One Year Later

My Mom wearing a Big Bang Theory apron that reads Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, and making the Live-long-and-prosper hand signal from Star Trek

It’s one year to the day that cancer took our Mom. She was 80 and had been through a few years of treatments, hope, despair, pain, and ultimately, peace.

The stab of agony has eased to an ache. But I still want to reach out to her and tell her things. To show her photos I know she’d want to see. Get her opinion in her areas of specialty: birds and gardens. She had the most beautiful rock garden at our family home. She designed and maintained it for decades. And birds – she was an early attracter of purple martins and I recently found her detailed diaries about their comings and goings. The rest of us didn’t care much, really. Now I think it’s beautiful.

I think about her every day. And when I feel a twinge of regret or self-pity that she’s no longer here, I remember so many friends whose Moms left them long ago. I’m doing my best to turn my grief into gratitude. It works better some days than others, but the effort is always there. And it’s the same with my Dad, who has now been gone four years and counting. I was lucky, lucky, lucky.

Mom and Dad smiling happily into the camera. Both around 40 years old. Mom is shorter, with short black hair. Dad is wearing a dinner jacket and has a moustache.

This is a club that no one wants to belong to but we all must join at some point. If we’re fortunate to live long enough and to have our parents in our lives, that is. That’s not to diminish my grief or wish it away, but to put it in context. And to try to live this quote:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Dr. Seuss

Mom was adamant that there shouldn’t be any type of service for her. (Dad was the same.) We honoured that wish – all of her wishes – but having a couple of family gatherings to say farewell to Derek’s brother Dave reminded me of the importance of ritual. There’s something about sharing your grief with others who feel the same that helps to exorcise it. It doesn’t go away but there’s comfort in the commonality of a celebration of life. As Derek and his siblings got together every week to rehearse some of Dave’s favourite songs, they grew even closer to him. And after their beautiful performances, there was a time to get goofy, as the family always does when they’re together.

The five remaining Botten siblings all taking rock-star poses in front of a large quilt hanging on a clothes line. They're dressed in tie-dye colours and outside on grass with tall evergreens in the background.
L-R: Derek, Barb, Howie, Rob & Colin from the band Bottenville. Behind them is a quilt Barb and Howie had made from some of David’s favourite images.

There’s no right way to experience and get through grief. Like everyday life, we just do the best we can.

This song made an impact on me when it came out in 1985 and in the years that followed. It reminded me to live in a way that didn’t leave me with regrets because you never knew how much time you had. I find the lyrics as profound today as I did more than 30 years ago. And the stellar voice of Paul Carrack never fails to give me chills. Thank you Mike Rutherford for the lesson. I’m grateful to have passed the course.

7 thoughts on “One Year Later”

    1. I wish you had, too! I remember so well that you and Rob wanted to come to the house after Dad died. But you would have had to fight Toronto traffic and it was a tight turnaround to get back and either catch a flight or make it to an important appointment – don’t remember which. I vividly recall not wanting to put you through that, even though you were both perfectly willing! How did I get so lucky to have such devoted friends?

  1. This is a beautiful piece of writing that I can tell came straight from your heart. You are an amazing person. I think your parents must have done something right.

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