Happy Birthday Momma was originally written in 2019.
10 years ago, this past week I went to Newfoundland to surprise my mom for her 70th birthday. I made plans with my dear friends, Lois and Bill Dawe, who are more like family, to come into St. John’s and pick me up from the airport. I was supposed to arrive in the afternoon but travel in Atlantic Canada in February is not for the faint of heart, and the best-laid plans have a way of going by the wayside.
I finally landed in St. John’s around 11 pm, and we still had the drive into Whitbourne, arriving after mom had gone to bed. Lois called and asked to be buzzed into the apartment, and I followed behind.
I just said, “I didn’t know what to get you for your birthday, so I just came myself”.
We cried and talked and finally went to bed.
The next day mom had her scheduled chemo treatment, so I went along with her. She introduced me to everyone, and I heard time after time how she had impacted the lives of so many who were dealing with cancer. How her positive and no-nonsense attitude encouraged and inspired the people around her. That was no news to me. I had seen that happen over the 27 years she had been dealing with cancer. By now it was in her bones and liver, and she was still only taking ibuprofen for pain.
When I met her friends, they would comment that mom was getting so skinny. I replied that she never was very big, but I could tell that she was smaller than ever. Mom being mom, we never talked about it because we had so many of those kinds of conversations over the years, each time the cancer came back. She was very clear that she would only keep doing treatments as long as she felt like she could, and that the time would come when she had enough.
While I was in Newfoundland for those four days, mom and I visited her friends, went out for lunch, and just spent time together. My sister called and let mom know that she had booked flights for her family to visit in July. I went to church with her in the place where she and dad were married and where I was baptized. I saw the window and the pew that are there in memory of my grandparents.
When we said our goodbyes, I had a feeling that it would be our last one in person. The week after, mom had an appointment with her oncologist in St. John’s and she confirmed that the cancer had “changed significantly”. Mom was the master of understatement.
Through March and April, mom discontinued some of the medications she was taking, and we all knew what was coming. Or did we? She started feeling “better” and decided that she would make the trip to Moncton in May. Ray flew down to travel with her. We were able to celebrate her birthday and Patrick’s 18th birthday and graduation from high school in a combined party we dubbed “birthuation”. We gathered friends and family and set up banquet tables in the living room to fit them all.
Off to Montreal
Mom decided to extend her visit and went to Montreal to be with my sister’s family for a week. Then she came back to Moncton for a few days before heading home.
My sister and her family went to Newfoundland in July. They along with mom, stayed with Lois and Bill as home base so that mom could be with them as much as possible. When Lisa and family went back to Montreal, Mom went to the clinic in Whitbourne. From there she went into the hospital in St. John’s. Three weeks later, on August 27th, 2009, she was gone.
Today, February 25, 2019, is her 80th birthday. I am in tears as I write this. I miss her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I am so glad that she is no longer in the pain that she carried for so many years. And I am eternally grateful for the lessons that she taught me, and the strength and courage that she showed. I see more of her in me each time I look in the mirror. I hope that I never need the strength that she had.
The greatest lesson that mom taught me is to be true to yourself. She did what she wanted when she wanted. Most of all she taught me that love is everything and everlasting.
Happy Birthday, Momma. I love you.