Is it possible to grieve, yet be grateful? Grieving is a personal journey. There is no right or wrong way, just your own unique way. I hope to inspire people by offering another perspective on grieving that doesn’t have be all about pain and sadness.
I am very proud to be the daughter of Mabel Shaw, who was super fit, hip and gave the best hugs ever. She was a golfer, traveler and water skier. Yet at 76, my vibrant mother was diagnosed with Advanced ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a condition that attacks your nerves. My mom’s decline was rapid. My sister and I learned to operate ventilators, give morphine and spray fentanyl. Thanks to our excellent Palliative Care Team, we honored my mom’s wishes. ‘Stable Mabel,’ as she was known, loved the cottage – and that is where we spent our last summer together. Eventually we had to carry her, cut her food, bathe and dress her. My mom was frustrated at her failing body, but never complained. She would always say thank you with a kiss, as we cared for her or carried her to the beach and for one last boat ride.
On August 16, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg and under the northern lights, my mom died peacefully in her sleep at the cottage. I am grieving yet grateful, because my mom lived 17 extra weeks. It was a hard time, and a beautiful time. We focused on living instead of dying, and enjoyed every moment at the lake. We talked about everything and – just as important – I listened. I listened when she gave me my father’s wedding ring, retold her farm stories, and talked about how much she loved to dance.
I miss my mom’s broken body, but it would be selfish to want her to have lived longer. As I walk my new normal, I miss our daily calls and her pink Nike runners. There is no doubt, I have been sad. I go there, but I do not stay there. Instead I choose gratitude when I see a humming bird, bite into a garden tomato or sip my morning cup of hot coffee. I cherish those little things, along with all the wonderful memories of her big loving life. Finally, she taught us that we can be at peace – it is ok to die and you don’t have to be afraid.
I honor my mother Mabel Shaw by carrying on, by being the best person I can be every day with peace, love and joy, along with a splash red wine…just like my mom.
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