Today is the day my mom died. It was 14 years ago - February 2, 1996.
We were all there when it happened, but Jeff, my sister and I barely made it. Jeff and I had driven like mad to the high school to get my sister. The nurse told us it was going to happen soon. I said, "Tanis needs to be here." There was quick discussion about who should go. Jeff offered but didn't really know how to get to the school. I went with him.
I remember standing at the counter in the high school office. The secretary was on the phone. I was desperate. This, I thought, is the one time that it is okay to be rude. I practically shouted at the secretary, "Excuse me! We need to get Tanis out of her class immediately!" I often wonder what that must have been like for Tanis, to be in that particular class, knowing that mom might die any day, and then to be paged in front of the entire class to come to the office.
We frantically drove back to the hospital. I remember thinking that this might also be the one time that it is okay to park in the no-parking zone. But we didn't. We found a spot and ran through the halls of the hospital to get to the room.
Everyone else was there - dad, Allan, poppa and grandma. We rushed in and surrounded the bed. I think I even asked if she was gone. She wasn't. It was like she waited for us to get there. She knew I wanted to be there.
Minutes later, maybe even less than a minute after we got there, I saw her take her last breath.
The moments after are a blur. We all stood there, crying, wondering what to do next. Are we sure she is gone? The nurse was called in to verify. Yes, she's gone. Just like that.
I still struggle with that aspect of death. She was just alive, seconds ago, and now she is not. How can that be? What is it like for someone minutes or seconds before they die? I could drive myself crazy thinking about it.
At some point we all left the hospital. We got back to the house and just sat around. What do people do in times like this? We ended up ordering subs for dinner. Jeff and I went uptown to pick them up and we got a movie. When I told the woman at the video store my last name, she instantly looked up and told me the movie was free. She was sorry, she said. Only hours after my mom died and already other people knew about it. I hadn't even phoned one person yet to tell them. News travels fast in a small town.
We all sat and watched the movie but I am sure that no one was really watching it. We just didn't know what else to do and I don't think we really wanted to be alone or talk to one another. Sitting in front of a movie seemed the best thing.
We somehow got through the next few days, doing all the things that need to be done when someone dies. Arranging the funeral, calling people, putting an announcement up at the post office. I had to contact all of my professors and let them know what was going on. This all happened during the time that I was to do my two-week teaching practicum. I had to do that practicum later on during reading week to make up for it.
My dad sent me back to UBC a week later. I wanted to stay home longer but he said we must all get back to our lives. We can't mope around. I suppose he was right. I somehow continued on with school, my practicum, my part-time job.
Life does go on. And on. And here it is, 14 years later, and my life has gone on without my mom.
I often wonder what my life would be like if she were still in it. I am sure that I would find her annoying or over-bearing at times. I am sure that sometimes I would think her advice was not very helpful. But I also think I would cherish and appreciate her and all of her parenting wisdom. That is what I miss. I miss not having my own mom to ask when I don't know what to do, when I think I am going to lose my mind over something one of the kids has done.
It would be so nice to just be able to pick up the phone and call her. Or see her. Or hug her. I wish I could.