My mother Alice died last Wednesday (February 18, 2015) in the early morning. She was in my house in Hamilton, where Judith and I had been looking after her since last November. She was born on August 27, 1921, and had a full life, which she enjoyed with great gusto up to her last day.
In the last few years, she had an ongoing heart condition, aortic stenosis, which had been causing shortness of breath and dizziness. However, it didn’t prevent her from venturing forth with her walker from her apartment at Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) on The Esplanade in Toronto to the St. Lawrence Market, where many of the shop owners would greet her warmly. She lived at PAL since 1995, and was much loved by her fellow residents. Dr. Robison was two blocks away at the St. Lawrence Health Centre, and monitored her medical condition with great dedication. Her grandson (by choice) Robert Allison visited her every week, usually for a pizza dinner.
On October 27, 2014, at 10:30 pm, she set out with her walker to get herself a hamburger. Somehow, we’re not quite sure how, she fell and broke her right hip. I got a call from St. Michael’s hospital the next morning, informing us that they were taking her to the operating room to apply a single compression hip screw. The operation was successful. She spent a week at St. Michael’s (where she received excellent care). After 10 days, she was transferred to a rehab hospital, where she was not happy. I intervened and arranged to have her brought back to St. Michael’s because the congestive heart condition had re-emerged. My brother Fred came down from Ottawa and visited her every day and encouraged her to do her leg exercises every hour. After a week, Fred and I persuaded St. Mike’s to discharge her into my care in Hamilton, rather than back to the rehab hospital. Judith and I brought her to our house on December 1.
With the help of a physiotherapist from Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), she exercised diligently, and was making very good progress. On January 15, we took her for x-rays to St. Mike’s, and stopped in at PAL for Kaffeeklatsch, where she was greeted with cheers. The bone was healing very well. In February, another visit to the Fracture Clinic showed the bone completely healed.
Starting the following day, however, her energy started to decline. On January 29, her cardiologist told us that the end would come soon.
We looked after her in our home, making her comfortable. CCAC provided a gentle and sympathetic nurse, who helped us understand what we were going through. Alice was sleeping more and more, but when she was awake we still had good times, singing the old union songs with her from the People’s Song Book.
Having my mother with us, and being with her during this time, was very rewarding. It wasn’t easy, but it felt very right and very rich. Judith had a special way with Alice that I loved to see. She also worked hard keeping Artword Artbar going, with the help of Tom Dusome, while I stayed home with Alice. My brother Fred and Alice’s sister Rosemarie visited and helped out.
The night she died, I held her hand and stroked her head, comforting her when she called out. At about 3:00 am, she became quiet and fell asleep. I went to bed. I thought we were near the end, but expected her to be awake the next day. Judith woke up at six with a feeling that a great quiet had descended. Alice had passed. Judith roused me and I went into the room. Yes, she was gone. She looked very beautiful.
I have included two photos in this post. The first was taken at Alice’s 90th birthday party at PAL. The second shows her on January 2, sitting in our living room beside the flowers sent by her PAL Kaffeeklatsch friends.
We’ll be having a celebration of her life at Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), 110 the Esplanade in Toronto, April 26 from 2 to 5 pm to share memories and songs.