Words can’t describe…

…just what this past week has been like for me.

Last week began with such an over-whelming feeling of loss and sadness that I wasn’t sure how things were going to go. As with most men, I tried to hold things inside…it’s just a “guy thing”, I think. But I also felt the need to be strong for my dad, who is continuing to go through an extremely rough time.

Thankfully, I have an unbelievable woman by my side. Sunshine is everything I could have ever dreamed of having in a life partner…and last week just went to confirm it.  Honestly, words can’t describe just how thankful I am to her for not only being there for me when I needed her the most, but being there for my dad when he needed a female presence to lean on and my sister (for whatever reason) didn’t want the job.  In fact, my dad (on numerous occasions) told me and his own friends that Sunshine was closer to him than his own daughter was (more on that later this week).

In addition, words can’t describe just how much of a weight came off my shoulders and my heavy heart once I completed reading my mom’s eulogy in front of over 300 people at the funeral. With the exception of a couple of times, I held it together long enough to read the entire eulogy without breaking down.  I looked out and saw friendly faces that I recognized…I looked out and saw tears…I looked out and saw Sunshine holding dad’s hand as I told the world about my mother. I know for a fact that mom would have been proud of me for what I did…and that was my main goal in reading it.

Words can’t describe the feeling I have after achieving the second goal I had: making my father proud.  I’ve mentioned multiple times over the years that my dad has never come out and said that he was proud of me.  Has he been?  Sure…but with the exception of my wedding day (and obviously that didn’t turn out too well) he’s never vocalized that he was ever proud of his son. Last week, he not only told me that he has never been prouder of me but he told…and continues to tell…anybody who would listen just how proud he was of me and the words I wrote and spoke about mom. He has printed off copies of the eulogy and has given them to friends. He attached the eulogy to an email to send to people who couldn’t make it to the wedding.  He even tells the story (as I heard him yesterday say it) of how a friend of his came up to him at the funeral and told him that he hadn’t known my mom very well but after hearing my eulogy felt as though he knew her a lot better. He gets choked up when he tells that story…and it’s an amazing feeling to know that my words have moved him in such a way.

Finally, I just don’t think words would do justice to the feeling of love and support I had from the online community last week. The multiple comments here on the blog…the two unexpected and totally beautiful blog posts from Tonya and Jolene…the multiple tweets and retweets…the unbelievable Facebook comments/emails/wall posts…I honestly can’t be thankful enough. On Friday morning, I attempted to email/message every single person who took the time to give a message of condolence to me…and if I’ve missed you, I sincerely apologize because believe me when I say that I went through each and every single message that was sent to me and it was very much appreciated.

So life is slowly getting back to normal.  Life does, indeed, go on.  And honestly, my hope is that as time goes on my words WILL be able to describe my life in a way that people find slightly interesting.

Onward and upward, my friends…

The Eulogy

When we were told two weeks ago that mom’s cancer was terminal, I asked dad if I could deliver a eulogy for mom at her funeral.  He was taken aback but agreed right away.
This is what I have written.  I am just hopeful that I have the strength to be able to read the whole thing this afternoon.  It’s been an extremely emotional week so far, and I only want to make my mother proud…and I want to be strong today for her.
Hopefully these words do my mother justice…

Mom’s Eulogy:

I’ve been wondering for awhile about what I would say once I got into this position…standing in front of those who loved Marilyn as a family member or as a friend. Let’s be honest…I could go on for hours discussing just how kind and sweet and loving of a woman she was, just how devoted of a wife she was, and just how amazing of a mother she was.

I could go on for hours, but instead let me go on for just a few minutes.

Marilyn was, simply put, one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met or will ever meet. Obviously, I’m a little biased but I think today’s turnout confirms that opinion. She was also a woman who never liked to be the center of attention, and if she were here now she’d probably want the focus taken off of her and placed back onto all of us. I know that she would not want us to focus on the sadness of her death, but rather to embrace the life that she had and find peace in the knowledge that she is no longer suffering…is no longer in pain…and is now at peace with God.

Marilyn was born October 1st, 1945. She grew up in Sackville, New Brunswick and eventually made her way to live here in Amherst…by way of Toronto, Newfoundland, Cape Breton, Windsor, New Minas, and Saint John.

I don’t know if I can truly give all of you a clear example of who my mother was…so I’ll give you a few different examples instead in an attempt to paint a larger picture.

  • Mom loved singing in the church choir. At best guess, she spent TWENTY SEVEN years in the church choir…and her love of the choir is why we are in the church today. Even in the past year when she wasn’t that great physically, she’d find a way to come to church and sing in the choir…while dad would pick her up once it was all over.  So I can tell you with great confidence that she’d be absolutely thrilled to know that these lovely people are singing in her honour today…and you can bet that she’s looking down from above and singing along using God’s hymn book.
  • Mom loved to travel. Spain…Florida…Hong Kong…the Bahamas…Venezuela…Vegas…mom loved to travel and she did with dad. Whether it was a family outing to Disney, taking a romantic cruise through the Panama Canal, or camping along the edge of town at Loch Lomand, dad did what he could to ensure mom got to see as much of the world as possible.
  • Mom loved to give.  She actually created a “Mrs. Claus Day”, which was normally New Year’s Day, where she would make sure everybody that was sitting at the table would get one more gift…usually something small that she picked out herself.  As a family, we’d always do our best to get together on New Year’s Day for a late dinner just to spend time with each other.  Mom, for whatever reason, wanted to give out more gifts to people. She never really did explain why…whether she heard it from a friend or saw it on television and thought it was a good idea…but it was something that she just wanted to do.
  • Mom loved spending time with friends. Whether it was playing dominos, spending time in the senior’s dart league, bowling (she actually bowled a triple 325 once), being a member of the Red Hatters or simply sitting around a campfire on a warm summer night…mom very much enjoyed the company of others.
  • Mom was a bit of a worry-wart. For a very long time, mom was always concerned and worried about my little brother and how he was doing in school. And it wasn’t just “I hope he does well”, either. I can’t tell you how many times she came to me and wondered what my little brother was going to do with his life…always concerned that he could do better in school. Saying, “I don’t know about that kid…I don’t think his grades are going to get him anywhere”. But within the past year, I never heard those comments.  Within the past year, he not only came out of his shell, but also dramatically improved in school. Her worry was eased and within the last few months especially, I never heard her say anything other than how proud she was of the man that he is now becoming.
  • Mom was always there if you needed her. Here’s an example: my dad had gotten me NASCAR tickets for my birthday one year.  We were going to drive down to New Hampshire and take in a race…father and son. About a day before we were to leave, dad ended up throwing his back out and couldn’t go. Mom stepped up to the plate…regardless of her distaste for loud noises and fast cars…and went to the races with me. I was in my early 20’s at this point so it’s not as though I needed a chaperone or anything…but mom just wanted to be there for me and help me enjoy my time. And that was simply another great bonding experience that we shared together. Dad actually told me on Monday that it was a trip that mom always remembered fondly, and that’s something we’ll always share together because it was one of my favorite memories, too.

Mom was my best friend when I was growing up; always there to hear me complain or whine or simply to seek approval. She was my own personal guidance counsellor.  I’d drop by to visit and on the way out she’d ask me if I needed anything.  I’d say “no” and then she’d say there was a sale on toilet paper so she had some extra I could have…or there was a sale on laundry detergent and here was a jug of detergent that I could take…or that she had an extra $20 to give me because she was worried about me paying bills. She didn’t need to…I never asked her to…but that’s just what she wanted to do.

There were times where I simply felt a need to “tell mom” something…and she was always there with an open ear, an open mind, and an open heart. I can’t tell you how many times I would tell mom something…something I had done wrong, usually, that I didn’t want dad to find out. Needless to say, she would then turn around and tell dad anyway.  You would think I would have gotten upset because mom betrayed my trust in her.  But I honestly don’t know if I ever got mad at my mom…or if I did, was mad for more than just a few minutes.  You just couldn’t stay mad at that woman for any reason.  Instead, I realized that my best friend usually told dad these things because she was concerned about me…and quite frankly SHE needed to tell HER best friend.

She was my father’s best friend for over 40 years. As any couple, they had their fair share of ups and downs over that span of time…but I’m sure the both of them would be quick to tell you that there were far more “ups” than there were ever “downs”. They were married 42 years…it would have been 43 in April…and that’s a heck of a long time.  It’s something I have always admired about them the most…that through thick and thin, they were able to work through all obstacles and remain a devoted, loving, married couple.

And it gives me peace knowing that the final few days, weeks, and months of mom’s life were spent with dad showing mom just how much he loved her:

  • Multiple trips home from work every single day…just to make sure mom could have a bathroom break where he would pick her up and put her in her wheelchair, pick her up and place her down in the bathroom, pick her up and put her back in her wheelchair, then pick her up and place her back in her seat facing the television. He’d make sure she’d eat something or simply feel more comfortable, and then head back to work.
  • Multiple trips to Halifax every week for over a month from January 4th until she was brought back to Amherst on February 12th…sometimes through a snowstorm where it would take three hours just to get back home.
  • Multiple trips to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre here in Amherst every single day until her passing…hand-feeding her at meal times because she was too weak to feed herself…talking to her regardless of whether or not she could talk back…always being there for her.

Mom passed away knowing that she was loved by her husband, her best friend, her soul mate.  And dad, I couldn’t be more inspired or more impressed with your love for mom than I am today. I am truly humbled to be your son and only wish that I can live up to your example one day.

I loved mom with all of my heart and will truly miss her every single day of my life going forward.  “Going forward”…that’s something my mom would want all of us to do, especially now. She wants us to get through today as best we can and go forward with our lives. She would not want us to remain saddened with her passing.  I truly believe that she would want us to go through our grieving process and do whatever we could to move on.

I’d like to close with some lyrics from her favourite song…a song that played over a video of photographs shown during her visitation yesterday. She loved it because it was a song about a woman getting cancer and letting her friends and family know that she was going to be alright in the end.

She flew up to Heaven on the wings of angels
By the clouds and stars and passed where no one sees
And she walks with Jesus and her loved ones waiting
And I know she’s smiling saying
Don’t worry ’bout me
Don’t worry ’bout me

Mom…we’re not worried anymore.

Not meant to be…yet.

So a week ago I was in a very unusual situation.  I had entered a contest with the local radio station in an attempt to win a $1,000 diamond ring.  No…I’m not proposing quite yet (although marriage is something that Sunshine and I have discussed), but where this was a chance to win a diamond ring I figured ‘what the heck?’ and entered the contest online.

Turns out I ended up being one of the final four chosen to go on the air.  The contest itself was basically trying to come up with most original and unique way of proposing to your significant other.  So because I’m just so savvy, I came up with a social media proposal (and yes, Sunshine was aware of the idea so it wasn’t a huge secret or anything).

Mandy MacDonald

The idea was to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and my blog to send Sunshine multiple questions about us.  She would reply and for every correct answer I’d give her the letter to a password (some crazy long word).  Because she’s a fan of Lexulous on Facebook (it’s a Scrabble-esque game), I’d also make sure the letters were in random order and she’d have to then unscramble the letters to come up with the right word…that word would then unlock the password protected blog/website that I would have created that housed the actual proposal.

My idea would also include other bloggers and Twitter and Facebook friends…just to make things even MORE fun and interactive (that’s what social media is all about anyway, right?).  The only problem was trying to explain this in a 5-minute segment on the radio, which wouldn’t be easy. And where I was called on Wednesday afternoon to inform me that I had to be there first thing on Friday morning…that didn’t leave me a whole lot of time.

Turns out, it was a lot more difficult that I had feared.

Y’see, Mandy MacDonald (the on-air personality that I was supposed to “propose” to) is NOT a very technologically savvy person. That put me in the hole from the very beginning.  I had even emailed her on Thursday in an attempt to prepare her for what I was thinking: one Facebook question, one Twitter question, one YouTube question, and one question in-studio to VERY easy questions (ex: what is your birthday?) to a VERY easy password (r-o-c-k….it’s a rock station and a diamond ring so I thought the double-entendre was kinda smart).

This was the message I sent on Facebook…

Remember how I mentioned that she wasn’t overly technologically savvy?  Well…she didn’t get this message until Friday morning (around 7am, actually…where she had already been on the air for over an hour and I was supposed to be on the air in 30 minutes) and while waiting in the “green room” ready go to on the air, this is the message she sent me…

Well then…that kinda sucked.  I had actually sent her the first question via Twitter REALLY early in the morning in the hope that she’d read it before our segment.  This is what I had sent her…

So the next question I had sent to her was on her Facebook wall…something that other people would be able to read, too.  This is what I wrote…

Needless to say, Mandy never responded to the wall post.

In “Phase Three” of my plan, I had actually recorded a very short YouTube video with yet another question for her. I had emailed her work address and included the link to the video.

Here’s the actual video…

Well…because she hadn’t read ANYTHING I HAD SENT HER at this point, she got a bit confused by my email…

She had NO CLUE why I was sending her a “question”.  At this point, I realized that any shot I had of being “cute” or “smart” was completely lost on this woman.  I replied as best I could in a last-ditch effort to get her to read the questions…

Her “Ok” response literally came five minutes before I was supposed to go on the air.  I knew I was sunk.  Still…I did the best I could in an attempt to win a diamond ring for my Sunshine.

So here it is…recorded by the local radio station C103…my on-air attempt to win the “Marry Me Mandy” contest:

As  you can probably guess by now, I didn’t win the contest.  But still, I’ve left her website up so anybody can check it out if they want to:

www.MarryMeMandy.wordpress.com

Ahhh well…it was fun while it lasted.  I guess the diamond ring just wasn’t meant to be…

…yet.

Fears

I’m afraid of my mom dying and leaving me.

I’m afraid of my mom living for weeks and weeks and suffering even longer.

I”m afraid that the anger that is building inside of me will result in me lashing out unnecessarily.

I’m afraid that i’ll become the person that I used to be…a person I never want to be come again.

I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough father to my son.

I’m afraid to call my daughter and tell her about her grandmother.

I’m afraid that when the time comes, I won’t know what to say.

I’m afraid for my dad, who will soon be alone for the first time in over 40 years.

I’m afraid of not being strong enough for him.

I’m afraid that I won’t be able to remain the person I’ve become at age 38…a person I have finally grown to like.

Trying to process it all

I’m at a point now where the reality of my mom’s situation has really sunk in.  After hearing that her cancer was terminal last week, I’ve really just been going through each day like a zombie…going through the motions and telling myself that I’ve come to terms with everything.

In reality, though, I hadn’t.  It has hit me like a ton of bricks over the past couple of days, though…the reality of knowing my mom is dying is an extremely uncomfortable situation to go through. I feel like I want the waiting and the suffering to be over with.

But that’s the thing…I don’t know how to feel or if what I’m currently feeling is normal for someone just entering the grieving process.  I don’t know if I should enjoy moments of laughter and happiness or if I should be able to go more than thirty minutes at work without constantly thinking about mom and her situation.

If I smile or laugh, I immediately feel guilty afterwards. Is that a normal feeling to have in this kind of situation?

So I guess I’m wondering  where to turn in order to find out how others have felt going through the same thing.  I mean, Sunshine has been an amazing support system for me (and yes…I realize that I should just “be” and there isn’t a set way I should be feeling…I love you, baby), but I want to take the next step in trying to make sure I’m mentally ready to handle all of this.

The last thing I want to do is withdraw from the woman I love and the only one I can trust.

I was given this link through work, but if anybody has other resources they’d like to share I’m all ears.