The Best of Intentions (by Grant Bentley)

The Best of Intentions

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

If you are looking for a happy Christmas story, this isnít it.
We usually think of Christmas as a happy time: a tree surrounded by presents,
happy children, a feast with everyone sitting around the table, a time when we enjoy ourselves.
Unfortunately, Christmas might not always be that way. Those stories also need to be told.

My Mum was the most amazing wonderful Mum who ever existed. She was a war bride and came to Canada right after the war. She came from Hertfordshire, where life was modern and comfortable, to a farm near Horen Alberta, in the middle of nowhere, without a single modern convenience.

She had planned on window shopping at Seba Beach train station as she waited for my grandparents to pick her up. I can only imagine what ran through her mind when she stepped off the train and found herself standing in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, and discovered the train station was a 6ft by 9ft shelter from the snow or rain. God knows, if it were me, I would have been chasing the train down the tracks as soon as I got a good look around and saw the railway station.

My grandparents arrived and she rode the nine miles to the farm in the back of a horse-drawn wagon along a bumpy trail to the farm. There wasn’t even a real road yet. But, she stayed, and in no time, she was feeding the pigs, milking the cows, cooking on a coal and wood stove, and going to the toilet thirty feet from the house.

Not to say my dad  didn’t work hard, because he did, nevertheless things were tough. Through countless hardships, Mum sacrificed her needs to keep food on the table or clothes on our backs, she made the best of it, and made a wonderful life for my siblings and me.

Then came the Christmas of 1990. I was teaching in a small town east of Calgary at that time. I drove up with the expectations of Christmas with the family at Seba and later, a few days with friends in Edmonton as usual. When I got home, Mum was sitting in the rocker in a dressing gown looking very fragile. I got my usual big smile and hug. When I questioned her as to what was wrong, she told me it was nothing serious and not to worry. We were going to enjoy Christmas and forget about her silly disease.

We did have a wonderful Christmas together. We talked, we laughed, we made plans, we teased each other, and ate way too much. I bought her a jigsaw puzzle and we joked about the two of us trying to put it together the next time I was up. She was looking much better and feeling very upbeat after Christmas, so I went to my friends in Edmonton and celebrated New Year’s with them before heading home to rest up and prepare for the last few weeks of school and diploma exams.

A few days after I arrived home, I got a call from my dad saying Mum was back in hospital and maybe had two or three days left to live. I was on my way back immediately. When I got there, I discovered she had advanced liver cancer.

Mum was in a different world. She didn’t recognize us except for the occasional moment which passed almost before it began. Three days later, she was gone. I was devastated. Losing my mother was the most traumatic event of my life. But, under the circumstances, it seemed even worse.

She knew she had only days left to live and she didn’t tell me. But Mum being Mum, didn’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas, including mine and my time with my friends. I understood what she did. She did what she thought would make me happy. To this day I have no idea how she was able to keep going as if nothing was seriously wrong, all the while knowing she was dying.

However good her intentions were, I had missed spending the last ten days of her life with her. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize that I would have given up anything to have been with her in her last days. Those days, to me, would have been more precious than anything. I felt robbed. I felt angry.

A part of me died the day Mum died and somewhere deep inside, I felt because I missed out on those last few days, more of me died than should have. Knowing how she always put everyone’s needs ahead of her own, it wasn’t hard to forgive her. She was just being Mum. I loved my mum more than anyone on the face of the earth and every second I could have spent with her would have meant more to me than life itself.

Twenty three years later, I still don’t celebrate Christmas. It is not a time of joy for me and never will be.

Love You Mum.

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.