Friday, February 14, 2014

The Long Road Home

My Dad’s sister was born June 21, 1944…She was the oldest sibling, he being born 2 years later. They were close growing up & my Dad looked up to her. They lost their Mom suddenly, tragically, when he was 18 & she 20. This was devastating for both of them & for her, losing her Mom meant losing her best friend.

Life was hard after that. Her Father remarried quickly, which was often the case in those days. She spiraled, trying to move on with life but trapped by grief & depression. She became pregnant by accident but decided to keep the baby, though unheard of in that day & age. Her father was mortified but she so deeply wanted to be a Mother, she didn’t care.

The early weeks were rough, she was very sick. The Dr advised that if she made it to 12 weeks, she’d be in the clear. At 12 weeks, she went out & bought a beautifully soft, yellow sleeper for her baby. That evening, the pain started. She didn’t know what was happening. She had vicious cramps & then they would subside only to come back stronger & harder…then the bleeding started…

She went to the hospital & was told the fate of her baby…she was devastated. Her heart had bled out of her along with that babe. Her Father arrived, patted her hand & said it was for the best…& she died inside.

Time passed & she struggled with her grief & pain…depression gripped her.

Then her Father got sick…& he died. Their relationship had been strained at best & forever fractured…& then he was gone before they could reconcile.

You pile grief upon grief & pain upon pain & what is a person to do?

She broke…she wanted to die. She swore she wasn’t suicidal…she just wanted to die. She was admitted to the psychiatric ward.

Slowly, with therapy & the love of her Mom’s best friends, Margaret & Harry, she became stronger…she reentered the land of the living.

She loved…& lost…& loved again. She was married & she was happy. She tried to be the best step mom she knew how to be…but the pain of not having a child of her own haunted her.

In 1983 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She faced surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy…odds at the time said she was unlikely to survive…but she did. It was then that she decided to really start to live life…she would stop being scared…she would start taking chances.

She started to travel & spent the next 30 years planning exotic & exciting trips…sometimes with others, often on her own. She travelled all across Canada, the USA, South America, New Zealand & multiple trips to the UK & Europe. Destinations would come up in conversation & she would say, “Oh! That place is on My List!!”

Her other passion was her dogs. Her firsts were Jordie, a west highland terrier & Murphy, a Golden Retriever. She loved Murphy but Westies were more her speed so after they passed came Tessie, then Kodi, another Murphy & finally Dolly.

She became involved with Westies In Need after adopting Dolly. She was passionate about helping these poor pups. She would drive any distance to pick up a rescue. You can feel her passion if you watch this video interview.

Life was finally good for her. After so much struggle & pain & loss…she had arrived. Whenever I faced adversity, she would knowingly say, “It gets better, I promise.” Because she did know, she’d lived it.

December 17th, 2013 all that changed. 4 weeks after that, we saw the Oncologist. We were told her biopsy was inconclusive but that she most likely had advanced cancer of the pancreas or other part of the upper gut. She was brave & at peace with this news. She told the Dr she hoped to celebrate her 70th birthday in June…the Dr asked if she could move it up.
4 weeks after that had me sitting by her bedside in hospice. She could no longer speak, she could hardly move at all & her eyes were her only means of communication. I sat with her all day, talking to her, holding her hand. I played her favourite music for her…I read to her. That night I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I’d promised her she wouldn’t have to go through this alone. The hospice staff set up a cot for me…I laid down to try to sleep. I was acutely aware of her breathing, the noises of the room, the nurses coming in & checking on her. Despite this I felt myself drift off to sleep...but every time I did, it felt as though someone would yank on my shoulders, waking me. Then all of a sudden, I felt a change in the room, it became very quiet. Her breathing had changed, much more shallow & also very quiet. I got up from my cot, checked the time, 3:32am. I went over & took her hand. I put my other hand on her forehead, as had become my habit in the last few weeks. It was so quiet…suddenly she took a deep breath, scaring me...I whispered, "Good bye, Lee. I love you" & knew in that moment she was gone.

8 a woman so vibrant & full of life can be gone in just 8 weeks is so confusing to me...


  1. Oh T, I am so sorry for your loss!! Even though it was very quick, it sounds like she went peacefully and that is so wonderful that you were able to stay by her side. My family members did that with my grandma but I don't have it in me, at least not yet. Maybe one day if I'm in that situation I'll be as strong as you to stand by a loved one during their final moments. I'll be thinking of you.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was such a wonderful, strong, spirited woman. This post was a beautiful way of preserving your memory of her.

  3. Since your post several weeks ago, filled with only bits of information, you have been in my thoughts daily. You really described her life so beautifully. You were both so lucky to have each other. I'm so sorry that you have lost your aunt. I am in disbelief that this all happened so fast. If you ever need to talk or chat, you know where to reach me. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  4. ((((((Hugs))))))). I'm so sorry that you don't have her in your life anymore. She sounds like a wonderful and inspiring person.

    In a way, it was good that this was sudden. My dad's eldest sister died a few months ago, and she had basically become a shadow of her former self for, I think, the last 5 years of her life. Diabetes, the slow killer. It is so hard, and I get to choose, I would want to go from 60 to 0, and not 60 to 5 to 0.

    Thinking of you.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. Your aunt sounds like a fabulous woman who was able to rise from adversity and live a full life. This is a beautiful post. Its terrible when people you love pass away suddenly, its hard to make sense of it. I am sure she appreciated you being there with her in the end. Take care.

  6. Oh, I'm so very sorry for your loss. You describe her wonderfully, and she sounds like an amazing woman. I'm so glad that you were able to be there with her in the end; I know she was aware you were there and was more at peace because she wasn't alone.

    Love and hugs to you!

  7. Oh, my dear. What a lovely post. What a hard hard journey. How incredibly powerful that you were able to be with her at the end and how terribly painful that must have been to experience those 8 weeks. I'm so sorry for your loss. The way you described her, she sees like an incredible soul, and you clearly have a deep, deep bond.

    Wishing you peace in this time of sadness.

  8. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    That was a beautiful tribute and I think it's nice that you were there at her side so she wasn't alone.
    Thinking of you.

  9. So sorry to hear of your loss. Sounds like you gave her the best that you could in those last few weeks too. That's an amazing gift. Take care of you now. Biggest hugs xxx

  10. This was so touching yet sad to read. What a remarkable woman. I'm so sad she had so much struggle in her life, inspired by her overcoming it, and sad again that you have lost her. You were a true blessing to her in her death, and I am sure were one throughout your life. I'm really sorry for your loss.

  11. Oh hon, I am so sorry for your loss. What a moving, moving thing to read.

  12. Oh you have touched my soul tonight. What a lovely, heartfelt tribute to an amazing woman. I am so very sorry for your loss. I'm also so very glad you were there with her during her last moments on this earth. To leave this world surrounded by love the way she came into the world is a true blessing, and you gave that to her. Sending many hugs your way!!!

  13. I am so sorry that you lost this wonderful woman but you must know that you meant so much to her. It's obvious from your tender words and the way you honor her here and in that hospital room. I'm not sure I could ever be this strong--you are an inspiration to me and a treasured niece to your aunt.

  14. I'm so sorry for your loss. What a moving post! She sounds like a very special woman. I know she left this world knowing how much you loved her. That is a very special gift you were able to give.

    May her memory be a blessing.

  15. What a full life she lived. Inspirational, really. I was hoping this post wouldn't come so soon following your previous mention. I'm sorry. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  16. I too lost an aunt recently, and my heart goes out to you. I send thoughts and prayers to your family. On a selfish note, as a survivor of cancer, IF and a few miscarriages, I hope one day, my niece(s) or nephew(s) can speak as highly as you do of your aunt. I think it's easy to think no one will miss us if we don't become parents, and it's nice to know you cared for her like you did.


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