February 15th, 2021
This past year, the importance of my family has risen to a whole new level. For many of us, the restrictions resulting from a global pandemic have meant making difficult choices we never imagined having to make and yet, this experience will potentially change us for the better. I know for me, family gatherings and connections are something that I will no longer take for granted.
Recently, my mother in law passed away in long term care.
Family meant everything to her and although she had been suffering from health issues for several years, this never impeded her love for life. Until her last breath, I knew that she could feel the love from all of her family both in – person and virtually. A French Canadian, Roman Catholic and mother of 10, she was a force to be reckoned with. I have many fond memories of the matriarch of my husband’s family. My visits with her, although few and far between were always meaningful and full of laughter. She loved to share a good story. I always marveled at her zest for life and wondered how it was that after raising such a big family, why she wasn’t more tired and old looking! When I met my husband, my understanding of French was quite limited and my mother in law knew one to two English words. Thankfully, the language barrier never seemed to interfere with our relationship. One Christmas she insisted that I be her partner at cards. About two weeks before the family gathering she announced to me that I was the chosen one. Yikes. A card player I am not. To this day, I don’t know what possessed her to choose me of all people. My husband and kids had me practicing right up until show time. Naturally I failed miserably, and we were out after the first round. My husband reassured me that it was the cards I was dealt but my dear mother in law was not impressed. That was the one and only time she asked me to be her partner!
I must admit that I often felt a certain amount of anxiety when she would come to visit. My house always looked like a tidal wave had hit it and I was infamous for my pile of clean laundry down in the basement that sometimes never even made it upstairs. I will always remember the time she decided the Saturday of a long weekend that she wanted to come to our place for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant cooking a turkey that I hadn’t planned on cooking. For some reason, the word turkey has always brought me a lot of anxiety. I do wonder about that. Growing up, cooking the turkey was always an event. I remember the time my Dad, much to my mother’s dismay, took it upon himself to cook one in the microwave he had given her that Christmas and then there was the time we lost power and he decided to cook it on the BBQ.
Thinking back to that Thanksgiving weekend I can still picture myself driving around the city in my minivan, three children in tow. I can’t remember how many places we went but there wasn’t a fresh turkey to be had. They were all frozen solid and unless I took a hair dryer to it like Dave in “Dave Cooks the Turkey” on the Vinyl Cafe CBC radio story, I didn’t have a hope in h*ll! Finally, I ended up at the Farm Point IGA ,where I explained my predicament to the butcher. I nearly kissed the man when he told me he could help. I had no idea what a turkey roll was and I didn’t care!
In the end, my mother in law said it was the best she had ever tasted even if it didn’t look anything like a turkey 🙂
Losing someone is always difficult but when someone dies during the crazy days of COVID I think it’s harder. The days following my mother in law’s death are what inspired me to write this blog. I was so proud of how my girls came together for my husband, who was finding it hard not being able to gather together with his siblings to share their sorrow together, in person.
My mother in law passed away on January 26th and would have celebrated her birthday on January 29th, the same week as my husband celebrated his birthday on January 28th. The girls ordered St. Hubert in memory of their grandmother (her favourite) and we all played cards, ate chips in small bowls and shared stories. I will cherish this family time we spent together, celebrating the life of a woman we all loved so dearly.
Although technology has allowed us to continue to connect with our families virtually, nothing compares to that feeling of closeness and joy we feel when we hug someone we haven’t seen for a long time. I dream of the day we part ways with this nasty virus and return to a world we took for granted, with a whole new appreciation for life and everything that means.