Oh, Mother’s Day. One of the toughest days of the year for me. And before I tell you why, I must make a disclaimer that I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. Telling my story simply helps people to understand why I am sensitive about this day, and why I am so hard on everyone to treat their mom like the queen that she is on this special day.
Warning, I’m about to talk about some pretty heavy stuff, so I must make a trigger warning.
I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 13 years old. She had become sick at the age of 44 and passed away at only 47. Those three years were incredibly difficult on our entire family. Everything felt like it was falling apart. But at the same time, because of the fragility that her life had now incurred, my mom was able to let her guard down like never before. I came to know her as my best friend instead of just a parent figure. I got to know that she was incredibly fiery, insanely intelligent, and had a wicked sense of humour. I treasured those years with her, especially since it was my father who had been the stay at home parent of our family until I was 7 years old, so I never really knew my mom that well until this period. She was a Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force and I don’t remember getting to spend much time with her when I was little because she was always working or away.
Letting her go was a nightmare. I still have flashbacks of horrible memories of her in the hospital. The times the morphine wore off and she couldn’t distinguish reality from hallucination. Watching her catheter bag only fill with blood. And then there was the aftermath of our family trying to navigate life without her. I watched my dad and brother eat frozen dinners for far too long before I took it upon myself to try to start cooking meals for us when I could. Growing up at that age without a mother was really tough – but I wouldn’t even really see the full effects of this until I was much older. And I’m still dealing with it to this day.
My dad met another woman when I was 17. We didn’t get along for the first couple years of their relationship. As part of a reaction to this, I ended up leaving Nova Scotia to move 6,000kms away to Vancouver with a guy I had only known for a week before I booked my flight. It would be fair to say I was young and bitter.
But over time, my relationship with this woman who eventually became my Dad’s fiancee had grown. We were able to put the past behind us, and the relationship that blossomed was one that I will be forever grateful for. She filled a huge void in my life and made every effort to treat me as her own. And I felt that. I would often call home just to speak to her instead of my father. I could confide in her, get advice from her, be inspired by her. She became such a huge part of my life and encouraged me to always be the truest version of myself.
And then it happened again.
Four years ago, I flew home to surprise my dad for Father’s Day. But I arrived home to something I was not prepared for. My step-mother had been in a lot of pain, and they were trying to figure out why. The doctors had assumed it was an issue with her gallbladder or something relatively common and would be easy to fix. But after a CT scan that week, we found out that unfortunately, that was not the story.
From the day I arrived home and found out she was sick, it had only been one week before she was admitted to palliative care. She had multiple large cancerous masses in her liver, and she didn’t have much time left.
And so this is why Mother’s Day is always tough. It brings up a lot. It brings up flashbacks of watching the two most important women I’ve ever had in my life turn into vegetables right in front of myself and those they loved. It brings up flashbacks of my dad trying to cope. I’ve watched him be so crushed to the extent that he didn’t even know what the point of living really was anymore. Something I’ve dealt with in my life as well. It’s a horrible way to feel. And to see my dad like this just broke me.
Life is so precious. And they don’t say that for no reason. We literally never know how long we’re here for. And the same goes for those we love.
And so if you’re not doing anything special for your mom this mother’s day, that’s fine. It’s your choice. But know that sometimes, tomorrow just doesn’t come.
And on a lighter note, I will be publishing a quick Mother’s Day gift guide sometime in the next couple of days featuring gift ideas that you can also feel good about giving (think local, no waste, and ethical options). So stay tuned for that!