April is not a month that is near and dear to my heart. It is the month my mother died, on Good Friday, on her own terms. She told me that she would not die before Easter because she knew that if she did, a Ukrainian song that she hated would be sung at her grave. Instead, she wanted a different tune sung, which could only happen if she were buried after Easter. “Christ is risen, death is vanquished, and to those in the graves he granted life.” This is the song she wanted to hear, and so she hung on through that holy week, patiently waiting for Friday to come.
My mom was a strong woman, in mind, in spirit, and in self. Some liked that about her, and some did not. She was strongly opinionated, and wasn’t concerned that others might find her opinions offensive, although she never went out of her way to deliberately hurt or offend anyone. There were many times she held her tongue when she had the opportunity to say something scathing and hurtful, because she had the wisdom to know she might later regret those comments. She rarely spoke when she was angry, and she was not angry often.
She was an optimist to the nth degree, and lived life with a sense of awe and wonder.
She loved to learn about far-away lands, and anyone who was even barely acquainted with her knew she had a passion for anything Hawaiian. Music, dance, the beaches, mountains, valleys, and its people. She saw every movie that was filmed anywhere in the Pacific and dreamed…
She loved animals, all animals; ones that couldn’t stand anyone else, ones that hissed and spit, ones that bared their teeth and bit, and others that were just plain nasty to everyone else, loved my mom. She was the original animal whisperer. She grew up on a farm naming chickens and horses, stray dogs and cats, and even ran away once with the family pig, hoping to help it escape its inevitable fate. Once on her dinner plate, she refused to eat it. She could not abide cruelty, and when she was only five, kicked a neighbour as hard as she could because he had shot the family dog.
My mom was an average student at school, but was a brilliant self- taught scholar. She read voraciously, and loved everything from history to fantasy. She was a huge “Trekkie” and loved all things science fiction. She often wished she could travel to distant stars. She had an adventurous spirit, and a genuine curiosity about . . . well . . . everything!
Her early life didn’t exactly turn out like the one she’d dreamed of . . . Pregnant at 18, followed by a hasty elopement to a man her parents despised, (and one who would never be, could never be a true husband or father.) Forced to live with a mother-in-law who hated her and called her a whore; bearing an estrangement from a father who meant everything to her, and looking after a baby she had no idea how to look after. No, it was not the life of her dreams.
As an optimist and romantic, she did the only thing she could. She divorced my father, re-established a relationship with her mother and father, and then escaped mentally and emotionally into a job she loved, and into the arms of the love of her life. Unfortunately, he was a married Catholic, and the relationship ended when he drowned on vacation somewhere in the Caribbean.
She moved in with her mom, or should I say, we moved in with her mom, and the two of us literally and emotionally “grew up” together. My mom showered me with a tactile love her mom could never show her, the lack of which she eventually accepted as a generational flaw. She reconnected with her Ukrainian roots and came back to the community she’d been raised in. She found a new life there for herself and me.
We sang together in choirs, even danced together once in a show in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was her last show after which it took several people to pull her dance boots off her swollen feet and ankles. She swore, never again!
My mom accomplished remarkable things such as becoming one of the first female bank managers in Canada, and THE first for the C.I.B.C. She became comptroller of a company with math skills she basically taught herself.
She was smart, fun to be with, a loyal friend, and a wonderful mom. Was she perfect? Of course not, none of us are. She had flaws like the rest of us. She could be unyielding in her decisions, never uttering an “I’m sorry.” She believed in being tough…always, so empathy was not her strongest suit. But I know she did her best, and I know whatever she did, she did out of love. As she matured, she gained an understanding of her own mother, just as my own maturation has gained me an appreciation and deeper understanding of her.
Growing up, my mom and I were like the Gilmore Girls, except for the best-friends part. My mom had strong parental boundaries, and I always knew she was the boss. She granted me a great deal of leeway growing up, but when I broke rules or curfews, she always followed through on whatever punishment she’d already prepared me for.
As an adult I have of course forged my own path in the world, and made decisions I know she would not necessarily agree with. There are ways in which I have brought up my children that would make her cringe. There are choices I have made that would have her shaking her head, but through it all I know she loved me, and loves me still.
I credit and thank her for instilling in me a sense of awe and wonder about our world and the ones beyond our horizons; a love of reading; my deep love for animals; my abhorment of cruelty; my sense of humour; my love of all things Star Trek; my faith in God, and many more things that if listed, would make this blog too long to read.
She had many qualities that I have not inherited, but strive to incorporate into my life. Patience, optimism, holding one’s tongue, and one of my favourites, “pick your battles.”
When my mom was in her final stages of life, I asked her if she was scared of dying, her reply? “NO! It’s the next big adventure.” I hope the adventure has far exceeded her expectations and imagination!
On the fifth anniversary of her death, my husband and I took her to her final resting place, a beautiful sacred garden on Oahu, and placed her ashes in amongst the trees and flowers she loved so much, to rest in perpetuity. We knew she was pleased when a sudden and dramatic gust of wind suddenly arose out of a calm, windless day, and subsided just as quickly.
Motria Myrna Bedry-Drake -April 5th, 1937 – April 18th, 2003 – my mom, and one of the bravest women I’ve ever met.
Christ is risen, death is vanquished, and to those in the graves, he granted life.