As we approach the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, two things come to mind. Two things I love. One is flowers. The other is my Mum. I love the month of May because, in this part of the world, it is a time of rebirth. The trees are nearly in full leaf after the speedy burst of their buds. Our local wildflowers such as Trilliums, Purple Violet, Dutchman’s Breeches, and a whole host of others are sporting their showy blooms. Two of my favourite cultivated flowers – Lilacs and Lily of the Valley – are also on the cusp of showing their fragrant and delicate flowers. The vibrant greens, blue skies, and busyness of the squirrels, birds and other creatures are also part of this time of rebirth. So, May is my month – my favourite month of the year.
For me, May also brings with it, some mixed feelings. Mother’s Day is in May. My parent’s wedding anniversary is in May. And, my Mum was born in May. When I see the beautiful blooms, so abundant during this wonderful month, I can’t help but feel a little bittersweet about them. They remind me of my Mum. She passed away two and a half years ago. Not only was she my best friend, but she was my soul mate. We used to describe ourselves as ‘two peas in a pod’ because that’s exactly what we were. In recent years, as I became middle-aged, our relationship blossomed, like the flowers she loved so much.
Although we were mother and daughter, we had become more like sisters. In fact, for the 15 months that my Mum was ill and in hospital, and I spent time with her nearly every day, we had several occasions where new nurses would comment on how wonderful it was that Mrs. Ball’s sister would come to visit her daily. The new nurses were quickly informed that it wasn’t her sister visiting, but her daughter. Mum and I laughed when we heard this. And I told Mum that maybe some daughters would be offended by this (given our age difference), but I told her to enjoy it (implying that she looked young for her age, which she did) and that for me, it was actually one of the biggest compliments I could receive. She and I looked a lot alike, had the same sense of humour (i.e. zany, wacky) and the same vibrancy and love of life. During that last 15 months of her life, we didn’t even have to speak to know what each other was feeling, we were so ‘in tune’ with each other. Many a day we shed tears together, coping with the lousy situation that life had dealt my Mum. But after a few tears and some hugs, our sense of humour would overtake all and inside of 15 minutes, we’d be laughing, joking and enjoying each others company. It didn’t matter how bad the day had been. After a few minutes together, we’d be smiling and having fun.
I know that I am supremely and exceptionally lucky to have had such a wonderful mother. I always knew it, even from a young age. My Mum was my role model, my hero, my biggest cheerleader, and my best friend. And as we aged together, we became soul mates. The most difficult thing I have ever had to face in life is saying good-bye to her. Losing the other pea in the pod. My Mum and I, together, made the decision to end her treatment to hasten her passing as there was nothing more the doctors could do for her. It was the right thing to do, to bring her peace and end her suffering. It was what she wanted and I wholeheartedly supported it, despite it tearing out my heart. I held her hand for 52 hours, until she took her last breath – an act that was both the hardest thing I have ever done and the greatest gift I could ever receive.
The blooms that surround me this time of year bring me happiness and sadness – bittersweet. I love the sight of them, they are cheerful. They also make me happy because they remind me so much of my Mum. She was an avid gardener and absolutely loved flowers. They were her thing. Two of her favourite flowers were Lilacs and Lily of the Valley. As a kid, when I went for walks up at our cottage, I would always stop and pick my Mum a handful of flowers – Daisies, Brown eyed Susans, Bladder Campion, Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrow – which she put in a small, red vase that my brother made from clay during school art class. And so, being surrounded by these May blooms also brings me a little sadness – a reminder of her physical absence from my daily life. A reminder of a broken heart that will never truly heal. But these sad feelings are more than balanced by the incredible gratefulness I have for the time we had together and the abundance of wonderful memories I have of her.
And so, as the blooms surround me, Mother’s Day comes and goes, and my Mum’s birthday comes and goes, I smile and think of her, but with tears not far behind, if even for only a moment. I celebrate the incredible times we had together and all of the wonderful, happy memories by growing flowers all around my yard. And every time I see a flower in bloom, I think of her and smile.