Six Years

This anniversary is not one that I wish to celebrate, but February 27th is a day that I want to notice, remember, and savour as much as I can. Six years ago, my mom passed away. It was a choice that she made. She died of MAID (medical assistance in dying). I did not realize at the time but my mom was a MAVERICK or TRAIL BLAZER. The nurse said that about her before the “ritual” of dying was about to occur. The nurses were prepping her for her moment. We we waiting in “her room.” It was the same room that she was admitted to after we went to the emergency room on Friday, February 9th. I was there and that day was one of my biggest regrets. I wished I had stayed overnight with her at the emergency room. Everyone in my family wanted to leave and she insisted. After that day, I never wanted to do that again. Sadly, I did (sort of). The next day, I went to a conference/workshop at SFU downtown. I remember sitting in the auditorium listening to the speaker, then networking with folks from BC Education. My family insisted (again) that I should just go on with my day and that they would see mom at the hospital. On February 10th, my mom was admitted to the hospital and stayed on the 3rd floor at Burnaby General. I remember what the emergency doctor said, the paramedics said, and my mom next door neighbour said to me on February 9th… she has cancer of the liver. No one wants to hear this or even think about this over Family Day weekend, but my mom was admitted. I think she was resisting this very moment for years. OMG… my mom was sick for a very long time.

I remember the day that she died as if it happened just hours ago. I was so committed to write about my mom and the 20-days she spent in the hospital. A wonderful way to be inspired to honour my mom, but each time I took the pen to paper, I cried. I could not help myself and I tried for a few years. Each time, tears would dribble down my face. I could not do it. Since her passing, I’ve endured many changes and still try to learn the lessons she was trying to teach me during her last 20-days on earth. Now that I am writing this blog post in memory of her, I am realizing that I am ready to write about her. It’s almost perfect timing, much like my mom’s decision to die. During family weekend, she was not going to be seen by the doctor because it was the long weekend. She was just at the hospital to be taken care of and to manage her pain. She was anxious to leave. We tried to take care of her. I insisted staying overnight with her. Someone had to be with her. My family took shifts that weekend. During the week, my brother and sister had to work. My dad focused on strata council work??? Everything seemed off. If anything, I would be my mom’s advocate at the hospital (and I loved warming up my hands under her back).

Damn, I miss with woman. She was so strong. Monday, February 12th was family day. We made it through the weekend and my mom was not so restless. On Wednesday, February 14th (i.e., Valentine’s Day), my mom decided not to have any more needles. She had invisible veins (like I do) and she wanted the needles to stop. They always took a few tries and she just a hated it. With this decision, she was basically telling the hospital and oncologist that she did not care to find out where the cancer had started from, thus cancer of the liver versus liver cancer. Then on Friday, February 16th (Lunar New Year), our family met with the oncologist to learn about next steps. My mom had a choice between palliative care or MAID. My mom had “Stage 5” cancer. Is that possible? My family started to make plans about palliative care, but my mom was pretty certain what she wanted to do. She wanted to do MAID and she was researching this possibility for more than a year. She knew what she wanted and where she wanted to do it. At the time, the hospital would not perform MAID and she had to pass the cognitive test. She said, “fine,” send me home, but I’m not going to die in my home. We planned another location. It was a care facility just down the road.

For 10-days, my mom lived in her dining room on a special bed, and she clearly passed the MAID test. Ironically, during her time at home, something changed and the hospital said that they would perform MAID. I could not believe it. My mom asked me to go with her in the ambulance back to the hospital (another story to tell, re: number one). I remember driving with her. Talking with her. Taking care of her. I am flooded by lots of memories as I am writing this and believe that this is the beginning of the book. I also talked with a colleague the other day talking about my conversation with my aunty on my dad’s side of the family and she suggested that I should consider doing an autoethnography. YES. I Googled that methodology and it’s perfect. I can capture some of the memories I have of my mom, how that impacted my identity, and to learn more about my family and ethnic identity. I remember being in that room that I started this blog post with. My mom is a MAVERICK. She just new that the catheter was out of place (another story, re: JoLo). She asked me to ask the nurse to fix it. My mom just wanted things to be “right.” I did not appreciate her discretion, high expectations, and attention to detail. She died on the third floor of Burnaby General with grace, agency, and dignity. For that, I am so proud of my mom for her strength, clarity, and willpower. She paved a path for others to follow.

I love you, mom.