We didn't share our sad news on social media. We didn't tell too many people. In fact we forgot to tell a few. The truth is we were still processing my mom's loss that we barely caught our breath and Alice's (mother in law) time had come. She took her last exhale on June 20, 2019 at 3:03 pm in the Bethesda Hospital. Exactly 34 days after my mom's passing, and exactly 24 years to the day from her husband's death, Norm Milliner.
To me Alice was know as mum as oppose to mom. This was the way she would sign her name in her greeting cards so that we wouldn't get the moms confused. She was this short 5' tall, little bright blue eyed woman with spunk right till the end. Lived a long life of 93 years.
The day before Alice's passing, she gave me a gift, one that I will always cherish. I felt a strong urge to go to the hospital early on June 19th to spend some "alone" time with Alice. We needed to chat and get a few things straight for I knew that she had begun the journey of transitioning.
That morning Alice shared with me that she feared she did not have much time left with us, and that she was tired of fighting. She shared that she feared death itself, and did not understand it. She expressed that she was worried about leaving us behind, and especially worried about Grant (her son, my husband). Alice felt awful that her timing was so off, as my mom had just died. So many emotions, worries and suffering. I realized that I could give her my biggest gift, my blessings, and share some of my truths with her.
I took a deep breath and chose my words carefully. I said: "Alice, you are not responsible for your timing in death that is up to the creator (God). You were not able to participate in my mom's celebration of life with us for you were sick in hospital. I can tell you that we "celebrated" her life. We shared stories and lessons we learnt. My mom's passing was filled with joy and peace. There is NO grief for me. My mom is in a beautiful place with the angels. There is no greater gift, nothing that you should feel guilty about." To this Alice continued to repeat that she felt bad and this is too soon after my mom's passing. As this was always her way, to worry needlessly I spoke in a stern voice and said: "ALICE, listen to me carefully. It is what it is. Listen carefully, look into my eyes and SEE my heart...I have NO grief for my mom. My heart is filled with JOY and PEACE. There are no more excuses for you. If it is your time to go, then you must do so with grace not guilt or worry." We release you with love.
Alice had given us a few scares in the past 3 years of being rushed to the hospital by ambulance for breathing emergencies. I always wanted to make sure that she was at peace with dying, this was important to me. I would approach the subject. But she would ignore me, or give me that gazed look like I'm not talking about this. On June 19th, the time had come, and her heart was opened to discussing the topic, well time was fast approaching! I asked her if she'd ever given much thought to what happens after life. She nodded no and confessed that she feared death. I asked her if it would be alright with her if I shared some shamanic wisdom. To this she agreed. I shared: "From a shamanic perspective we believe there are 3 parts to the soul at death. The first is your body soul. We understand that the blood goes back to the ocean, the bones go back to the earth and the breath goes back to the air. In essence the body decomposes and mother earth takes your body soul back and everything gets recycled again. The second is your ego soul. This is the part of your soul that has all your dual traits; you know the good and the bad. Its the part of your soul that can often get stuck on the earth. The one that has attachments to your loved ones. It tends to hang around if it has some unfinished business. We mostly recognize this one as "ghosts". The third part of your soul is the divine soul. The pure, source of light, love energy. What is important is that all 3 parts of the soul transition. But often if there are attachments to loved ones the ego soul stays behind, and we don't want that. This is not healthy for you or your loved ones. It prevents your loved ones from moving on and living their LIFE!"
She looked at me with the sweetest look and a twinkle in her eyes and said: "Thank you for sharing this with me. I think I would like to take this perception, I like it!"
Worries About Leaving Us Behind
"Oh Alice, I believe you can reach out and let us know you are thinking of us! Let's decide right now how you will communicate with us. Some departed loved ones leave us pennies, white feathers, purple butterflies you know signs like that. Dad still sends me the Pileated woodpeckers. If I'm thinking of him, the next thing you know he sends me a Pileated woodpecker. How do you want to communicate with us?" She looked at me and said: "I want to be a cell phone!" That was unexpected. But the truth was that the last time she was in hospital we did a group chat with all the nieces and nephews on Messenger and she thought that was the cat's ass. It was decided that she would reach out by cell phone, and she did not disappoint, as a few days after she passed Grant was speaking on the phone with one of her good friends and the cell phone went all wonky making these strange sounds as if someone else was trying to connect.
I thanked Alice for our heartfelt conversation. I expressed that it was important that we were able to talk like this. The conversation was a true gift one that my mom could not give me at the end of her life. What a beautiful gift to be able to share wisdom, truths and love like this.
That afternoon Alice was surrounded by some of her beloved friends and family. She was in "high" spirits, joyful and energetic. Grant played the guitar and sang her all her favorite songs. She kept asking for "Three Cool Cats" and "White Sports Coat". Grant kept saying, but mom I just played that song. To which I would reply, so play it again! And he did. We enjoyed ourselves so much that afternoon, it was the first time we "truly" saw mum, her true nature, happiness, joy and beaming with LOVE.
We miss you Alice, rest well now, no more suffering, no more worries, only peace and love.
Bonne Nuit Maman Irene Tetreault April 10, 1935 - May 16, 2019
I’ve come to this point many times wanting to write about my mom’s passing. To share with you what an incredible mother, friend, confidante she was to me. But how do I summarize a life of 84 years in a couple of paragraphs? Surely my words won’t give her any justice as to the life she led or the impact she left on loved ones. Most of the time as I come to remember the memories, she bestowed on me, I only clearly remember the ones of the end of her life. And so, I will impart with you some of those memories.
In the year 2000 mom finally decided to take her retirement from teaching. The last couple of years started to take their toll on her, but she was determined to wait till 65. She was adamant about waiting to 65 as it would give her a full pension, and she in no way wanted to be a burden to us children in her later years financially. If it was one thing this clearly communicated to me was to always do the best, you can to be financially independent.
When mom first retired dad was ready to move into the Villas in Ste. Annes, Manitoba. They were like apartments with homecare readily available and a couple of cafeterias you could go eat at if you didn’t feel like cooking. Mom wanted absolutely nothing to do with that. She had just retired and truly just wanted to enjoy their home in the country. She spent the days sitting by the expansive windows reading countless books. She would spend the winters planning her garden and then the summer tending to it’s every need. We would all reap the benefits of her love for gardening as there was always plenty to share. At some point she discovered the bread maker, and mom became our family’s personal baker. She would always try on some new recipes and have us rate them, my favorite was the cranberry, sunflower seed one.
In her retirement years mom became somewhat of an entrepreneur. She spent time selling Epicure. This gave her the perfect excuse to make coffee dates with her friends to take their orders and then once the goodies came in she would make yet another coffee date and deliver. Everyone looked forward to receiving one of her handmade cards with their purchase, which was another craft mom spent time doing.
Mom did not get to spend a whole lot of time with my dad in retirement as he transitioned in June of 2007. Mom grieved my dad’s passing for a few years and needed that necessary time to redefined who she was without Donat. In 2012 mom took the opportunity to move into an assistant living resident in La Broquerie, MB called Le Chalet. She made some amazing friends here in this place, some that to this day I still reach out to and spend time with.
Mom was able to move into Le Chalet with her companion, Minou. He quickly became the star of the place, escaping occasionally from her apartment running down the hall tailless. Minou (cat) was a gift from the trees, and I believe sent from my dad to keep a close eye on her.
There are three things my mom loved most in life during this time; Minou, tomatoes and chocolate. Nothing like the aroma of fresh tomatoes picked fresh from the garden, sliced up and served with fresh toasted bread! When mom couldn’t supply her own tomatoes, she would head down to Evergreen Hot House and buy bags, and bags of tomatoes. She would then split them up and hand deliver them to family and her friends in Le Chalet. Mom was kind and always spoiling us with her gestures.
In 2013 mom decided she needed a new car. So, she asked me if I could go shopping with her. She came home with a shinny new Rav 4 in bright red. She was so excited, and it was like learning how to run a computer for her (which she had no experience). She studied the manual from front to back and showed me all the buttons, and then I would catch her giving rides to her friends and showing off her new car!
Within a short time at Le Chalet we started to notice some changes in mom’s behavior and in 2015 it became apparent that it was no longer safe for mom to reside there. As a family, we decided to move her to Le Pavillion in Ste. Annes, MB. Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As most of you know this dis-ease strips you of your memories and cognitive abilities. It also alters your perception of this reality.
The last 5 years of mom’s life were for me the school of hard knox. She was a teacher right to her last breath. As her dis-ease progressed she taught me patience, how to release expectations, not take anything serious and a lot about grieving.
Patience, As a yoga teacher I took many long breaths of inhale and exhale with my mom. Although, I needed to practice patience for her, I mostly needed to practice patience with myself. As mom transitioned into her different stages of her dis-ease, I needed to be loving, kind and mostly patient towards myself as I was busy catching up to the progression of her dis-ease.
Expectations There is so much suffering in the world due to expectations. If you continue to expect someone to be the way they were with this dis-ease you will deeply suffer. Releasing expectations of not just mom but anyone, really sets you FREE. We could no longer expect mom to know things, to remember how to do the simple things like brush your teeth or speak words. We truly needed to release ALL expectations.
Do not take anything seriously I cannot tell you how many times mom would behave a certain way that would either make you laugh or make you want to crawl into a hole and hide from embarrassment. One time I took mom to see a specialist who happened to be a very good-looking man. Mom walked up to him, planted a big kiss on his lips and told him she loved him. He was a total stranger, and I never seen anyone turn so many shades of red in my life. Another time I took her to the dentist where at one point she clenched her jaw shut, lifted her legs straight up in the chair (bow pose in yoga) and held her legs there for eternity. Her physical strength was unbelievable. I could not get her to put her legs down. And then there was her new fashion she wanted to display. She would still dress herself and put on 3 shirts with 2 bras on top of the blouses. She thought nothing of this and did not see anything wrong with the way she chose to dress herself. I say Madonna she had you beat on outfits. We came to understand that mom was full of surprises, and we never knew what she was capable of.
Grieving The final lesson that mom taught me was a lot about grieving. My first grief was the loss of trust with mom. I no longer could trust that she could take care of herself. The second thing I grieved was the loss of my dearest and closest friend. Mom and I did many, many things together, shared many feelings, and dreams. This friendship vanished. The third thing I grieved was the loss of my mother. Mother’s are nurturers, and mom had lost the ability to do so. I could no longer seek her out to receive this nurturing. In this last phase a role reversal took place. I became the mother and my mother became my daughter, my child. In 2017 when we moved my mom to the nursing home in Ste. Annes called Le Villa Youville, my services as a mother was no longer needed here, as this facility took care of all mother’s needs. So, here is where I grieved being her mother.
Along the way I grieved my mother’s mind, and in the end of her life there was nothing left to grieve but her body.
Don’t ever underestimate the lessons you can learn from your loved ones with Alzheimer’s. All of these were huge teaching for all of us.
In the yogic teachings we talk about the breath. We are born on an inhale and we die on the exhale. Our lives are but one breath inhale/exhale. What is really important is what we do in between that breath. Mom lived a good life. She spread joy, laughter, and love.
From a shamanic & yogic perspective we are made of elements; water, earth, air and ether. Mom’s blood went back to the ocean, her bones back to mother earth, her breath released into the air and her spirit is all around us.
Spirit is in everything and is everywhere. I can see mom over here and over there. I look in the mirror and I see my mother; she is in all my cells. She is infinite. She is here and there. Mom will continue to teach me from her formless self. She will continue to show kindness and generosity through my actions as I impart her lessons. She will always be an angel who has spread her wings. I asked my mom’s spirit if there were any messages she wanted to impart to her family and friends, and she did. Please take comfort in these 3 messages:
Sourier et la vie vous sourira. Smile and life will smile back at you
Be kind to each other. It only takes a kind smile to light up a whole community
Don’t stress about your weight. Dance sing and it all falls off
Namaste, the light in me recognized the light within you as it is also within me