My mom died of cancer five years ago.
If I weren’t a journalist, I’d probably use a phrase like “passed away.”
But terminology doesn’t change reality. We only speak that way to try to soften the despair.
“I’m sorry for your loss” is preferred over “sorry your mom is dead.”
Our society is so terrified of death that we create euphemisms to avoid saying what it really means: your body and brain are off forever.
Death isn’t pretty, but it’s real.
We don’t get the wonders of life without the promise of death.
I haven’t had a near death experience. I’ve never seen the “white light.” I do not claim to know what is on the other side, if anything.
My mom, Eva, made sure I grew up in church, but I learned more about compassion and understanding from her than I ever did from bible readings.
She was the strongest and kindest person I’ve ever known.
Her spirit was unbroken after three bouts of cancer spanning 15 years, but her body was withered by the vicious speed of the disease when it returned the last time.
On Sept. 28, 2008, she died quietly in her own bed. Palliative care made that possible.
And though I’m glad she was able to breathe her last breath in the comfort of my family’s home in Regina, September was hell.
My family, including my then-14-year-old brother, watched as this generous and graceful woman faded away.
She battled until the end. She did not want to leave her husband and two sons alone.
Near the end, she couldn’t speak. Communication was groaning and moaning: sounds of her internal struggle.
At 18, I was doing what I could, learning about the medications and giving her injections.
It was hard for me to understand that the culmination of modern medicine meant we made her comfortable while waiting for the inevitable.
We had no idea when it was going to happen, and I don’t think Eva did either.
Her Christian faith did not make her suffering more bearable. Nor did it reduce her fear.
Heaven, the hypothetical consolation prize of death, is of little comfort. It does not bring back the people we have lost, nor does it help us hold onto treasured memories.
I try to hold onto the memories that predate her final battle with cancer.
I learned a lot from my mom, but I don’t know what she would have said about physician assisted death — a topic I wrote about in the Sept. 28 Times-Herald.
I try to think about what we learned throughout September 2008 and if her suffering was worthwhile.
I know she is still with me, and that my good choices are the best ways to remember and honour her.
There are people who suffer for much longer than a month before dying. Some people are killed instantly in collisions. There’s no sense comparing death to death. It’s crappy, and it’s reality.
To deal with death better, we have to talk about it, and we have to use the word.
Over-sensitivity, and a fear of being offensive, has muted important topics like assisted death, suicide, addictions and mental health from the national conversation.
Life and death are messy.
To make progress on important issues, we can’t sterilize the words we use. We have to analyze our own pain, question our biases, and challenge authority.
Actively making the world a better place is a good way to spend your time before you die.
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306 691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theaustinx