FOULDS: The priceless scraps of those who pass

Demise is a continuing, part of life, we’re informed.

However throughout this COVID-19 pandemic and the continued pubic well being emergency surrounding the overdose disaster, loss of life appears to be that a lot nearer to our ideas.

Final month, B.C. recorded the highest-ever variety of overdose deaths in a month, at 170. By means of Could, 554 folks in B.C., together with 22 in Kamloops, died of overdoses.

Different folks, in fact, proceed to die — in accidents, of pure causes and resulting from illness.

Every loss of life leaves grief in its wake. How we cope varies from individual to individual.

Right here is one thing that helped me within the uncooked days following my mother’s loss of life and continues to serve a objective twenty years later.

Maybe it could assist others.


My mother died on June 20, 1999.

She was 63.

In 1950, when she was 15, mother began smoking Export Plain cigarettes. It was the cool factor to do in Burnaby within the age of James Dean and the daybreak of rock and roll.

By the point she was in her 20s, mother was smoking two or three packs a day.

She was additionally an alcoholic, often calmly sipping by a six-pack of beer per day, typically amping it up with vodka/tonics and the fights that adopted with dad throughout his consuming days.

Mother stood 5-foot-5 on tippytoes and a ladder and barely made the dimensions register three digits. She was tiny.

Heavy smoker, heavy drinker and no train by any means, aside from the hassle wanted to rise from the kitchen nook at times — to prepare dinner dinner or smack one among us six children upside the pinnacle for some transgression — doesn’t make for an extended, wholesome life.

So it was that she was recognized with terminal lung most cancers within the fall of 1998 and died the subsequent yr, on the primary day of summer time. She died on a Sunday, precisely per week to the day I final spoke to her.

The earlier Sunday, June 13, mother had been doing what she all the time did as she lived with terminal most cancers — she was propped up in her mattress at house, an array of books and magazines unfold out earlier than her, the TV on the stand on the foot of her mattress tuned to the information, with the amount low or muted.

From this perch, she entertained an eclectic combine of tourists, from her children to neighbours to siblings to outdated buddies.

I ended by typically with a newspaper or e book and to speak for a bit. Typically, we’d simply sit subsequent to one another, studying and never needing to speak about something in any respect.

On that June 13, I had go to and, as I used to be leaving, mother requested if I may convey her a particular e book the subsequent time I came visiting.

She grabbed a scrap of paper (she all the time had scraps of paper round the home, on which have been scribbled so many indecipherable notes by her left-hand cursive, honed within the school rooms of the 1940s) and wrote on it, “Stopwatch Gang – Greg Weston.”

Mother wished to learn, for the second time, a e book referred to as The Stopwatch Gang. It was (and stays) a rollicking true story detailing the adventures of The Stopwatch Gang, a gaggle of Canadian financial institution robbers with panache.

Mother cherished studying it the primary time, years earlier than she fell ailing, and wished to learn it once more.

I took the slip of scrap paper, kissed her on the brow and left for house throughout city.

Later that Sunday, at about dinnertime, my sister, Leah, 4 years my senior, referred to as to inform me mother had slipped right into a coma of some type. I raced again to my childhood house and there she was, in what a coma, eyes shut, respiration raspy and chest rattling.

We discovered from medical doctors and nurses this was the start of the inevitable finish and we simply needed to wait.

Mother remained like that for a full week, then died on June 20.

At the very least she spent her ultimate months in her personal mattress. At the very least she died at house.

That was 21 years in the past.

On the time mother died, I used to be 30, about to show 31. I used to be married and we had a bit of lady, Veronica, who was six months outdated when her grandma left for both the Milky Means Bar or Purple Satan Saloon, as mother was fond of claiming when referring to the afterlife.

Right this moment, I’m 51, turning 52 later this yr. I’m married for the second time and Veronica is now 21. My son, Atticus, who was born two years to the month my mother died, turned 19 earlier this month.

I’ve a black pockets that’s too thick to slip into any pants pocket. I name it my Costanza pockets. It homes many playing cards — Mastercard, Visa, library, Costco, BCAA — and much too many slips of paper, from notes on story concepts to lottery tickets to receipts to McDonald’s espresso playing cards to work-related telephone numbers.

The pockets additionally has a bit of pocket with a button clasp that’s all the time closed tight.

In that pocket, folded 4 instances, is that scrap of paper from 1999, rather less white and far more crinkled — the final phrases my mother ever penned: “Stopwatch Gang – Greg Weston.”

I don’t typically unbutton that pocket and pull the scrap of paper out, however after I do, it all the time makes me really feel good.

I’ve typically suggested myself to relocate that scrap of paper to someplace in my house. What would occur if my pockets was misplaced or stolen? The thought petrifies me.

For some motive, nonetheless, that scrap of paper — sitting in my numerous wallets over the 21 years because it was created, and binding me to my mother — belongs in my pockets.

Understanding it’s there, even with out seeing it for months at a time, simply feels proper.

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

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