Sunday, October 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I have been absent as of late.  Sadly, my mother passed away on Sunday October 6,  just shy of her 80th birthday.  Susan and I were with her when she passed and for this I am so grateful.  It was hard to watch our mother slowly leave us for two days.  There were many times on Saturday that she would stop breathing and then struggle to come back to us.  She passed away on Sunday afternoon around the same time that we would say goodbye to her each Sunday, at the end of our visits.  She always made sure that we knew to turn around and wave one last time before walking out of her line of vision.

Last week was a busy one with being there for my father, planning the funeral and cleaning out my mother's room at the long term home where she had lived since her massive stroke in February of 2012.  Throughout the week I was told by so many that I seem to be so strong.  I had to explain that I fall apart after the fact.  It would be a slippery slope to begin to crack.  There is no time for it when there are things to arrange,  details to remember and people to thank.

As I always do in times of great sorrow,  I turn to nature for comfort.  Each day that we drove South, was an amazing bright, crisp and sunny day.  The foliage was at a premium gold,  standing out against a deep blue sky.  On numerous occasions I would witness large gold leaves floating to the ground.  Even last night, Susan and I walked through heaps of leaves sitting on the front lawn of my father's apartment building.  We walked slowly and listened to the leaves crunch under our feet, remembering how we used to do this together as children while walking home from elementary school,  sometimes leaving the sidewalk to walk in the gutter where the leaves were deeper.

On Monday I took comfort from a beautiful little cat who was just past kittenhood.  This little white creature ran out to greet us all as we headed up the path of my father's building.  I took a moment to love her up.  She wanted to come into the building with us and so Susan left the door open only a crack as she waited for me.  I later teased my family that it was Mom.  She was after all white, my mother's surname.   She had pink spots on her as if she had gotten too close to a child colouring with markers.  Pink was my mother's favourite colour.  Most importantly, she was friendly and very chatty, just like Mom.  When we came out of the building with my Dad to head over to the funeral home to make arrangements, she greeted us once again following us to the sidewalk.  I almost expected her to jump into the car.  At last she spied a leaf blowing by, chased it and then ran away.  I told my father later the next day, that if he ever saw that beautiful little cat again, to be sure to stop and say, "Hello Patsy." Patsy was my father's term of endearment for my mother.  I still look for that little cat each time I go to Dad's.

On Wednesday, we stopped by the graveyard to view what would be my mother's final resting place.  We drove in and there stood a beautiful two point buck.  He froze when he saw us, looking so majestic.  Rob stopped the car so we could just take in his beauty.  It was a peaceful moment.

Planning a funeral is a strange event.  Throughout the week, Susan and I were often heard saying to each other, "I wish Mom was here to see this.  She would really like this."  The service was lovely.   There was  even a passage read about knitting, my mother's favourite hobby.  As I sat next to Susan listening to the words spoken of my mother, I could hear in the background, the gentle and happy cooing of my second cousin's baby daughter.  This symbol of youth soothed me.  It reminded me that  in this life we are all born and we all must die.  I am usually a person who values my own personal space but this week found me hugging every person I could get my hands on.  I usually enjoy the peacefulness of my time alone but this week I wanted to be surrounded by people.

I always try to find the ray of hope and happiness during bad times.  This week I got to spend time with my brother Andrew and Chantal.  Although it was a very sad circumstance, I was so happy to be in their company.

Little Thomas stayed home in Montreal with his other granny but I did get to enjoy hearing him on the phone chatting with his Mama.  I got to tell him that I was sending home some Halloween goodies for him.  I got to hear him telling his Mama in a heartfelt voice how he had a big problem.  A look of worry came across Chantal's face only to disappear when she realized that the big problem was something regarding his M&M's.

Last night we gathered at my mother's favourite restaurant for dinner.  This is the same place that we celebrated my parent's 50th anniversary two years ago.  I felt sad to be there without Mom.  I knew I would be before we even got there.  We had just got in and seated when faintly in the background I could hear a Johnny Cash song playing.  My mother loved Johnny Cash.  We had listened to him while driving home earlier in the week and mentioned how much Mom had enjoyed his music.  Hearing his song at the restaurant gave me a feeling of comfort.  Maybe my mother was with us in some small way.

When we got back to my father's I insisted on a small photo session.  Apparently, I am taking over for my mother.  It was always she who lined us up for a series of photos featuring different combinations of  family members.   There was good natured grumbling and Susan was even heard to say, "Okay Mom".  I know it was a sad time but I still wanted photos of my family together.  Now we are four.

Earlier in the week I sat in our car and watched my father heading into his apartment building.  It hit me that he is truly alone now.  We have all been slowly mourning the loss of my mother since her stroke.  New Mom was different from Old Mom but we still had her with us.  I can't say that she is in a better place because even while in the home, my mother had a very good quality of life for the most part.  She accepted her new life better than I could have.  She was pleasant and undemanding of the staff.  I saw the red eyes and tears of some of the staff on the day she died.  I know she will be missed.

I am not sure what this next week will hold for me.  Life gets back to normal and there is more time alone.   More time to think.  Since the funeral, sleep does not come easy.  I lay awake for hours with my mind running.   The walls that I put up to help me get through the funeral duties are starting to slowly crumble,  now that it is okay to fall apart.  Part of me wants to hide in my studio and create, part of me wants to embark on a huge Fall deep clean, just to stay busy and part of me wants to just lay on the sofa with the dogs.  This stage of life, this losing parents,  is a hard one.

I will leave you with a photo that I took of my mother in 2008, that we displayed at the service.

Pat White
Sunday October 15th 1933 ~ Sunday October 6th 2013



  1. i am so very very sorry for your loss. Your post is so moving, so full of gentle love...I'll be thinking of you all x

  2. I am so very sorry for your loss. Looking at your pictures I see you in your mother, a beautiful smile and lots of life in the eyes.

  3. Jen this is a great heartfelt post. When I read it ... it brought tears. You're always in your mom's heart. The love and care that you possessed was evident in every visit. The gifted moment of being there with Susan will always be for you two to share when thoughts turn to mom. DH

  4. So sorry Jennifer. What a lovely lady and she left the like legacy in you!

  5. Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear about your mom's passing! My sympathy to your family. I too know how hard this time is, as my Dad passed away on Friday night. I am now in the process of planning his funeral. Take comfort in having siblings to help you at this difficult time. It's kind of interesting that your mom passed away on my Dad's 75th birthday, and they passed away just 5 days apart. Hugs! Natalie Beebe (Scrapbook Memories & More).

  6. So sorry for your loss, Jennifer!!

  7. I am so very sorry for your loss my friend. Your love for your mother shines through this heartfelt post. ♥♥

  8. I am so sorry for your loss Jennifer......

  9. Jennifer, so sorry to hear about your Mom. I love the picture of her from 2008, looks just like I remember her! I can hear her voice so clearly in my mind, even though it's been over 30 years. What a beautiful woman. Take care, Doug.


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