As some of you may or may not know, my mother is battling ovarian cancer for the second time and we seem to spend a fair amount of time at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Today was one of those where I had to concentrate on finishing my “work” writing. in order to be able to have the time to take my Mom to her doctor’s appointment before going to the rink where I coach until almost 9:30pm.

Her doctor, Marcus the Magician, needed just one more vial of blood so it was off to Dracula’s Lair (Mom’s euphemistic expression for the lab.) There wasn’t much of a line and I sat down and saved her a seat while she stood in the queue to drop off her hospital card and collect the number which would be called when it was her turn. She was behind a woman about my age-ish who was pushing a HUGE wheelchair with a person huddled within under a mountain of blankets. In thinking about it, it wasn’t really a wheelchair as much as it was a Laz-Y-Boy on wheels or at least the size of one. Regardless, the lady in question pushing the chair was a daughter looking after her own mother and we started to chat.

She shared with me that her mother was suffering from dementia, and in fact whispered the word “Alzheimer’s” even before peeling back the layers of blankets to reveal an apple doll of an older lady who was now awake and looking around. She has lost the ability to speak and understand and yet still has the ability to make sounds. To her daughter Debbie, it encourages her to think she can still bridge the communication gap. “When Mum got sick about five years ago, we put her in a nursing home and my Dad would go every day to feed her and look after her until he dropped dead.”

She stops to stroke her mother’s cheek and coos “Mum, the lady says you look pretty”. She smiled at me when I said I liked the colour of her mom’s cardigan. “I bought it for her. I like her to look nice. I put clothes out for her at night so that the nurses know what outfit to dress her in.” She turned her attention back to the woman in the chair; smiling and stroking her hand.

Debbie told me that her mom’s health ad cancer had improved to the point where she was only at PMH for some blood work. Debbie works for the school board which has meant that she has been able to be by her mother’s side for every step along the journey. She told me that the cancer had caused her mother’s skin to break down but that with her remission, her skin was back to normal. Debbie looked lovingly at her mother and wanting to validate her success pulled back the blanket from her mother’s leg to reveal smooth and soft skin that is clearly benefitting from lots of Jergens lotion.

As her mother starts to make noises and squirm, her head falling to her chest, Debbie jumps up and in a soothing tone says “You can’t be comfortable Mum, let’s see if we can make things a little nicer for you” Debbie proceeded to shift her and prop her mother’s head at a more comfortable angle. Debbie removed her mother’s knitted cap. She felt it was important for me to see that her mother still had pretty hair.

Debbie smiled and patted her mother’s hand and stroked her cheek again while saying “I want her to have dignity. She raised eight kids. She did a good job.” It  was all she said.

Today it was the sweetness and not the suffering that moved me to tears.

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