Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 Years

Today marks a hard anniversary for our family.  Ten years ago today,  Sean's Mother, Margaret was taken from us.  Like any other significant anniversary, we find ourselves marveling at the passage of time.  We find ourselves so distant from that day, yet the realization of how much time has actually passed whisks us back there in an instant.

A week or so prior, we were packing up our apartment and Marg stopped by after work.  Although it was only June, our tiny one bedroom apartment was already a sweat box, only made worse by all our computer equipment (we were working at home at the time).  She was upset... there were a few things at work that were annoying her and she was having problems with her other son and his girlfriend (who lived with her with their young son).  We had quit smoking a several months previous, but she stayed for a "smoke and a coke" and we talked about what was troubling her.  All the while I kept thinking "I have to pack... I have to get this finished..."  She was there a while.  Our Cokes were drank, her cigs stubbed out and she took her leave so we could resume our tasks.  I saw her to the door;  as she turned to go down the stairs she said "I love you guys".  I answered back, reflexively.  If I had known that moment was to be our last together, I would not have let it end like that.

We weren't always that close, mind you.  We lived in that building for seven years... but before that, we lived with her.  Sean and I were planning on moving in together after his Dad announced that he was moving to Angus and taking the cats.  Sean had just finished his first year of college and I had become totally disenfranchised with university, with my job and with my family life at home.  I was heading to Humber myself in the fall for Nursing and we needed a place to live.  We were looking for places ourselves when she stepped in and offered up the other bedroom in her two bedroom basement apartment.  The place was quite roomy, had two levels and she felt she needed the company (and it would help out with the rent).  After much discussion, we moved in.  You may be familliar with the proverb "no house is big enough for two women".  In our case it was correct.  We got on each others nerves, with Sean stuck in the middle.  We all moved to a bigger house hoping that would allieviate some of the tension;  it did not.  By the following July we had moved into our first little one bedroom apartment (a bachelor, really).  Our relationship improved shortly afterward.

Flash forward a few years... we had taken the afternoon off to go to a book signing.  As we finished up a few last odds and ends, the phone rang.  It was Sean's brother; Marg was ill at work and been rushed to hospital.  They thought it was her heart.  I thought "ok, she hasn't eaten or it's angina or something" and wasn't overly concerned at that moment.  By the time we got to the hospital, we knew things were different.  According to one of her co-workers, she had a terrible headache all morning (she suffered from migraines).  On the way to the nurse's office, she collapsed.  Those by her witnessed some seizure like activity and her heart had stopped.  The one person that knew CPR started it then and was unsuccessful.  The paremedics worked on her for 10 minutes and got her back on the way in .  While she was in ER, she coded several times.  By the time we got to her she was intubated and remained unconscious, but was stable.  It was heartbreaking.  Neither one of us had experienced anything like this before and here we were in the ER, holding her purse and going through it looking for phone numbers.  Needless to say, we started smoking again... with the cigarettes in her purse.

Marg was on life support for days and did not show much sign of spontaneous breathing.  A year (?) or so before she had a little surgery and at that time, made sure that I knew 1) that she had updated her will, 2) where her personal papers, etc were and 3) that if, god forbid, anything happened that she did not want to "hang on by a bunch of tubes and wires".  She was adamant about this, just as adamant that I promise to take care of the "boys" and that I knew what to do as I would have the strength to do what Sean and his brother could not.  When the time came, I relayed her wishes to the team and family.  She was extubated and moved to a medical floor.

Needless to say it did not take long for things to deteriorate.  Her lungs needed suctioning and Cheyne-Stokes set in.  We made her comfortable and waited.  And waited.  It was awful.  Awful for me, terrible for Sean and terrible for her two sisters who barely left her side.  We waited and made her comfortable and hated ourselves for wanting this to be over... for wanting her to go.  The last day, Sean and I had gone with his Dad and Myrna (his parents had been amicably divorced for years) to visit.  Before we left, we said goodbye, like we did every time;  we said goodbye like it was the last time.  Before I left, I bent down and talked to her.   I told her that I would look after Sean and keep an eye on Ryan and his family.  I told her to go into Summer (heaven).  I let her know it was ok, that we would be ok and it was time for her to go.  With tears in our eyes, we left.

We were halfway home and hydroplaning through a horrible rain storm when the cel rang.  She was gone.  We had to go back.

The next few days... weeks... months were a blur.  Grief has a special way of bending time, of distorting reality.  Death is surreal, it's a concept, a reality that your brain cannot fully process.  As you continue to go on, everything seems to move differently around you.  You feel as if you are walking through water.  You are of this world, yet are not.  Colours and textures are not quite right. You feel removed from your surroundings as your grief, in it's rawness, surrounds you and creates a protective barrier around you.

We stayed in that bubble for a very long time.

A friend told us the day of the funeral that although we currently could not imagine our life without her, that there would be a point some time in the future when we would be unable to imagine what our life would be with her.  At the time, such a notion seemed preposterous;  we have since found this to be true. 

She has missed so much.  I went back to nursing, just as she wished and have done pretty well for myself.  "Sleeping Grandma" is merely a photograph to our three beautiful children.  So many events have occured that I wish that I could have sought her counsel on.  So many things have happened that probably would not have happend if she had not died.  The list of "would have" and "could have" and "should have"-s is endless.

Although I hear her voice in the back of my mind and have a good idea what she would say about things that have happened since, we are at that point and have been for a while. As brutal as it sounds, we have gone from I don't know what life will be like without her to I don't know what life would be like if she was still here. It is small comfort, but comfort nevertheless.  We honour her memory, her image graces our mantle.  Our daughter bears her name.

Our loved ones shape us and stay with us always. They make us who we are; our job is to go forward using what they have taught us. Although we miss them dreadfully, life does in fact flourish and go on.  We have done just that.

A lot has happened in 10 years.

10 years... 

...We still miss you.

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