Archive | December 2012

Happy Birthday

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come. ~                                William Shakespeare

Yesterday my mom was released from the hospital.  It was extra special for her because it was her birthday, but it was an absolute joyous occasion for my family because three weeks ago we didn’t know if she’d live to see this day.

She came home with quiet fanfare. No one greeted her at the house except my parents’ dog Chelsea.  She started barking, whining, and running around in circles at first sight through the curtains.  Once inside, she continued and used the furniture as an obstacle course, running around for the next 5 minutes.  After all of the hoopla, the dog pretty much ignored her for the rest of the day.  Maybe it was her way of telling my mom that she felt abandoned.  I thought it was strange. But isn’t it funny how people say cats are moody?  Huh.

My mom opened gifts and answered phone calls, ate some lunch and eventually had a nap.  I really enjoyed watching her live this day.  She was happy to be in her own surroundings and took pleasure in wearing her clothes (as opposed to the baby blue open back hospital gown), eating food she likes to eat, being able to open the fridge and drink whatever she wanted, and sit in her favorite chair to channel surf.  She was genuinely content.

On the drive home she said, “It’s funny the simple things we miss when we don’t see them” and my dad asked what kind of thing was she referring to and her reply was “traffic”. It sounded funny, but she was right.  Something as simple as the regular route home, the familiarity of it all, is something we can miss.

I can’t even imagine what this birthday would have been like if she hadn’t had such a great team of doctors, nurses and staff. My mind can’t even fathom what we would miss if she were gone. I am so grateful and so happy that she’s alive and at home.

I think this will go down as one of the best birthdays ever!


Happy Birthday


Compassion is a verb  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The past few weeks have been terribly difficult on my family and me.  I was confronted with a lot of raw emotions and feelings.  Seeing my mother hooked up to machines, mumbling incoherently, being unconscious, and having no awareness of her surroundings did that for me.

My emotions were high and low.  I was angry, relieved, hopeful, confused, elated, frustrated and thankful. When something changed in her, something also changed in me. My feelings were aligned with her progress or little setbacks.

I spent many hours by her bedside and got to know the hospital staff (the doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides etc) quite well.  The one thing they all had in common was compassion.  Day after day, night after night they gave my mother dignity even when she felt she never had any.  They were never condescending and always had a kind word to say to her.

I wholeheartedly agree with Thich Nhat Hanh. Compassion is action, action of the heart.

I thought sometimes that I was being tested.  I know, how self centered, right?  There were two particularly difficult days where she was driving me crazy.  She was stronger at this point, but wasn’t of her own mind and was suffering from so many things, including days of nausea and vomiting. Incredibly uncomfortable, she became combative and argumentative and I became bossy.  There was a point where I started to cry.  I was overwhelmed, tired and at a loss as to what to do with her.  As I was trying to pull myself together, the word compassion kept floating in front of my eyes.  I took several deep breaths and told myself that was what she needed.  I, on the other hand, really needed a stiff drink and a good night’s sleep.  All joking aside, I gave her a big kiss and a hug and said good night.  I’d like to tell you that everything was great after that, but I’d be lying.  I felt so guilty that I cried myself to sleep.

The next day I armed myself with the memory of the “floating compassion” and vowed to try and keep everything in perspective.  I offered her a heartfelt apology and she gracefully accepted it, even though she said she had no memory of the previous day, or maybe she did and was just being compassionate.


My nephew visiting my mom.

Sisterly Love

There is no other relationship in the world quite like the one shared by sisters. ~ Unknown

Sisters, where does one begin to describe the relationship with them?  My sisters and I are all very different from each other. We’re as different as the directions on a compass. From a young age we had strong, and mostly opposing, opinions on boys (and later husbands), make up, religion, music, and lifestyle choices.  There wasn’t always harmony in our house growing up.  There were lots of heated arguments about bathroom sharing,  “borrowing” of clothes, disclosing teenage secrets to our parents, and even how to do the dishes properly (we never had a dishwasher growing up!).

When I wrote to a friend saying that my mother was a spirited, feisty woman who would have the strength to pull through this crisis, he teasingly wrote back saying that there was “no resemblance there”.  I was flattered by the compliment.  I certainly didn’t feel strong at the time I wrote him, in fact, I felt the contrary.  After some time (there always seems to be a lot of that when you’re sitting in a hospital room), I started to reflect on what my friend had said; not how it applied to me, but how it applied to my three sisters.  As much as we are different, we’re the same and we owe that to our mother.

When this crisis happened our bond was strengthened.  The support we have given each other has been so heart-felt, warm and sincerely genuine.  We literally live thousands of miles and a few time zones apart, but I never felt that distance.  It has felt like they have been by my side the entire time.

Spiders rely on the intricate weave of their webs for communication (ok, so it’s really to signal that dinner has arrived) and our communication reminds me of that (sans victims).  And although the gossamer thread appears delicate and fragile, it’s is amazingly strong which can withstand all types of storms Mother Nature throws its way, just like our little storm here.

Technology has played a huge part in this web of ours.  The ability to send voice messages, videos and pictures of the grandchildren via cell phone has lifted my Mom’s spirits considerably and, of course, my sisters seeing my mom’s progress has helped reduce their stress immensely.  I am thankful for all of it; more importantly, I am thankful for my sisters.  I’d hate to be facing this alone and I’m not.

Thanks Sisters, I love you each dearly. xo


Sisterly Love

Inconspicuous Angels

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”  ~John Bunyan

When I was thinking about writing about my journey to Venezuela I wanted it to be light, funny and full of wit and humor   I never really wanted to talk about the little things that get on my nerves, the negativity or the sad bits.

One would think that a week before moving half way across the world, I would have been excited, but I wasn’t   There was a heavy feeling, a non-excitement if you will.  I don’t know if it was because the trip itself was going to talk a long time, or I was working up until the end and I was tired.  I’m not sure, but even as I was saying my last “see ya laters” all of my friends said the same thing, “I thought you’d be ecstatic”.  My mood was anti-climatic even though I really WANTED to be overjoyed. It was strange. I spent a lot of time questioning myself about all of the reasons why, but never came up with anything substantial.

On Thursday afternoon I knew the reason.  It was my last day of work and I had some time to visit a friend and get my last haircut.  On my way into my appointment I received a text message from my sister in Ontario that my mom was rushed to the hospital.  She was also on her way into an appointment and didn’t really have any further information. I sent a message to my sister in Germany and we all tried getting a hold of my sister who lives outside of Calgary.  Now, my Dad, god bless him, tries hard to be connected to the world of technology, but doesn’t really understand how text messaging works. With his phone on silent, without vibration (I changed that today) or off, I’m not sure which, made the wait to get any information on the status of my mom excruciating. Angela, my sister from Ontario, called around Calgary and discovered which hospital they were in. Jenny, my sister from Alberta was making her way into the city early Friday morning.  She essentially became a lifeline for my sisters and me.

Friday was a weird day.  Juan and I were relaxing at our friend’s house, preparing and rearranging things in our suitcases etc.  My sister’s updates were worrying and as the day progressed, they became frightening.  There were messages like, mom is not making any sense, and she’s gurgling.  My nerves were frayed.  It was so difficult for me to imagine what she was going through.  We got up early to get ready for our flight on Saturday morning.  While eating breakfast I received a text saying “The hospital told Dad, Mom took a turn for the worst.  She’s unresponsive. I’ll let you know more when we get there!” I crumbled into a heap of tears.   This isn’t the kind of thing anyone wants to hear, ever.

For a few minutes I was in a state of flux.  What was I to do?  Our travel day to Venezuela was a few hours away.  My Dad, not wanting to worry or inconvenience me, thought it would be ok if I continued on my journey, but the thought of being so far away doing nothing for anyone made me feel sick. Even if I could be home to feed the dogs made me feel better.  I knew that I needed to head to Calgary to be with my family, but I wasn’t thinking straight as how to work out all the details.  Thank God for Juan and my friend France.  I had brain freeze. I was trying to process so much at the same time that all I could do was sit.  The drive to the airport is now a blur.  I remember getting into and out of the car.  The drive there doesn’t exist in my memory.

Paulo Coelho that says when you want something the universe conspires with you to achieve it. I was reminded of that every step of my way here.  I wanted to be with my family and the universe made sure that would happen.  Strangers were helping us without even knowing they were.  We were passed straight through to an Air Canada ticket agent when we asked to be on stand by for our flight to Toronto.  We didn’t have to wait in the long line.  We even passed through one of the shortest security lines.  Once we got inside we started planning.  I called the airline and they were gracious enough to put my flight to Venezuela on hold.  Juan kept checking flights into Calgary.  We were trying to see if there was a direct flight. There weren’t any, so we started looking into hotel options. I, of course, just wanted to book the first thing that I saw.  But Juan certainly had a clearer head and knew to be patient (one of his virtues, not mine).  We would book my ticket in Toronto.

At the baggage carousel, Juan flipped open his laptop and bought my direct flight (he’s smart and patient!). We had less than an hour to find the terminal and check in.  Juan and I said our goodbyes at my gate.  I was sad; this wasn’t the way we had planned our trip, departing on different planes, not knowing when we’ll see each other next, but we both knew that this was the right and only thing to do.

My seat must have been one of the last ones because the plane was packed.  I had the good fortune to sit with an off duty flight attendant named Patricia and a really down to earth business man.  I was ok at first and then started to silently sob.  Both of these strangers were angels.  Patricia ensured that I had everything that I needed and at one point came back with a box of Kleenex.   The man was incredibly empathetic and shared a similar story to mine. I was being taken care of by people I had just met.  The universe was conspiring to make this journey less painful.  As much as I thanked them, they will never know how much their kindness means to me.  I will never be able to repay them.

I am happy to be here, happy to help out, and happy to give my Dad some rest and peace of mind.  To say that I am relieved that my mom is stable is indescribable.  To be able to recognize the good things mixed in with the bad is a blessing for me. I need to trust that the universe is till conspiring with me.   So for now, this is my journey, my little detour along the way.

Trusting that everything will work out.

Trusting that everything will work out.