I was anxious about my voice instead of mourning my dead mother. It was her funeral. My throat locked down as I listened to the quartet sing Rise Up My Love. I’d sung that piece a million times but now, even if I wanted, physically there was absolutely no way I could do it.
I had spent the first day back home in Winnipeg scribbling my signature in triplicate; the lawyer’s office, the funeral parlour, and an office where a trustee pushed three large Ziploc baggies full of my mother’s jewellery and empty wallets towards me. It was a life lesson preserved. The next day, five minutes before the funeral, I was on the toilet in the bathroom of the church. I saw a pair of boots edging under the door, “Are you the daughter?” “Umm, yes,” I said to the disembodied voice. “I wanted you to know that I’m at peace with your mother’s death and I was wondering if I could get your phone number and address,” I asked to be alone. After she left, I slammed the door open, hoped she’d heard me and knew not to come near me again.
At the time I felt guilty about pushing people away. I now have compassion for that younger version of me. There are no rules to grieving.
To this day, the last Skype call with my mother is seared in my mind. It was October 2017, three weeks before the funeral, and a nurse had called that morning to tell me my mother’s skin was grey and I needed to call people to come to be with her. She told me I wouldn’t make it to Winnipeg before she died. So, two friends held up an iPad so I could see my mother’s watery blue eyes for the last time. I told her she had been the best mom and that I would be ok, she could let go. Her breath rattled and tears streamed down her chalky cheeks. I knew she understood. Strangely, I remained calm. Was I armouring myself up? An hour later, I told her friends it was time to sign off. I knew she was only holding on for my sake. I held my breath. Thirty seconds later the phone rang. She had taken her last three breaths without me.