On September 1, we left Winnipeg on what we termed our “Thelma and Louise” trip (without the cliff). It was our journey to return my mother’s remains to the place of her birth in New Liskeard, Ontario (Canada). It is also the place where my father is buried.
The trip is 1606 kilometres, or 964 miles, door to door. As we drove the highway 17 and 11 route through Ontario, I was struck by how much the area had changed since the last time we had visited my family. The highway winds through dense forest, steep rock cliffs (600 plus feet tall), scrub land to the farming country of my mother’s youth. I wondered what it was like when my mother left home in the early 1950’s for what would become her permanent home.
As my husband drove, I thought and wrote trying to capture the words that I would say as we lowered mom and Goldie’s, her Sheltie, ashes into the ground. Somehow, the ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes’ sentiment just didn’t seem right. Mom came from strong Scottish stock and we should have something that celebrated her life not her death. As I went from acceptance to sorrow, I realized that I wasn’t as prepared to let her go as I thought I was. Her ashes had been in my home where I could see them every day. I was going to have to let her go and internalize the memories. For a short time, it was like someone had turned out the light on a bright sunny day.
I thought that I had completed my goodbye when we decided to respect her decision to die the way she had lived – on her own terms. I realized that I had really said “so long” and not goodbye. Knowing that I would be the person to carry her ashes to the gravesite and lower her into the ground was a daunting prospect. It was when so long would turn to goodbye. It would be the shift from being with her to remembering her. I wasn’t really ready to let go of her yet.
Words will never say the amount of support that she gave us over the years. We never had much but she had our back regardless of the decision or outcome. She deserved as much or more in return. I resolved that I would do as she would have for me and it would be with dignity. It would be easier said than done.
On September 5th, 2012, we laid her to rest. The words that best describe her life are:
When others gave up or quit, she kept going.
When others were mean, she was kind.
When others were disorganized, she was organized.
When others were down and out, she helped.
When others were prevaricated, she started.
When she lacked information, she researched. (The dictionary was her favourite book.)
When I needed her, she was there.
When I thanked her, she said that is what parent’s do. Pass it on.
She was the mother than any person would be proud to have. She never turned away anyone in need of help. She tried to lead by example and stood by her principles. It wasn’t always easy but she lived her moral compass. I hope that I will do her proud.
Goodbye and safe journeys. Thanks for the memories and the lessons.
“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.” An Unknown Author