Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – April 22, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – April 22, 2004 – In late July 1989, my mother suffered a stroke, just as I was about to leave for a four week vacation in France. Mary’s doctor said that she might rally again, as she had on a number of prior occasions, or she could remain in a semi-comatose state comatose state and then pass away.
Eric and I travelled up to Owen Sound to be with my father. We were gathered around her bedside chatting quietly and reminiscing about her life. Mary was lying on her bed with a white sheet pulled up to her shoulders. She was very frail and her white hair was soft around her face. She looked very much at peace. My father and brother were encouraging me to go on my trip. I was struggling with the decision when Mary stirred a bit in her bed. All of a sudden her eyes flew open wide and she said, “Am I dead yet”?
She then lapsed back into a deep sleep. We looked at each other and then smiled and shook our heads. Talk about having the last word! I went on my vacation on August 3 and Mary died on August 10, 1989. My father encouraged me to stay in France and finish my holiday, but that thought never entered my mind. I flew home for her funeral and to say my last good-bye.
On my last night in France I was lying in bed, gazing out the window of an old medieval home in Cahors. The stars were exceedingly bright and thoughts of my mother were drifting through my mind. My eyes focussed on a star high up in the sky, and call me crazy or delusional, but it stared to sparkle brighter and then recede. It must have done this nine or ten times. I have always believed that my mother was telling me she was okay. Why that window? Why that star? Why that time of night? I closed my eyes and when I looked again the star was still there. I watched it for at lest another hour, vigilant for any changes. There was no twinkle – nothing.
Mary’s funeral was a quiet, simple affair with friends, family and people who had known her over the years in the community and in business. My father had selected a beautiful dress that he had loved to see her wear, for her final journey and a simple green jade pendant that she had loved for many years. The service was short and sweet. She would have been pleased.
I still miss my mother. She loved me for my strengths and in spite of my flaws. She was proud of me. She delighted in my successes and commiserated with me when I failed. She saw a bigger picture for my life than I was able to see as a young adult. I can see it now. She gave me guidance not advice, and she taught me to be a decent person. Mary’s life was a life well-lived, not exceptional by standards of greatness, but a life that mattered. When I remember her, which is often, these are some of the things she taught me by example, and I would be honoured, if at the end of my life, I could say that I was instrumental in passing some of these life lessons along to another.
Honesty is important.
The outward expression of kindness multiplies.
To love animals.
That I came from good ancestors and to be proud of who I am.
To speak up for what I believe in.
To speak up when I see injustice.
That education, learning and knowledge are essential in life.
I could do whatever I decided to do.
To be fair.
To never lose my sense of humour.
That it’s okay to cry.
That failure is one of life’s greatest teachers.
To value family and friends over all else.
To tell people when I care about them.
To be generous to those less fortunate.
That good and evil are very real concepts.
Everyone is afraid from time to time.
We all have a shy side.
To find something in life “bigger” than I am and to devote some time to that cause.
To be kind and to have a kind heart.
Bitterness strangles a life – never carry a grudge for long.
To own real estate – the more the better.
Cruelty is a weak person’s attempt to feel something.
To really listen to other people.
To guard my heart but to never be stingy emotionally.
To keep trying in the face of adversity.
The importance of trust.
Now that I’m middle-aged, I know that her legacy to me is so much greater than I could comprehend as a young person, and perhaps her greatest gift of all, was the quiet knowledge I always had, that I was loved.