One of the most profound ways I knew I’d be ok, while growing up, was that I could smell the freshly baked bread my Mom had just made. There was not a lot of food for myself and at times nine other siblings but when I smelled bread baking, life was good.
During the last conversation I had with my Mom prior to her dying, she made it very clear she did not want to talk about how she was feeling. Mom was sure about ‘what to and what not to’ waste her breath on.
So instead I asked if she remembered our date, what she called her ‘last date’? She smiled and nodded yes.
In 2006, I had called her from Vancouver; she lived in Calgary and I asked if she wanted to go out on a date. Puzzled, she said to me, “But dear, you’re in Vancouver and frankly I’m not feeling all that well.” I told her I’d jump on a plane and be there in a couple of hours. She said, “Sure. What the hell.”
By the time I arrived at her home she was dressed and ready to go. I received full instructions from my brother on the levels of oxygen in her portable tank and what to do if something malfunctioned.
Mom chose ‘The Keg’. She loved the ‘Surf and Turf’ – so off we went.
We were able to get a booth just inside the restaurant, not too far for Mom to walk. She was in her glory and made it clear to all that tended to her that I was ‘her date’. I felt so blessed to be with her.
As she took the last sip of her rum and coke she said, “You know Kev (Kevin is my middle name), this will be my last date.” I grabbed her hand and thanked her for being with me.
As that memory faded and her smile receded, I quickly asked if she’d be interested in one more date. I watched her attempt to make sense of what she just heard me ask. I’m sure she thought, “I’m about to die and there’s no way I can go anywhere.”
Mom was used to weird requests from me. She took a deep breath and said, “Yes dear.”
I asked her to remember Merritt Lake in Oakland and the rowboat her Father took her on when she was three years old. It’s like her whole body smiled to the memory.
I asked, “Do you remember our time there together?” She quickly uttered, “Oh my God do I ever.” She continued to share by saying, “And I still can feel the rowboat rocking as Dad rowed around the lake.”
I heard Mom talk about this memory while growing up. So I decided to do a little research and find this lake in the middle of Oakland. I must admit, part of me did not think it existed, but it did and in 1978 I took Mom there.
I have this photograph of her standing on the pier that the rowboats were launched from and when I showed her the picture I asked, “What were you thinking about?” Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “I wasn’t thinking anything. I was feeling the boat rocking and the presence of my Dad.”
The ‘one more’ date I asked my Mom to go on was a meeting with me back at that pier in Oakland. I asked her to join me there, on her birthday, in May of 2007, she agreed. Mom would take her last breath on October 25th, 2006.
As I made my way to Oakland on the BART from San Francisco on May 24th, 2007, I suddenly realized I had no idea where I was going. It had been 30+ years since I was there with Mom. So I gently closed my eyes and asked the Universe for some help. After all, I did not want to be late for my date.
Just as I got off the train my dear friend Jeffry called and simply told me to use all my faculties to connect with Mom. “Faculties? What the hell are you talking about?” He said, “I don’t know. Just be open to other ways of seeing your Mom.” I thanked him and hung up.
At the top of the stairs, on the first stop of the BART, I had no idea where I was. Suddenly and with a giant smile this man appeared and asked, “Can I help you find your way?” I asked if he could point me to Merritt Lake. His directions were amazing and suddenly a rush of memories came up and I remembered walking this way with Mom. I heard myself murmur, “I’m coming Mom.”
As I arrived at the lake I was able to see the pier Mom stood on some 30 years ago. I could not get to it because it was being renovated. So my quandary now was, where do I meet Mom?
So instead of figuring it out, I asked, “Mom, where do you want me to meet you?” Just then an elderly woman, perhaps in her late sixties, spread out a blanket and placed two small children on it. Perhaps this was their favorite picnic spot. The woman looked over at me and simply smiled. I sensed she knew I was looking for someone.
I moved a little closer to the pier, wondering if maybe I had been stood up.
Suddenly I smelled bread; freshly baked bread. I began to cry. I remember saying, “Thank you for joining me, Mom. It’s great to feel you again.” I stood there for what seemed an eternity and then whispered, “It’s time to say good-bye, and I love you, Mom.”
As quickly as that final word, ‘Mom’, trickled off my lips, the smell of baked bread disappeared.