February 7, 2024

A Life Simply Lived

In honour of my mother’s journey, “A Life Simply Lived” encapsulates the essence of her resilience, joy in simplicity, and boundless compassion. As her story unfolds, may we find inspiration in the beauty of a life well-lived—a testament to the enduring impact of love, laughter, and cherished moments.

What started as a fun question-and-answer game transformed into the blog “Ninety-Six Questions,” a tribute to my mom’s 96th birthday in 2018. This collection featured an array of questions from family and friends, painting a vivid portrait of her wisdom and the enduring bonds that connect us.

My mother, known for her fierce independence, chose to end life on her terms. At 101 (almost 102), she lived a full and rich life. Edna wasn’t facing a life-threatening condition, but exhaustion took its toll, and her body gradually slowed down. In her words “I’m not fine, no one knows how I feel, except me.” The decline in her health significantly impacted her quality of life, making this a weighty decision. After careful consideration and consultation with medical professionals, she expressed her choice to a Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). While I wholeheartedly supported her, the impending departure of my mother became bittersweet. I’ll miss her beyond words.

Yet, in her decision, I embraced these last few days as an incredible gift. While we typically celebrate a person’s life after they’re gone, my mom is uniquely the storyteller of her own narrative, leaving behind a legacy of strength and autonomy. We dedicated a week to celebrate her, even though the soft ticking of the clock was a constant reminder of her limited time. Each day brought our family together, offering one more memory to laugh about, posing one final question, and sharing moments of “do you remember when?”

It will be hard to let go…

Early days

In a world that often races ahead, my mother, Edna, was content in life’s simple pleasures. Her story, set against the backdrop of everyday moments, reveals the extraordinary beauty hidden in a life lived with simplicity, sincerity, and a heart full of love.

Edna’s life began in the humble setting of rural Saskatchewan; she was born to Russian immigrants and navigated the challenges of a simple life alongside her three siblings. Trudging through three feet of snow to reach school in winter was a stark reality, and farm work defined their days. Travel was a luxury beyond reach, and the cherished toys were limited to a single doll shared with her sister.

At 20, she moved to Nelson, B.C., with her family, and it was there that she later met Nick, her future husband. This connection eventually prompted their move to Vancouver, marking the beginning of a marriage filled with shared dreams and aspirations. Their marriage stood the test of time, until my father’s passing in 1994. In 2019, at the age of 97, Edna embraced a new challenge, leaving her familiar surroundings for a senior home, kicking fear aside and embracing change once more, regardless of age.

Memories of My Mom

I have countless cherished memories of my mom—a pot of borscht or a large canner bubbling away on the stove, filled with jars of pickles, peaches, or whatever happened to be in season. The aroma of homemade bread filled the air, with loaves upon loaves cooling on the counter. After school, I would savour a slice slathered with butter and honey.

The constant hum of the radio accompanied her as she spent hours chatting with friends and family on the phone. Prior to any trip, she would utter a brief prayer and take delight in reading our horoscopes, especially when they predicted a good day for shopping. A prayer was said then, too! We both enjoyed our trips into the city for a special girl’s day out. Regardless of purchases (although, there were always a few), it was time well spent together.

We’d spend hours together flipping through pattern books and choosing fabrics for the next ensemble. I would hear the rhythmic roar of the sewing machine late at night while she anxiously finished her project. She wore Chanel No. 5, a gift from my father; it held a special place in her collection, lasting throughout the years, it instantly transports me to memories of her.

She was a chef in her own right, creating meals out of leftovers, and calling it a new recipe. While some were delicious, others perhaps best left unspoken, she fearlessly embraced the spirit of experimentation in her kitchen. I distinctly remember plastic containers arriving from my father’s workplace, brimming with shrimp. “How do I cook these?!” Remember, there was no internet, only cookbooks. Together, we would watch countless cooking shows, with her frantically jotting down notes, attempting to keep pace with the chef’s instructions. These hastily written notes would find a home in a drawer already filled with hundreds of recipe clippings reserved for future culinary inspiration.

The garden was a shared passion for both my mom and dad. We sustained ourselves year-round from the fruits of their labour. Zucchini bread became a staple, a creative solution to “What to do with all this zucchini?” Berry picking—my least favourite activity. However, my mother found joy in it, not just for the harvest but for the quiet moments of methodically picking and savouring each berry. A favourite pass-time she enjoyed with her grandsons.

Memorable Moments

Amidst frequent visits to relatives and friends in the Okanagan and Kootenay’s, specific trips left lasting impressions. There was an exciting journey to Las Vegas in pursuit of an opportunity, a memorable road trip to Disneyland, Christmas in Hawaii, and voyages on cruises exploring Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Panama Canal.

Naturally, the event of epic proportions occurred with the arrival of her daughter (that’s me). My mom became my superhero! Armed with the power to make scraped knees feel better with a single kiss and transform ordinary moments into extraordinary memories. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do.

Undoubtedly, her proudest moments revolved around the birth of her grandsons. Initially, she may have given up hope, but the universe had other ideas. She played a crucial role in their lives, guiding them through elementary school, high school, and witnessing both of them successfully graduate from university. Today, they stand as accomplished adults, a testament to her unwavering support and influence.

Career & Hobbies

In her formative years, she immersed herself in handicrafts (cuz, what else do you do in the middle of no where?), mastering the art of knitting, crocheting, spinning wool, and embroidery. As the war unfolded, she contributed 17 years of dedicated service at a match block factory. Upon relocating to Vancouver, her professional journey led her through roles at a hospital and eventually a dry cleaner, where she remained until her retirement in 1989. Post-retirement, undeterred by new challenges, she seized the opportunity to learn how to drive, embracing yet another skill.

Relationships

Edna effortlessly cultivated meaningful connections throughout her life. Her warmth and kindness reached far and wide, embracing a large network of adoring nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends. This ensured that her days were consistently enriched with joyful moments, hence the many hours spent on the phone. With an unlimited capacity for friendship and a schedule that never seemed to slow down, Edna’s vibrant spirit left an indelible mark on everyone fortunate enough to know her.

Life Lessons

My mother, in her wisdom, has imparted invaluable life lessons that have guided me throughout my journey. One such lesson is the significance of resilience—her ability to navigate life’s challenges with unwavering strength has been a testament to the power of perseverance. Her knack for finding joy in small moments has taught me the art of appreciating life’s simplicity, fostering a profound gratitude for the everyday. Furthermore, she exemplifies the importance of compassion, always extending a helping hand to others in times of need. These lessons continue to shape my perspective and resonate as enduring reminders of her profound influence on my life.

Love you always,

a note about MAID;

In my exploration of a life simply lived, I reflect on my mom’s courageous choice to embrace medical assistance in dying (MAID) as a part of her journey towards simplicity. It’s a decision that comes with profound considerations and individual perspectives. For those who find themselves contemplating this option, it’s crucial to engage in open conversations with healthcare professionals, loved ones, and seek the necessary support. Understanding the legal and ethical aspects, while prioritizing compassionate care, is key. Remember, simplicity is about finding peace in our choices, and each person’s path is deeply personal. May those facing such decisions find comfort, support, and the strength to navigate this complex terrain with grace.

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