The Cemetary – A place of peace.

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The weekend my sister’s daughter died,

We were not thinking about

The angry caretaker.

We were not thinking about

The provincial government’s promise.

 

Her babe deteriorated

As her degenerative disease dictated.

Exhaustion

Became the most difficult hurdle.

She was just too tired

To be a kid and do kids’ things.

The time had come.

 

Five years after burying Mom

She had to bury her daughter, B.

 

We were totally unprepared,

For the message we received.

The angry caretaker,

Refused to allow,

Her daughter to be buried,

With our Mom as planned.

 

The angry caretaker was back.

The government had promised,

To take care of it.

Five years ago,

I had dealt with it,

I believed the angry caretaker,

To have been relieved from his duties.

 

I lost it.

All the sadness and anguish,

Pain and exhaustion,

I had been repressing,

Was birthed in response to this message.

It revealed itself as a rage from deep within me.

Emotion spewed from me,

I fell to the floor,

And allowed it all to come out.

 

With no inclination of holding anything back.

I yelled, swore and cried.

I scared my kids.

I didn’t once consider

Anyone else’s feelings.

 

I heard her calling my name.

She spoke calmly,

My temper tantrum ceased.

I had to calm down

In order to hear her.

My sister took charge.

 

With a tone of finality,

She announced

A different cemetery

Would be used.

She calmed me.

Her daughter had just died

And yet,

She had the solution,

And,

She.   Calmed.   Me.

 

She promised she was ok,

With her daughter being alone.

She promised she was ok,

With her daughter not being with Mom.

She gave me permission to not try and fix this.

She gave me permission to NOT be the family advocate.

 

We all wanted B to be with Mom.

We were reeling in the pain of losing her.

She knew I had no fight left in me.

Because neither did she.

Mom and B had left this world

And took with them,

Any strength to advocate further.

 

 

After her daughter’s funeral,

We reburied Mom again.

We couldn’t leave her there,

And B needed her.

Mom now rests,

Beside her granddaughter,

As my sister had always wanted.

The gravestone marks their plot eloquently.

 

(The angry caretaker died the following year.

The government never followed through with my complaint.)

 

 

 

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The gravestone.

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We had to rebury our Mom.

No one should have to do this.

 

We did.

 

Spring warmed the frozen ground.

Five months had passed

Since Mom passed away.

With the frost gone,

The headstone could be placed

At her grave.

 

The stone we chose

Was large enough

For three names.

 

My sister found comfort

Knowing

When her daughter died

She would be with her Nana

Instead of all alone.

 

The monument company

Took care of everything

And would call us

When they were finished.

 

It would be nice

To have a headstone

To place the flowers

Instead of a piece of earth.

 

We were unprepared

For the chain of events

That followed.

 

The caretaker yelled.

He was enraged.

He was verbally abusive.

 

The headstone was the wrong size he said.

He accused us of violating the by-laws.

 

By-laws?

What by-laws?

 

It was the first I heard the term used.

I was completely ignorant.

I had never considered

There would be rules.

Apparently, it was our responsibility

To ask.

Not his to tell us.

He believed us to be deviant

Attempting to under mind his control.

 

He would not hear

We were simply

Wanting to respect Mom.

To make her resting place

As lovely as she was in life.

 

I was forced to advocate.

Forced to contact

The municipal government

By phone and letter.

The provincial government

By phone and letter.

Those levels of government

Both contacted the angry caretaker.

They report receiving the same verbal abuse.

The provincial government

Escorted by the police

Visited the angry caretaker.

They were told to leave his property.

He refused to cooperate,

Or share any documentation.

The situation became a legal one.

 

The government continued to need information from me.

They continued to ask for letters of complaint.

They wanted me to lead a parade of protest against this curator.

They actually asked me to take over the caretaker’s job.

 

Finally, a mediator was brought on board.

Somehow a dialogue commenced.

He held strong there were by-laws

And we were aware of them.

With pressure, his story changed.

He declared Mom was buried in the wrong plot.

He said it belonged to another family.

He insisted Mom be moved.

As per the invisible by-laws,

The headstone would be accepted in that row.

 

Our initial response…

“No way.”

The mediator…mediated.

He reminded us of our goal.

He told us the government,

Would be taking the caretaker to court,

Where is duties would be revoked.

He cautioned us not to wait

As that outcome would take time.

 

We just wanted Mom buried in peace.

We just wanted the beautiful headstone to mark her grave.

We submitted to this angry caretaker’s deal.

We felt bullied.

 

Nine months after our Mom had died,

We watched her urn be unearthed,

And moved forward four feet.

By a backhoe,

Driven by the angry caretaker.

The government shook our hands,

He reiterated it would take some time,

The angry caretaker would be ‘fired’.

He said they would be in touch.

 

I believed him.

We all did.

 

 

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The Village.

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It was the twenty third of December,

When Mom’s body,

Succumbed to the effects of chemotherapy.

Now I had to tell the children.

Mom’s little superhero,

My four year old son,

Present at most of the appointments,

Sporting his Spider man costume,

Was completely absorbed,

In how many big sleeps,

Until Santa arrived.

I hated ruining that.

My nine year old daughter,

Wise beyond her years,

Was well aware,

As she was awake at dawn

When the call came.

She loved her Nana,

Her namesake.

Mom had been the full time caregiver

For both my kids.

They were very connected.

My children had spent the morning,

With a friend.

The kind of friend you call

And they show up

Like it was planned.

I took my children to Mom’s house.

They were sad and unsure.

The house was fully decorated,

For Mom’s favourite holiday.

Oddly,

Everything symbolized celebration.

There wasn’t a hint,

That something was amiss,

That Mom had died.

She had everything ready

Including the baking.

Incredibly,

She hosted Christmas

From Heaven.

The Christmas village,

Mom’s pride and joy,

Became our shrine.

We all took turns

Spending a quiet moment or two

In front of the lit houses,

And the village people.

The children knew the rule,

“Just looking, remember” Mom would prompt them.

My son,

Also, felt the connection between Mom and the village.

He laid each and every village character down,

On their backs.

He did not ask, nor explain.

He just laid them all out and walked away.

He said goodbye to his Nana,

In his own way.

We managed to

Give our kids a Christmas holiday

Despite our emotional state.

It was what Mom would have wanted.

We carried Christmas

Into her service three days later.

We even had

Some of the village pieces present.

Mom’s family and friends,

Sang Silent Night as a whole

To bid her farewell.

She was sixty four years old.

 

 

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Honesty, in life and death.

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“Mom?”

“Hi, honey.”

“Mom, I have to tell you something.”

“Ok.”

She held my hand and smiled at me.

“Mom, is it hard for you to concentrate?”

“I don’t know.”

She frowned.

“It’s because your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen.”

“Oh.”

“Mom, I need you to concentrate on what I am saying.”

“Ok.”

Her expression never changed.

“Mom, there is nothing more the doctors can do for you.”

She stared at me.

“Mom…you are going to die soon.”

A long moment passed silently.

“Well, that sucks.”

We all laughed and cried at the same time.

It was an emotional release.

She was trying so hard to understand me.

It was awful.

But I was determined.

“Mom.”

“Yes.”

“Listen to me.”

“Ok, I am listening.”

She was with me now.

“You are dying Mom. There is nothing more the doctors can do.”

Mom stared at me intently.

I started to sob.

She squeezed my hand.

“Well, the clinic doesn’t think that.”

“You’re right. But, the doctors called them.”

“Does Connie know?”

Connie was Mom’s favourite nurse.

Then she remembered,

“No, she has left for England already.”

“That’s right Mom.”

Her eyes never left mine.

She didn’t cry.

She was trying to stay focused.

It would be the last true connection we shared.

Mom asked me about Christmas dinner.

She wondered if I put sausage in the dressing?

“You should. It makes it good. There is some in my freezer.”

“Ok. I will find it.”

We spoke about the holiday meal

Where I was to find stocking stuffers hidden for the kids.

She wanted everything to be right for Christmas.

She didn’t know it would never be right without her.

Mom asked me to bring the children up to see her.

I promised to bring them in the morning.

I didn’t know time would run out.

A visitor stole our moment away.

I will regret being socially polite for the rest of my life.

My sister slept at the hospital.

I went home.

I will never understand why I left.

But I had a strong desire to go home.

At five o’clock the next morning.

Mom yelled out.

As the nurses moved her from the chair to the bed

My sister yelled, “Mom!”

And she responded,

“What babe?”

Her natural response

Became her last words.

Fitting really.

Mom lay there so peaceful.

The laboured breathing had stopped.

The IV was gone.

I laid down beside her.

I hugged her tight.

I kissed her cheek.

The softest, fuzziest cheeks.

I congratulated her on a job well done.

Euphoria flooded through me.

I had Mom back.

The stress and worry was all gone.

I told her I was so proud of her

And not to worry about us.

My hands moved all over her.

Concern replaced the euphoria.

Something was wrong.

I couldn’t understand.

I even lifted the sheet to investigate.

Then it struck me.

No heartbeat,

No pulse,

Mom wasn’t breathing.

My Mom was dead.

Intellect made its way through.

As I left the room,

I glanced over my shoulder,

In time to see Dad

Kissing Mom goodbye.

I was overwhelmed

With agonizing grief.

 

 

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Prepare all you want – you are never ready.

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Mom was tired out.

She couldn’t eat.

Everything tasted like metal.

Water was the only thing

She could tolerate.

She slept a lot.

She watched tv.

She didn’t complain.

On a bad day 

She would say she had the ‘yucks’.

Cold symptoms developed.

And then progressed.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics

And insisted Mom go to the ER

If she became worse.

Not twenty four hours later,

She called me. 

She was much worse.

I had trouble understanding her

Because she was short of breath

And she had not moved 

From the chair she slept in all night.

Mom was sad 

She had hoped the antibiotics would help

She didn’t want to go to hospital

This close to Christmas.

She watched me closely

She wanted me to reassure her

To remove the unspoken fear

That this was it.  

Mom was admitted

Pneumonia, they said.

We were excited with this diagnosis. 

Mom knew this drill.

IV antibiotics, fluids and rest.

It wasn’t the end after all.

“I am going home for Christmas”

She declared to the staff.  

They all accepted her statement as fact.  

I left her

Under the false belief 

She had an infection 

Treatable with antibiotics

She believed

She had five days to heal

And she was determined

To do just that.

She would have stood on her head

If that would make her well enough

To be home for Christmas.

A lot can change in forty eight hours.  

And no matter 

The intellect you have over a situation

The emotional train 

Will let you travel 

Down the tumultuous

Road of denial with ease.  

Mom left a message the next morning.

She wanted me to know 

Before I left to come and see her

She had been moved to a new room

‘A pretty room’, she said with joy.  

She happily described the wallpaper.  

I raced to the hospital.

Something was really wrong.  

Mom was in a quiet room.

Her care was now palliative.  

There was nothing else they could do.  

My head swirled.  

Mom knew what a quiet room meant.

Why was she so damn happy?  

They explained

Mom’s cognition and concentration 

Were ill affected due to the lack of oxygen. 

Her lungs were filling with fluid

Her breathing was very laboured.  

Overnight, 

My Mom had changed dramatically.

I was not about to let her believe

She was in a pretty room.

I was not going to lie to her in the end.

This was her life, her body, her death

I was adamant she be made aware.  

The medical team cautioned us.  

‘She may not understand’, they said.

But they didn’t know my Mom.

She was a strong, intelligent, capable woman.

She had been in charge of her treatment

Since the first day of being diagnosed.  

Mom detested secrets and lies

And I respected her way too much

To take away her last bit of control.  

I went into her room.

She smiled 

And I smiled back 

As I watched her rib cage

Work like I have never seen before.  

I had to tell her.  

 

 

 

 

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Mom did not want to die.

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She found the energy

Somehow

To get to the clinic

For another appointment.

Only to find out

Her blood work was too low.

No chemotherapy.

The disappointment

I saw in her face

Broke my heart.

 

It happened twice in a row.

 

Mom knew what it meant.

We all did.

The chemo was killing her.

Mom was still willing

But her body was not.

 

Mom never complained.

She didn’t want

Anyone to make a fuss.

She didn’t want us to worry.

 

One day she asked me what ‘chemo brain’ meant.

I thought she was joking.

I was immediately ashamed.

She was reading an article

About the correlation

Between chemo and brain function.

Mom had chemo brain.

But she didn’t know until that moment.

 

Eventually, she became simply exhausted.

Her conversation left.

Her hair lost its shine, colour and life.

Her eyes watered constantly.

Her lips were thin.

Her skin became transparent.

The chemo was erasing her.

 

She walked slightly crouched over.

Her arms always crossed in front of her body

As if trying to hold herself together.

She took daily pain medication

She slept a lot.

 

The chemo sessions drained her.

More than once

She was put in the private room

As she required oxygen

Or some other medical intervention

During the treatment.

 

I started picking her up at the door.

She just didn’t have enough energy

To walk to the car.

 

I started helping her into the car.

She just didn’t have enough energy

To open the door.

 

I started helping her with her seatbelt.

She just didn’t have the energy

To do it up.

 

I started crying on the drive home.

She just didn’t have enough energy

To stay awake.

 

When she was strong

I was strong for her

Now she was weak

And I needed to be stronger for her.

I told her she could stop the chemo

I told her she didn’t have to do it anymore

I told her we would understand if she wanted to stop.

She looked at me

Her eyes full of tears

And said, “Then what? I am not ready to die”

It broke my heart.

Because she was willing

To do anything she had to

In order to live.

 

But it wouldn’t matter.

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Spring Cleaning At -17 Degrees!

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Where does the dirt come from?  I have worn out this saying.  I am always shocked to see that cobweb swinging in the air or that dust bunny bounce and twirl across the floor.  Seriously, where does it come from.  Pretty sure neither the spider nor the easter bunny have anything to do with it.  *sigh*

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Life is dirty. Clean it up.  

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Project spring cleaning is under way at my house.  The recent renovations to the bathroom have accelerated the need to get started on time this year.  Dry wall dust is like magic.  It makes things appear like cobwebs and dust bunnies.  So, even though it is still very much winter outside with the snow and minus temperatures…it is spring inside my bedroom.

The curtains down *cough, cough* and in the washer allowed the beautiful sunshine to brighten the entire room.  The sunshine is magical like the dry wall dust as it also makes things appear.  A lovely dusting of dust covered…well, everything.  Vacuum, dust cloth and windex in hand I battled away in the war against dust.  

My room is full of treasures.  My reward for cleaning is revisiting these cherished items and being transported back to the time of their choosing.  Two Gund bears sit propped together on my bookshelf.  A gift from Mike when I was in college.  Children and young people in love cherish these stuffed gifts.  I know I will keep these forever.  I can see our younger versions laughing together when I hold them.  

Books.  A very full bookcase holding my favourite books.  I happily hum away as I clean around them.  Books are forever gifts from friends, family and even myself.  

That one I read to Mom in the hospital.  Those were purchased for the trip to Mexico.  Some were found at yard sales.  Others were mandatory reads for university english courses.  Just touching them, takes me to the place I read them and to the feelings I had at the time I read them.  My friend once said, ‘you will never be bored if you have learned to love reading.’  She was wise.  

Seven figurines stand on the shelf.  They each represent a letter.  Together they spell, SISTERS.  She knew I didn’t like knick knacks but couldn’t resist giving this to me.  I do love it.  I smile for the love I have for her each time I look at them.  

Treasured Memories figurines are the only other knick knacks I keep.  They each represent an important moment of my life as they are intended to do.  The graduate, the engagement, the wedding, Mom and bride, first anniversary, expecting, first baby, second baby.  I love them.  

Photographs.  The 2012 collage of all things fun!  On our friend’s boat, trip to Ottawa, fishing, the cottage, the pool, the kids, the cats…family and fun.  

AJ at two in a Halloween costume, then and now of my son and husband look alike poses, my constant friend and I, a very young Mike and I, Mom and B…dusted and glass cleaned, they once again join the books in the bookcase.  

I keep special cards.  I have always been touch by the unexpected small gifts.  The card in the mail when it isn’t your birthday, the card of thanks when you didn’t know you did anything…they are the best.  I like to keep them and re-read them periodically.  I have great people in my life.  

Today I made Mike cry.  So you know, he is very sentimental and truthfully, it is easy to bring him to tears, but today I felt the same as he did.  I found a special container I have had for years.  Inside are all my kid’s teeth.  Ha!  I always forget I have kept them until I find them again.  Mike and I laughed when we looked inside the case.  Slightly gross but such a tangible reminder of how fast time has passed, we both became emotional.  Then we laughed some more because the teeth were so small they could be a chip from one of ours.  I can’t throw them out.  Imagine my adult children finding them one day!  They will be repulsed.  See just imagining that makes me want to keep them forever! *hee hee*

All done and said.  I didn’t just spring clean my bedroom, I also spring cleaned my grey matter.  I haven’t visited some of these memories in a long time.  So, let the cold temperatures continue…I am warm and toasty with all my lovely thoughts, swollen heart and clean room.  

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What a great day.  

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My kitties. (I had to write this. It was expected.)

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Max.

He brought him home,

For our daughter.

A cute, little kitten,

For a four year old girl.

 

As he grew,

She grew terrifed of him.

Max sensed that fear,

And thrived on it.

 

Max would block her path,

She would be too afraid to pass,

He would scrunch down,

Wiggle his bum

Preparing to lunge,

She would scream,

Wave her hands,

“No Max! No!”

 

Pounce!

He would jump 

Right at her,

Knocking her down

And often

Leaving a bite knibble

On her stomach.  

 

For the sake 

Of peaceful harmony,

Max, spent lots of time

In the laundry room 

In those days.

 

Time changed,

The tumultuous, 

Relationship.

They became,

Inseparable.

 

In a time,

Of pain and heartbreak

Spontanaiety, 

Took over my logic.

 

A family of stray kittens,

Played in the parking lot,

The kids ‘ooohed’ and ‘ahhhed’.

“Open the door,

If that kitty gets in,

We can keep him.”

 

Life snapshot moment.

The look on my kids’ faces.

They couldn’t believe, 

The words came from me.

 

Mojo

As he came to be known

Hopped right in,

Lay down in the back,

Curled up and slept.

 

After an adjustment period,

It came to be known

How lonely Max had been.

Two cats are better than one.

 

Sadly, Max died.

He was twelve. 

We were sad,

Mojo, was angry.

 

A bit of joy,

Left Mojo’s personality,

He separated from us,

He blamed us.

 

Leroy,

Was the make-up kitten.

We chose him 

From a litter

Of unwanted kitties.

 

Mojo

Was a hard sell.

Leroy had work to do.

Turns out,

Leroy was incredibly smart,

He let Mojo,

Become his teacher,

 

 

Leroy,

Bonded with us

Like no other cat before him.

He played fetch

He spoke

He told us things

He wanted our attention

He was my protector

And side kick.

 

Mojo and Leroy

Became harmonious

But never quite like

Mojo and Max.  

 

They hunt together

And slept together

Leroy gave us the love

Mojo still denied us.

 

In an attempt

To brighten one Christmas

We rescued kitty #3.

Yoda joined the family.  

 

His odd little features

And innocent face

Brought us joy

When we needed it.

 

Mojo quit.

He had no interest 

In Yoda

It was crystal clear,

He was not happy.

 

Leroy was unsure

But took over 

Being Yoda’s teacher

He taught him cat stuff

The human volunteers 

At the SPCA

Could not.

 

Leroy and Yoda played

Mojo watched 

Much like Garfield 

Was depicted watching Odie.

 

When you are known

As cat lovers

You get called on a lot

To rescue the unplanned.

 

Albus Dumbledore,

The Greatest Sorcerer of all Times…

(No geeks here)

Brought our fur family to four. 

 

Poor Mojo,

We thought he might run away

But he submitted 

To being a part

Of a large family.

 

He protected Albus outdoors,

He told me when the food was gone

To freshen the water

When someone needed let in.  

 

Every night

The neighbour’s are forced

To tolerate the roll call:

“Mojo, Leroy, Yoda and Albus”

And they all return 

In the exact opposite order.  

 

Seriously, four cats is a lot.

I maintain, two is perfect.

But here we are

The crazy cat family

Loving every antic

Cuddle, purr

And playtime.  

 

(And yes, Bob,

All of the cats have been neutered.  

I bid $550 Bob.)  

 

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The professionally edited version of The first twenty-four hours.

I sent this post to TImothy Pike, freelance copy editor.  Many of you have commented on this post when it was posted previously.  I believe Timothy tweeked it to be even better.  If you have some work you want edited, you need to get in touch with Timothy Pike. 

 

I went back and forth between them all night long.

She had not yet woken from anesthesia.

 

“Wake up! Wake up!”

I silently implored her.   

“You might miss her!” 

Oh god. Oh god.

 

They wouldn’t let me wake her. 

They refused to wake her.

They refused. 

 

She will never forgive me.

She would want me to do something.

What should I do? 

 

I knew I would be angry if I wasn’t woken and told. 

It’s her baby! 

She needs to know… now!

 

I did what I thought I should…

I videotaped her baby.

I videotaped her face up close,

Her hands and her feet…

I cried and cried and cried.

I wondered if it was the right thing to do. 

It may be the only way…

I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do. 

I just didn’t want my sister to…to miss her. 

Oh, god. 

 

I sang to her. 

I touched her.

I called her name.  

I told her, “Your Mommy’s coming.”

I told her, “Your Mommy loves you.”

 

I asked her to stay…

“Please baby, for your mommy.”

I asked her to hold on a little longer. 

 

I was so scared. 

I didn’t know what to do.

 

Finally, she awoke from the anesthetic. 

She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Hi.”

She was happy. 

I was relieved when she fell back to sleep. 

They knew she was awake.

The doctor wasn’t ready to tell her yet. 

The doctor wasn’t ready…

 

I tried very hard to hide my sorrow,

My immeasurable sadness,

And my fright from her. 

But it didn’t matter,

She knew there was something wrong. 

“Have you been crying?” she asked me.

She was suspicious. 

She started asking questions about her babe. 

I was terrified. 

 

I couldn’t tell her. 

I couldn’t tell her. 

Oh god,

She was going to hate me for not telling her. 

 

 
Want a perfectionist’s eye on your writing? You’ve come to the right place.

Timothy Pike, freelance copy editor

http://theimportanceofbeingedited.wordpress.com

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When Mom was diagnosed with cancer.

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We both had jobs.

We both had families.

Now…

Mom had cancer.

Mom was pivotal,

In the care,

Of her daughter.

Mom was the leader,

Of the family at large.

Our children’s care giver.

The nucleus of our universe.

Without question,

We were going,

To be there,

For Mom.

We would

Be her rock.

We did not want,

To lose our nucleus.

Her survival,

Pivotal to ours.

The hardest day…

The first day,

At the cancer clinic.

We had underestimated,

Mom’s feelings.

We had not talked

About them.

We were too busy

Trying…to avoid the truth.

Always the leader.

We weren’t prepared,

For Mom to be in need.

Car parked,

We walked,

Towards the building.

We realised,

Mom was not with us.

We turned to find her.

It was heartbreaking.

Mom,

Still standing

By the car.

Could not move.

Crying,

In a state of panic,

Her fear,

Had taken over.

She allowed us,

To usher her

Towards the building.

But, she could not

Go through the doorway.

We, all three of us,

Just stood there.

A woman,

A kind, kind woman…

Came to us.

Smiling warmly at Mom,

Offering her hand,

Welcoming Mom,

As she led us inside.

She didn’t ask any questions.

Somehow, she knew,

None of us could speak.

She brought us all water,

She sat and spoke gently,

About nothing at all.

We recovered.

We went to the waiting room.

The place was beautiful,

And quiet.

Over time,

It became a familiar place.

We put our faith,

In the people.

We put our optimism,

In the lead.

We put our Mom,

In their hands.

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