Today is the birth date of my mother. She would have turned 69 - however - she will be forever frozen in time at 58. I think she would like that. She passed one week after her 58th birthday after a heroic battle with lung disease. She fought for a lung transplant and endured unspeakable medical horrors for the privilege of living. I was fortunate in that I was her caregiver during her 2 year fight, and she lived in our home. She always taught us to seek the gift in every adversity and when it became clear that she was gravely ill, I did just that. I found the gift in her illness. We shared countless hours together driving to and from dr appointments, lung treatments and clinics and I was by her side as she was infused with medication, rushed to Emergency, waiting for procedures .... all time that was filled with humour, conversation and tender moments. What a gift.
I witnessed her strength and dignity as she endured countless invasive, painful procedures and I can say with all honesty that I never heard her complain - not once. There was a time when she was having a spinal tap procedure, at the hands of two young residents who after several attempts, struggled to get the puncture in the right spot. She winced in pain and my sister and I held her hands. We were totally distraught at witnessing this and she opened her eyes and said to us, "Don't worry. It's painful but I won't remember it later".
She enjoyed a full year of perfect health after her transplant and she lived each and every moment of every day - consciously and fully. She found joy daily and sought out new experiences to make the best of her life. Sadly, her fight with organ rejection started almost to the day of her one year anniversary of her transplant. She spent the next 12 months battling hard, never losing hope. My heart sank though ... a part of me knew that my time with her was going to be shortened. She used to say that the only difference between her and others was that she had more information. She had a better idea of what was going to take her life and that she had a finite amount of time left -- as do all of us.
But her story is not about her death. It is about how this petite, modestly educated, gentle spirited woman lived as a shining example of unselfishness. She gave much, loved with all of her heart and soul and made each of her children feel that maybe we were the favourite. She was iron strength in a small package. She was the centre of our family.
"To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die"
By this definition my mother lives on. Her name is spoken daily by her four children and eight grandchildren. I hear her voice when I need it most. Her advice is shared and her legacy is alive and well. Her many handwritten notes surface as frequent reminders as if to say, remember me.
Don't worry Mom. I remember - and I feel your love. If only I could feel your hugs -- just one more time. Happy Birthday ...