Part of my way through grief (through most things really) is to write. It helps me to sort out my thoughts and sometimes enables me to take a step back and see a situation differently. Since my mother’s death I have been thinking a lot about her ability to be kind and patient despite her extremely difficult circumstances. Hospital staff have shared about how much they loved her, always amazed at the way she found a way to smile even on the days when there was seemingly little to smile about. Though she rarely complained, my mom was far from being a pushover. If she had a concern, she dealt with it directly and often in writing. She would occasionally remind me that it took her a long time to learn how to speak up, but once she did she couldn’t look back. Sometimes she’d smile and jokingly say, “Erinn, I’ve become SO bossy”. I would laugh and tell her that bossy was the last word I would ever use to describe her.

I used to think that because my mom was strikingly calm, nothing scared her. Just as I came to realize how her ability to speak up was learned, I have grown to understand that she became very adept at acknowledging her fear and choosing to move forward despite it. Even the most terrifying of storms did not uproot her deep faith. I have been routinely listening to one of her favourite songs, one that I have referenced briefly before. Some of the lyrics are: “In a million miles you never thought you’d be here, standing at the peak. Even so your heart feels heavy, and your spirit is weak. And if you should forget that love is all you need: Hold on, if you need to hold on, you can hold on to me.” In her darkest moments (and there were many), mom actively chose to hold on.

In holding on, she also discovered how to reach out. Mom understood the power of community and did whatever she could to engage in it, even when she was forced to do so from a hospital room. She highly valued her family and friends. In fact, being able to enjoy everyone was one of her biggest priorities and informed many of her choices around healthcare. She relished long visits, the kind where every bit of news was shared and time was not tracked. Connection to people helped to sustain her, while the love of God always carried her.

My mom would never claim that she had it all figured out and I suspect she would balk at the idea that I might even dare suggest it. That’s not why I write all of this. I write, in part, because it gives me a chance to articulate my gratitude for her. When I am standing at my own peak, teetering on the edge with a heavy heart and very weak spirit, I think of her. She clung to her faith and was resolute in her hope, all while maintaining her sense of humour. During times of loneliness she found the courage to ask for help. She refused to be defined as a “sufferer”, while not sweeping the reality of her suffering under the carpet.

As I reflect on all of this, I am struck by how much I desire to be like her. She has left behind a LOT of lessons. I long to carry myself in a similar fashion to my mom. I want to: speak up and only jokingly seem “bossy”; acknowledge fear and keep moving; prioritize community; and in all circumstances, hold on.

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