Tuesday, May 08, 2007


"....death. Mine, the LUC's and even our unnamed babe's and that is more than OK, it's perfect."

Hmmph. A pretty bold statement that. The kind of statement that's just begging for a reality suplex followed by an atomic elbow. Oh yes indeed, a great, crushing backhand to the head was dealt to me last Thursday.

There were two messages on the machine when I got home late from rehearsal. On the first my brother was audibly tense and terse, "Call me as soon as you get this." On the second he explained: my mother had fallen down that morning and broken her hip. They were going to have to do surgery.

She lives in Sechelt on the coast of British Columbia. It's an hour and a half flight to Vancouver from here, followed by a couple of hours of bus and ferry to get to her place. They'd moved her by ambulance to the Lion's Gate Hospital in North Vancouver so all I had to do was get to Vancouver.

Initially I wasn't going to go but I thought better of it. After all, I can get more money but I have only one mother. There's always a risk with surgery, sometimes people don't make it even during minor procedures. My mother's 77 and that makes it all the more risky. I really wanted to be there before they started cutting. Have I mention I'm a worrier? Yes indeedy I am.

I haven't been the best of son's. Sure, I rarely borrow money and she's never had to bail me out of jail but I've been geographically and emotionally distant. There are things I needed to say to her before the end.

I booked the 6am flight and after 2 hours sleep got a cab to the airport. The cab driver was chatty, really chatty. Who the hell wants to make small talk at 4am? From the Vancouver airport I cabbed to the Seabus and was at the hospital before 9. Take a moment to think about that. I crossed the Rockies to get there. It was maybe 5 hours total travel time, door to bedside. Can there be any doubt that we're living in a golden age? Well, a golden age of travel at least.

I stayed at the hospital until they took her into surgery, with just a short break for lunch . It was hard. She was in a lot of pain and the morphine was kicking her ass pretty badly. She was nauseous, itchy and mildly disoriented until they gave her Gravol which put her even more out of it. And thirsty. She wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything. All I could do was wet a sponge on a stick so she could wipe her gums and lips. Very hard that.

I didn't really get to say anything I needed to in those few hard hours. She was in better spirits than I as they wheeled her into the elevator to the operating room. I was trying not to cry.

There was no point in waiting at the hospital. I gathered my pack, map and hat and hiked to my brother's place. It was around a 45 minute walk and the weather was, well, appropriate for my mood. It rained hard, the clouds didn't even surrender a glimpse of the mountains let alone the sky. There was a moment where I stood, map in hand, the rain pattering against it unnoticed as I cried. I most definitely didn't feel like the possibility of my Mother's death was "perfect".

She came through the surgery fine. Apparently if you have to break a hip the way she did it is the way to go. The next day she was off the morphine and much more comfortable. They even got her on her feet for a few steps. Ah the power of a few titanium pins and deft hand with a scalpel. Sure western medicine has it's problems but there's nothing better for fixing broken bones.

We talked. Just a conversation glancing across the regrets I have as a son and she has as a mother. It was enough. You see, I'm just as comfortable with the fact my Mother is going to die* as I am with the mortality of everyone in my life. Or at least I am on a sunny day with more than 3 hours of sleep under my belt. What's not acceptable is any of those people going to the grave without knowing that I love them.

*Not anytime soon Mum! You have another grandchild to meet.


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Anonymous said...


You always manage to make me laugh, cry, or both at the same time. You also leave me with a lot to think about...

I have similar thoughts and life philosophies regarding death. It's a natural thing that is treated as unnatural. It happens to everyone. And it's not my own death that scares me as much as the death of my loved ones. Or, like you, of death withouth having a chance to allow others know that they are loved... (That thought must direct changes in the way we treat other people in our daily lives...)

I hope you're well! I'm thinking about you, the LUC and the babe! You must be going insane with preparations for the wedding and the baby's arrival!

I hope I get a chance to see you when we end up in your city!

MJ xx

pS: How is your mother doing now?