In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: It goes on. – Robert Frost

Keeping my promises to myself is a top priority for me. With that in mind, I am sitting with my coffee this morning and taking the time to reflect on this week and write something about it. It is ironic that 4 months ago, I had made an appointment for my hair with the artist Robbie. I did not know then what today would be. He did an amazing job and we reflected that the timing was……….odd but perfect.

I have a busy day ahead of me. Today is my mom’s service. I will be attending of course. I will be seeing a lot of family and old friends. I was told I will be feeling all sorts of emotions. I was asked if I wanted to speak. I have chosen to do so, however, I am not quite sure what I will say. I would like to be able to write something down and have that something to rely on, when the time comes. There is so much I could say about my mom. If I think about this week past, as challenging as it was, I think I did alright, because I believe she was with me. In some form, like a force, almost as if her love is still here and she is somehow guiding me. Looking back at this week, I am coming to realize that things did kind of work out for me in all areas – work, family, friends, and new decisions and my general mental health. My brother had told me that he “was doing his best to go by what he thought mom would want to see from him.” I think that is a good idea and tried to apply it this week. What would my mom want from me? I have come up with the following concepts.

Appreciate what I have 

Work – I have a new appreciation for the people I work for. I was told to take the time I needed for myself. I kept saying that there were deadlines to meet and that I would do my best to meet them. To this, my senior manager replied, “The priority right now is you. I will take care of any emergencies, if there are any.” I felt relieved. I had spent Sunday with family and I did feel sick at the prospect of going to work on Monday. My daughter had said to me on Sunday evening “If I find out you went to work on Monday, I will be very angry.” Well, I can say that I did not go back until Thursday. I was given three days for myself. Had I needed more, the message was clear, that it would have been perfectly fine. My mom would be happy, I think. She always told me to take care of myself. I had felt guilty in the past, doing that. This week I did not feel guilt about taking time off and taking care of me. I think my mom helped me there. At least I like to believe that. It feels reassuring.

My colleagues had all sent me nice, touching emails. I thanked them for that. When I did go back to work on Thursday, people were really nice, as usual, but I got the sense that they were letting me be. Or maybe I was just letting myself be and so they did too? I am not sure, but on Friday, I did find myself enjoying the meetings I had with my team and I did laugh. I did pretty well on Friday I think. I am also looking forward to next week, to some degree, when I felt only dread a few days before. I have a busy month ahead, but I feel better about my ability to face whatever comes. There is a little spring of hope somewhere. I appreciate that.

Friends – Through all of this, my friends have been very nice. I am a big fan of personal space. I am not a chatty phone person. I am not very good at keeping in touch with people either. Despite this, my friends all sent me warm wishes and wrote me nice emails offering to be there for me in whatever way I needed. I have made a decision to keep in touch with my friends, or at least try and do a better job going forward. A lesson learned has been to stop taking things for granted. Even the little things. Just stop. Whether it be a smile, twinkle in the eye, laughter, note, text, whatever it is, I think I can take time to appreciate these things and pay them forward, i.e. let them know. More on that in decisions.

Unconditional love – at least try.

Family – there are no words to adequately express how much I love my family. I saw them as much as possible this week. We all grieve in different ways and I respect that. I dislike using the term “step” so from this moment forward, I will stop. On Saturday, I had spoken to my second dad and he sounded better. He said he had spoken to mom and he felt she was with him. This reassured him. My heart filled with joy at the thought of that. He was spending the evening with one of my sisters and his three granddaughters. My brothers were also doing alright. They were surrounded by “their people”. On Sunday I spent the afternoon with my two of my sisters and second dad. We talked, and for a while, we laughed at some things. Then we had dinner. It became clear that Sunday was not as good, but through talking and being together, I think it was bearable, or at least better than being alone.

I had offered to help my brother with any preparations for the service and he declined. But he did ask me for help with the photographs we were to obtain in memory of mom, for her service. We did that on Tuesday. My brother, niece and second dad had dinner together. I had made a fresh meat sauce. My mom’s recipe. I remember going to the market that day, because I never have the time to do that when I work. I asked her to help me make the sauce, so that I tasted good. Maybe not exactly like hers, because she was such a wonderful cook, but good enough. It was a hit. The smell brought tears to our eyes and we ate together. My second dad opened a bottle of wine I had given him about 20 years ago. Then we sifted through hundreds of pictures, to find the ones that would honour the woman who had been a wonderful woman, sister, friend, wife, mother, wife, grandmother and great grandmother.

I was impressed at my second dad’s ability to go through these pictures with us. There was a price to pay for that though – emotions. Sadness and tears flowed. Regrets, guilt, and for me, that rage started to well up again. But together, we did it. Talked and expressed it. Wednesday, I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally. My brother put it all together and did an amazing job. Thank you to my brother for all that he did this week, in addition to forgiving me for a being a bitch for a moment when I could not find one of the pictures I liked. Not what mom would have liked from me and I quickly realized that and apologized.

Take care of me – she always told me to do that.

Decisions – Saturday, as stated before was a decent day. I was certain that my mom was taking charge, wherever she is. I had the sense that she had been busy because my family seemed better than the day before. For me personally, Saturday I made three decisions:

  1. Take care of myself
  2. Release my anger and rage, feel my emotions
  3. Set goals and stick to them, no negotiations, no matter what.
  1. Take care of me:
  • Saturday, I decided to go get my nails and eyebrows done. That may sound like nothing and even vain, but my mom always loved when I did that. She loved it for herself too. I had let all that go, for quite a while. I was a mess so to speak. I did not know where to go, so I found a place close to my house called “Clin d’oeil”. This means wink in English. My mom’s eyes were all we had left to communicate with at the end. Her winks were our confirmation she was with us and knew who we were. The fact that I found a place called Wink, to me, is a direct message from mom. Thank you for that.
  • I also contacted that friend of mine who is a trainer now. I asked for an appointment. She responded almost immediately. I was hoping to start ASAP, i.e. Monday, and was hoping this would be possible. It turns out that it was. On Monday she asked me if I could be there at 6:15 pm. I went. She is an amazing trainer. She is also tough as nails. They have an expression there “You have been Claudia-ed”. Yes, indeed I was on that day.
  • I also took 3 days off work to give myself time to feel, rest, be with family and just be.
  1. Release my anger and rage – feel my emotions
  • I found myself alone in my car about to drive on a long stretch of highway. I blasted music and let out several loud screams. Release. I did not speed. I did not have road rage. I did let it out, alone in my car. No harm done to anyone.
  • On Sunday evening, a full old dish set that I no longer like got the message. I recall a time when I was young, we were all sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner. Something happened to set my mom off. She calmly picked up her plate, turned to the side. I thought she was going to get up and walk away from the table, but she just smashed that plate on the floor. I know my mom had character and I love that about her. On Sunday evening, I did the same. I smashed every plate, side plate and bowl of that set, on the floor. Nobody was hurt. It had to come out. The dishes got it and it felt really, really, good. I think maybe mom would approve.
  • My dad flew in Friday, from Vancouver. We had a bite together at the hotel. When I was leaving he said “Let your emotions run, but do not let them ruin you.” Wise words to keep in mind, especially when it comes to anger and rage. In other words “Control your emotions or they will control you.”
  1. Non-negotiable goals:
  • I cut down my smoking to less than 15 per day. I plan to bring it down even more and eventually release this habit that does not serve me.
  • I will keep in touch with those who matter to me more. I will do my best not to take them for granted. I will surround myself with “my people.”
  • I trained 3 times this week. I went on Monday, my day off, I left work on my first day back at work to go train, under the guise of an “appointment” and I arrived late on Friday, under the guise of “something I had to take care of”, i.e. Me. I will continue to do so, 3 days per week, at a minimum. With my friend, and trainer, that is the best decision I have made in a long time. The third day, Friday, after a difficult exercise, I did not feel strong at all. She looked at me and said, “It is fine, you are here and you are doing it.” I just stared back at those eyes of hers and admitted out loud “I don’t feel very strong right now,” and started to cry, release, again. She told me she had been waiting for that moment for three days. Anger and rage may be normal but I needed to release it and fuel it into something good for me. She told me that my decision was going to be the best therapy. Training, she explained, was beneficial not only for the body but also the mind and the spirit. She told me, “you might go down, but you get right back up and keep trying.”

My mom did that. The cancer and dementia may have gotten her down, but the love, well that kept coming back up, through her eyes. Words to live by and perhaps another message from my mom. Thank you mom for allowing all of that to be possible. I see that I did have a decent week. I really did, despite feeling lost, sad and angry. I know I have a dark side and I accept that part of me, but I have decided to do is let that out in the healthiest way I can. I also choose to see all the wonderful things in my life now. My mom always told me how proud she was of me, that I did not give myself enough credit. Last night, when I got home, exhausted, I said out loud “You did a good job today.” I think my mom would approve.

So life goes one. True. But it goes on even better with my mom in my heart.

So on that note, I will now focus on writing something about my mom, to speak at her service. I feel ready to do that now. I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend, doing something they love, for themselves, or for someone else. Any act of love or small kindness has a ripple effect that can turn into waves. Trust me, I am seeing it happen.





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