At precisely 6 a.m. in the morning, on this day exactly 8 years ago, I held my mother's hand as her heart beat for the very last time. She died from her excesses; cigarettes, alcohol and a mangled heart. When she died, my mother took with her any guilt, shame and remorse she may have felt for the way things were so long ago. There is no doubt in my mind that the alcohol was her way of numbing any of those feelings out. As I sit here reflecting on these things now, I think of the burden she carried within her heart. A burden my father long ago dismissed from his consciousness in the same fashion he dismissed his responsibility as a parent.
I cannot speak for my siblings nor will I as I have not spoken to them in many, many years. As a child, you endure. You do what you have to in order to survive. What you don't know is that you are causing a certain amount of self-inflicted wounds that may or may not be treated for years. But as you grow older, understanding, empathy and forgiveness are not part of your vocabulary. Why would they be? In your young brain and heart you felt abandoned and unloved. So, as you grew older, you wanted to pay back in kind the same feelings of neglect and rejection, real or imagined. The complete lack of understanding and communication probably prevented any chances of reconciliation and healing. Pride certainly played a part in these events as well as my defiant thinking. In my head it was, " Why should you be the one to extend the proverbial olive branch".
I am older now and have spent some time reflecting on my life and the life my mother led. When I think of this, I believe my mother new at a certain level that this was retribution from her children and she accepted it. Albeit not without adding to her own suffering by turning to alcohol. I wish I could turn back time and help to change the way things were. But I know that I can't. All I can do is accept it. I realize now that it did not have to be like that. But when you are living in the moment, the consequences seem unimportant at the time. When you realize how precious few days we have on this earth you wonder why we do the things we do to each other.
My memories of my mother have softened and I remember more of the good things about her. The times I did visit with her she treated me as her son. Not as a guest who stopped by for a visit. I remember her generosity and the way she loved to laugh. Her laugh was loud and piercing almost like a scream. One funny story I will always remember was during one of our early Christmas visits. My mother lived on the ground floor of this particular apartment building. You walked into the foyer up the steps and off to a small corridor on the left hand side to her apartment. The layout on the right mirrored that image. So my mother and her neighbour shared a common living room wall.
Well, the night we came to visit, the neighbours were having a huge gathering. They were celebrating the festive season and I'm sure a fair amount of alcohol was consumed. As the hours wore on, the din coming from the other side of the wall did not subside so my mother at first began to bang on the wall. Without success, she decided to pay the neighbours a visit and see if they could come to some sort of amicable agreement. Nothing doing. Huge mistake on their part. You see, while she went over to have this discussion, she noticed that there were better than 20 pair of boots lined outside the neighbours apartment. So, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she called forth her little army. That would be my brother, my sister and of course moi!
Well, the 4 of us snuck across the adjoining hall over to the neighbouring corridor. First we began to collect the winter boots which were lined up like little soldiers. We then marched them to the steps where we began to fling them into the lobby throwing them every which way. I can't be sure whether any of them made it out into the middle of the street. Anyways, we returned to my mother's apartment turned off most of the lights and waited for the fireworks to start. If didn't take long and the angry outbursts emanating from the lobby caused us all to shriek with laughter with my mother leading the way. I know it wasn't right but it's my memory and I want to look at it from the funny side of things.
As I age, I am sure that my memories will continue to soften and I will have put all of the pain aside. Once it is out, it doesn't make sense to hold onto it as tightly. The way I look at things now is that everybody who reads this carries a little piece of this for me so the burden doesn't seem to be as harsh as I do for you. While waiting for the viewing to be prepared, I went to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montréal where she lived. I walked thru the opulent shrine and found my way to the gift shop. I saw these tiny Rosary Beads with a small Crucifix. The beads were like an Emerald Green, my mothers favourite color. I bought three of them and then headed back to the funeral parlour. There I met the Priest and asked him to bless the Rosary's which he did. I gave one to my sister and one to the funeral director. I told him that after the cremation was completed I wanted the Rosary placed in the urn with her ashes and then buried. The picture above are the ones I keep hanging on my desk. From time to time, I hold them in my hand and make the connection with my mother and know that she is now at peace.