In 2001 my mother had a stroke. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life. Here was this woman I saw as Wonder Woman go from perfect freedom in her life to the helplessness of a newly born fawn in only seconds. I stood there, not knowing what to do as I watched her trying to move the left side of her body while paramedics worked around her as quickly as they could. I don’t even remember how I got to the hospital, I just remember her being whizzed away, and suddenly being in a tiny room with the rest of my family (once again, that’s another story for later) and watching the doctors lips mouth the word ‘stroke’ while we all stood there helplessly wishing the scene away.
Over the course of the next several days and weeks, teams of Doctors poking and prodding, and hospital transfers later, there was finally a quiet evening with just my mother and I alone together in her hospital room. I remember sitting beside her while she cried, feeling helpless for her but I understood her feelings, and I let them flow. This woman had built her own business which allowed her to travel frequently (and she loved her freedom) to being told she could never drive ever again. It broke her spirit and it broke my heart to see it. I wanted to fix it, but I couldn’t do it alone. I needed her to believe she could do fix it with me too. So, I did the one thing that she taught me at an early age in life, I gave her the ‘talk’. After she had become somewhat hysterical, I stood up, walked over to her hospital room door, shut it, and then sat on the bed beside her. I brushed her tears away and her soft hair away from her face and said, ‘So, are you going to just let them tell you what you can do? Or are YOU going to decide what YOU can do?’
She stopped crying immediately and looked at me, hope in her eyes. I knew I couldn’t stop now, I was on a roll…’That’s right mom, you have two choices: you can let this thing beat you, or you can beat it. What’s it going to be? If you choose to beat it, I will help you. I will come here every day after work and I will help you. You know I will. So what’s it going to be?’
It took her months, but she defied the doctors’ original prognosis and walked again. I held my promise and was there every day cheering her on. This was a woman who watched me take my first steps, making sure I wouldn’t fall, it was the least I could do for her.
In 2002, not long after my youngest was born, my parents moved to British Columbia, Canada, a whole province away. I missed her terribly. The following year, they came to visit me for Christmas here in Alberta and being that I hadn’t seen her in some time, I was thrilled. It snowed so heavily that day my parents made the trek to come and see me, and for a while I was worried they wouldn’t be able to come, but late evening, only two days before Christmas, they arrived safely. It was the best Christmas gift I could ever want. But of course, they came laden with gifts and on Christmas morning, I opened a beautiful table runner from them, and as I opened it, I saw my mom watching me with anticipation to see my reaction. As I carefully unfolded it, the word ‘BELIEVE’ appeared written in the center. ‘See what it says there?’ she asked me. I smiled, cried a happy cry, and she looked back at me knowingly giving me a nod. I know it was her way of thanking me for being there and believing in her but no words needed to be said. We understood.
The last Christmas I spent with my mother was in 2007. I remember she had just gotten out of the hospital (again) to be able to spend Christmas with her family. You see, she had diabetes and after years of health complications from it, she had caught an infection in her foot and was hospitalized for months to save her from amputation. There are many stories of miracles that I can share about her journey with this disease and how it inevitably took her away from us, but this one is most prominent in my mind for a reason: you see, that Christmas, my mother talked about her fear of dying. So, I sat up with her all night comforting her and telling her that the place we all would be going was a much more peaceful and happy, loving place than she could ever imagine. It somehow brought her peace in that moment, and even though we both felt that it would be her last Christmas with us (we didn’t know for sure, but we somehow have this kind of connection with our loved ones don’t we?), we didn’t voice it. In fact, we made a pact: she promised that when she passed, I would recognize her in the form of a butterfly or a Blue jay. She also told me that she would show me signs that she was okay, and that I was right about ‘the other side’ through messages only I would connect to. ‘It will be unique’, she promised.
Nine months later, she was gone.
It was the most beautiful September day too. The sun was unusually warm that day, no clouds were in the sky, and somehow, the beautiful autumn leaves were holding on to their bright hues. My mother loved the fall. It seemed fitting that this would be the day she would choose to leave us because it was a day I will always remember for natures’ beauty. She passed just after midnight on September 19th, 2008 very suddenly. She was at home when it happened, the only place she wanted to be. She loved her home and she loved her family. I remember later that day, after exhaustion set in, I sat outside on the swing in my front yard with my oldest daughter. More tears came. Then suddenly, a huge butterfly began flitting around us weaving in and out between my daughter and I as we sat there watching it in awe. A sudden feeling of calm washed over me, and I knew instantly, it was her giving me the sign that she had promised. Moments later, the butterfly flitted away straight towards my sisters home down the street, and I knew without a doubt, it was her.
Months, and years later, throughout some of the most challenging moments of my life, she was there, reminding me she was okay and that I would be too. It wasn’t just butterflies and Blue Jays either that I would see, it was the very word BELIEVE. I saw it everywhere, and it always appeared when I was feeling upset or a little lost. It would be on the side of a bus, in a magazine, on the television, it would appear everywhere and it was always when I needed it most. I personally believe that there is another place beyond us, and I believe that our angels and loved ones are sending us messages all the time from this beautiful place and if we choose to see, really see, we will understand their meaning.
Well, last night, after I had finally settled down from the completion of my 24+ hours working on this site, I looked one last time through my instagram newsfeed. I often go to social media before bed to make sure all is well in the world of the people I love and it helps me to sleep a little better. I was also still wound up and excited about sharing this new website with all of you and I was also still receiving messages of congratulations from my friends across the globe. So, naturally, I wanted to see what their thoughts were…and while I appreciated them, it dawned on me that it really didn’t matter what anyone thought of it and that is the one thing I have learned in the last nine years of my life since the loss of my mother. It’s not my business to worry about what others think of me, it’s mine. It’s my business to feel that I am doing the best, always, for me. However, last night, I wanted to know if my mother was proud to see how far her girl has come in life. Just this once, I wanted to know what she would have thought…
Friends, miracles and messages are delivered to us every. single. day. nothing happens by ‘chance’. Life is fleeting and it is precious. There is a reason for everything that happens to us and if we choose to accept ‘going with the flow’ instead of fighting it all the time, we would be much happier and accepting of ourselves and much less criticizing and self-depreciating. Well, last night, I felt proud for myself, not of, but for…and there’s a difference: one is about ego, and the other is loving yourself unconditionally, knowing you have done your best. As long as we are always trying, we are always doing our best.
Sighing and beginning to feel a little sleepy but still a little restless, I grabbed my phone, opened my browser one last time for the night, and there it was, in a post a dear friend of mine made earlier in the week…there it was, right there in front of me at the very moment I was supposed to see it, the word:
Thank you Momma. That made my week. x
I know this video is about teen suicide awareness, but it holds other meanings for me as well. As always, I am expressing my thoughts through words, lyrics, and music.
Listen, and you’ll understand…..