back seat driving and endings #grief #mourning


I don’t think I’m special, just so you know. I’m not the first daughter to lose a mother and I won’t be the last. I am not the first daughter to lose both her parents by the age of 42 and I am not the first person to experience 3 huge losses in 4 years.

First I lost my marriage, and that was a hit. Then I lost my dad, and although terrible my dads death came with a frightening ambivalence due to some of my feelings surrounding him. Then my mother was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma Dec 8. Only 13% of all lung cancers are this type and 80% of those people are dead by 2 years. My mom was dead in 23 days.

I spoke at her funeral on Saturday, my sisters and I, her best friend and her sister in law, an aunt I am named after; we all gave the attendees a bit of a taste for who my mom was.

My mom wasn’t a playful mom, though she loved word games like Scrabble and crosswords. As a child I saw her most often either in the kitchen cooking up some strange Asian stir fry or something or other or on the couch buried in a book.

She drove me to 5:30am swimming lessons 4 days a week, she paid for flights to Saskatoon, Florida and the gas in my car. She bailed me out when my car got towed and let me crash in her home for two years after my dad died when I was living separately from my ex-spouse. In fact I’m writing from her apartment this exact moment, where it is quiet, dim and hollow.

I don’t hear her CPAP machine, I don’t hear Georgie rustling around in the litter box and I don’t have the worry that she’s going to rap on my door to tell me I’m going to be late for work.

She could just never trust that at 42, I knew how to retrieve my toast from the toaster in a timely manner, get to the kettle after it boiled or get out the door to be on time for work. She asked me one day if it really bothered me for how much she back seat drove. And I was honest. It bothered me to fuck. I’m a god damn grown up who birthed 4 kids, who has 3 degrees, and runs a household and a high risk labour and delivery floor full of crises…OF COURSE I CAN MANAGE MY OWN TOAST MOM!

But even when she quickly got her will in order I could see her distrust as I read it as one of her POA’s.

The addendum, to the will draft, was a clear statement something to this effect. “My 2017 Hyundai is to go to my youngest daughter Jacquie.”

Let me tell you how this is her telling me from the grave that my toast popped and kettle boiled. Two weeks before she went into hospital she said I should get CAA. You know, the road side assistance program you pay for to bail you out of locked out cars, flat tires and drained batteries from the cold. Ask me if I did that. OF COURSE I DIDN’T!!! Nearly for the very fact she told me to! She told me I should get it because my car is older and because I drive on the highway. 1# my car is a 2009. That’s not old. 2# the highway is 80km/h only 20 minutes from city limits. 3# I’M A GROWN WOMAN WHO CAN DO WHATEVER SHE WANTS.

So my mom did what she wanted. She must have known full well I wouldn’t get it. Moms are smart, even when they are 75 and dying from the oxygen starving disease that we call lung cancer. She endowed her car to me to keep me safe on that road, because although she couldn’t make me get CAA she could lead this horse to water by giving her a more promising ride.

I just want to say I loved my mom very much. She was an irritant at times but not once throughout her dying was she a bother. I loved sitting at her bed side, brushing her hair like I used to do to her as a small child. I loved teasing her about her beach body legs after seeing how quickly she was wasting away just to make her laugh. I was completely irreverent and even joked about shortening her life when I accidentally would step on her oxygen tubing. But she always laughed.

I didn’t love telling her I didn’t want to leave and I didn’t love hearing she didn’t want me to go. Being torn between my progeny and my mom was extraordinarily difficult. You see I needed to keep telling my mom that she was not a bother. I needed to keep telling her we would be ok. My sisters, our kids, that we would be ok. And I needed to prove it too, that I could leave her bed side in the good hands of my sisters or nursing staff to go be with my own kids.

There were times I was afraid she was waiting to die for when I left the room, so she wouldn’t “hurt” me in this way. Like some bad script I would announce to her as she lay there no longer able to rouse, “I am leaving the room now. It’s ok if you need to go.” You start to feel a little self conscious, like maybe it sounds you are wishing her to go. I never wished that. Not once. Like a child who believes in fairy tales even after I witnessed her last breath and gasps, I wanted to believe that she would sit up and pick up the crossword and make some back seat driver comment about making sure my car was plugged in or something.

But she didn’t. And now she’s gone. And it’s not fair. And it aches. I didn’t want her to go. She shouldn’t ever have to go. She’s my mom, and I need her.

But she is a curious creature, she wanted to meet this adventure head on, she was curious about what lay beyond the veil, and I have never heard of such bravery before, not quite like that.

So thank you for the car mom. Your windshield wipers work far superior to mine. Though you don’t have cruise control and that’s kinda a bitch on the highway but I am not ungrateful. I am not ungrateful for anything you gave or gave up for me.

I love you and miss you terribly.