Nov 29, 2011

A Face a Mother Never Forgets

I had the distinct pleasure of going to the hospital for some routine blood tests -  post check-up.

I wasn't paying attention and got off the elevator on the wrong floor and wandered into Neurology. No one there looked happy.

I got back in the elevator and this time got off at the right floor and I have to say, no one there looked happy either.

Everyone is walking around lost. They're on the wrong floor in the wrong department and since it's impossible to get the attention of any staff, they are asking other lost people where to go. It's a sad, pathetic situation.

I arrived at the test centre where I located more stranded people without any hope of rescue in sight. I started to read my magazine and then looked up several times to see what number the screen was showing (even though I could easily figure out there were at least 20 people before me) and then I gave up my seat to an elderly woman.

Seeing someone elderly and frail wait alone in a hospital for any reason is sad. I could see that she was evidently chilled even though wearing a winter coat. I thought to myself, "Is this someone's mother? If so, where are her children? Do they all live out of town? Are they not able to get away from work? Why is she here? Is she sick? Is she about to find out she is sick? How long did it take her to get here - she can barely walk?"

As these questions circled in my head, she looked up at me and smiled and I smiled back. Then a pack of medical students marched by and stopped in front of her, blocking the entire hall while they discussed in unison their schedules. When they finally moved, she was no longer there.

Eventually my number came up and after being stuck with a needle several times, it was finally time to leave. Given I had fasted for 14 hours (plus the 2 in the waiting room)I was hungry. So I headed to a nearby café and as I entered I spotted the same woman at a table nearby reading the paper and drinking a glass of orange juice.

She noticed me as well and gestured I come join her which I did once I had my coffee and sandwich in hand.

As I sat with her and she spoke, she captivated me for some reason. It was sort of like when you meet someone for the first time but you feel as if you have met them in another life.

Her name was Iris. She was 86 yrs old and had 1 daughter and 3 grand children who unfortunately all lived in Toronto. Her husband, Mel, passed away 4 years ago. She was an elementary school teacher for 35 years and was born in California and educated at McGill where she met Mel who was a Montrealer and so they settled here.

She was diagnosed with bone Cancer 5 months ago and every day she felt it eating away at her body leaving her more and more incapacitated. Her daughter Susan came in as often as possible but was busy with her own life including a child with health issues.

"My happiest days were when my children were growing up and my husband and I were caring for them and we were all under one roof", she explained.

"More often than not these days I am beginning to forget things but something I know I will never forget is my daughter's face - all the faces - through all the stages of her life. There is no image more beautiful to a parent than the face of their child."

"I'm not afraid of dying. I have had a great life. I am a mother, now and forever."

We chatted a little more and then I insisted on bringing her back to her apartment after which she gave me a warm hug and I wished her good luck.

As I was walking away she said one last thing to me and it was this:

"Call your mother if you haven't already today and ask her if she remembers what you looked like when you were 3 yrs old" and then she closed her door.

As I made my way out of the building I gave my mother a call.

"Hi mom - how are you?"

"Good and you dear?"

"Fine - I have a question - Do you remember what I looked like when I was 3yrs old?"

To which she responded:

"Of course, I'm your mother, I remember what you looked like every day of your life"

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