
My mom became very ill just after I turned four. We had just moved into a home in Prince Edward Island because we were living in Ontario since I was born, my dad really wanted to get back to his roots.
When we arrived, I remember they quickly bought a house in a town called Summerside, which at the time I was ecstatic about because I thought that meant summer all the time, which meant ice cream all the time (three year old logic).
We went through the motions of moving into a new town…
A new dentist, new doctor and all sorts of new stores and places I had never experienced before. I was a very energetic kid so I was eating all of this excitement up and driving them both nuts.
We went to our new family doctor a couple times in one week… Then I remember a little while after, I was told that mommy had gotten some news and we had to go see a NEW doctor but this time he wasn’t in our town.
That’s the day everything changed.
From that day forward, it was countless trips on the ferry boat to neighbouring provinces, to different hospitals she was being transferred between. It was consistent movement and no answers.
She was diagnosed with cancer.
My Dad – the hopeless romantic – would wake me up in the middle of the night because mommy had a bad dream and we had to go make sure she’s okay. “We want to be sure we get first morning ferry!” He’d say to me while he was trying to remain cool, so I didn’t know how scared he really was.
Three years of this go by…
Upon news that the cancer has pretty much won – it was time to let her come home.
She had five different types of cancer by the end of it. The main ass-kickers being lung and brain. I remember being this little seven year old kid, watching my mom being harnessed down onto her chair so she could physically be at the dinner table with us, although mentally she was almost gone. No one ever explained to me what was really happening. I was constantly being told that ‘Mommy will be okay, don’t you worry’.
I was little. But I knew better.
I had a feeling that one day she wasn’t going to be “Ok” but my dad just wanted to make me smile and keep me protected from what he was feeling – pure heartbreak.
I was old for my grade, so when I started school at five it was always hard to leave for the bus. Never knowing what was going to happen when I got home. We had hired a home nurse to help my father with my mom… I think it was to hard for him to swallow the reality of her illness, so she took on the brunt of the work load associated with terminal cancer.
I loved the nurse, she was like the big sister I never had. My dad was always keeping himself busy and so she was someone that I could hang out with.
It was distracting, which I think was the plan.
We didn’t get much chance to build a lot of memories together, me and my mom, but we do have some.
One such memory being a year or so into living on PEI, my mom introduced me to buttercups. She loved to tell me how if you put them facing your chin, and if it shined yellow, you liked butter!
She would always glow yellow when she did it. I thought it was more magic than anything else. She was magic to me. So I would always try to bring her buttercups home when I went out to play.
Everyday I would get off the bus, two blocks away, and run home to hang out with her. To show her the things I learned at school that day, or just to bring her the three or four buttercup bouquet I had made on the walk home, because she was always going to be there waiting.
Like she always was.
It was a regular day. I got off the bus just like every other day.
I walked down the same street and there it was, a field (probably just a square foot or two in reality, but to a seven year old – a field) of buttercups appeared on my neighbours yard. I couldn’t believe it, I started picking them in a storm of excitement to show my mom.
I picked the biggest bouquet I ever had, and proceeded to walk the rest of the way home. Elated to show off my treasures.
As I got closer to my house, I notice cars that I recognized, all parked out front. My dad loved parties and hosting, the fact that it was just 3pm on a weekday didn’t really clue into me. I just thought; Yay! Friends!
I walked up my veranda, up to the door to my house, that led into the kitchen…
It was a house full of family, all cooking and talking. I carried on with my plans, I had flowers to deliver. As I walked closer to the room, I was suddenly grabbed and pulled back, my bouquet to the floor.
My uncle and Dad take me into my bedroom and tell me that mommy died today. I didn’t believe them. She had just said bye to me before school.
How could she be gone?
“No”, I remember saying to them in a small voice.
“I brought her buttercups, I need to give them to her!”
Looking back I don’t think they really knew the right thing to say in response, so they let me go. I ran into her bedroom, and there she was, looking peaceful as always – except she didn’t open her eyes when I spoke to her.
She didn’t know she had left this life. She didn’t know that this morning was the last time she was going to smile at me.
Looking back I wonder why it happened that way.
Why was she all alone in her bedroom?
Why didn’t I give her a proper hug before I left?
Why? Because I didn’t think it was going to be the last time.
This story is something kept to myself, because I thought it wasn’t that meaningful. But now, as I look back and remember it all, I’m grateful for what it has taught me.
It is meaningful.
Why? Because each day spent with the people we love is a gift. A gift we should never take for granted. Those little moments I got with her will last a lifetime in my heart.
It was just seven years of my life, I had no idea how short the time I had with her would be – but that is the thing, we never will know. Savour these moments. Look around you.
Are you spending your days rushing around trying to get unnecessary things done? Are you worrying about what other people have that you don’t?
Do you come home every day and not look at all the gifts and people you have in your life?
Life could be over tomorrow, reach out, love the people you have, as much as you physically can.
Never take one single minute for granted.