Love, loss and legacy

We don’t often think of our legacy until we’ve experienced profound loss. My first experience with loss was when my maternal grandmother died at 59. I was 11. We were a transient (federal police force) family. We had just moved from north west Canada back to south east Canada after 7 years away. We had a couple of months before Nanny became ill. She died 8 weeks later of what appeared to be cirrhosis of the liver (due to hepatitis that she’d contracted while working as a nurse years earlier). My mom stepped in to ensure Nanny’s legacy lived on.

Living with loss

25 years later, my mother became suddenly ill, with many of the same symptoms. Mom died within eight weeks as well – of pancreatic cancer that had presented as secondary liver cancer. My daughter, also the first grandchild, was almost 11. 

love, loss and legacy

Mom knew she was dieing and spent every moment she felt well enough taking care of things. We went to the funeral home as a family to make arrangements. We met with the minister who would conduct her service. We went through all her clothing, jewelry, and creations (she was an artist) together and she decided what she wanted to give to whom. Mom and I talked about how she coped after her own mother died while she had 11, 9 and 5 year old children to care for. Mom’s health deteriorated so rapidly that every time we started planning for the next eventuality it was immediately upon us. 

Distraction in busyness

I spent the last two weeks staying with mom & dad to help with her care as she’d decided to remain at home for her final days.

For months afterward, I helped dad take care of things, from funeral arrangements to closing up their winter property in Florida (and sorting and packing mom’s things so he wouldn’t have to do so alone). I realized months later that I’d not allowed myself the emotional space to really grieve. So, I took a rare opportunity when I found myself home alone one weekend, and I sat down with all of our photos, and I relived memories with mom and sobbed for hours. Those stories are some of the legacy that will not be a loss as we continue to share them.

love, loss and legacy

Relationships after loss

Since losing mom, our family dynamics were forever changed. I grieve the closeness of our family as much as I grieve my mom. And while it’s gotten easier to cope- it still hits me hard and often suddenly. 

Mom died the day after my 37th birthday. But to me my birthday really felt like the day we lost mom – it was the day she really wasn’t herself anymore. And for years when November rolled around, I found myself withdrawing and dreading both dates. Mom was the one who had always made our birthdays special. So not only did I no longer have her to do that for me, but I couldn’t separate my birthday from those memories of her death. 

Love, loss and legacy(ies)

We had not taken enough time to record the legacy of mom’s family’s legacy. And a few years later with the loss of my grandfather, many of the stories that told the legacy of our family were gone.

It’s 11 years this month, and it’s become less intense and less frequent, but it still comes upon me without warning at times. November is still a difficult month for me. But it comes in waves one day at a time and no longer everyday of the month. 

Losing mom taught me to make the most of my life. She said she had no regrets, and I want to be able to say the same. This means not letting the hard things stop me from living. It means living with intention.

Connecting with lost love and new

Mom had a knack for connecting with people. She didn’t let loss stop her. My parents were both air force kids. As a child they moved even more frequently than we did when I was growing up. And everywhere we lived, or visited, mom left her mark on people. She is remembered for her vibrance, warmth, and friendship. 

If my only legacy is that I too have made connections with people that will be remembered beyond our immediate interactions, then I will have a lived a great life. Just as she did. 

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About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two

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