“Oh dear, I’ll miss this place.” These words were quietly shared with me by my Mom as we left her favourite restaurant in Calgary nearly nine years ago. In the midst of a good night hug she told me, “This will be my last date.”
Fast forward to nearly a year later, as I summoned the courage to find the final words to share with my Mom as she drew closer to taking her last breath, I asked, “Do you remember our last date?” She squeezed my hand and said, “You are my best date.”
From as long ago as 1969 I can remember sensing when it was that I might not see someone again.
It started with my grandfather. He and my grandmother stepped off a city bus on Kensington Road in Calgary as I happened to be walking by. After a quick chat, a warm hug from both of them, I felt this uneasiness. It was towards my grandfather. I remember spinning around to wave good-bye to him. Two hours later, that day, I was told he died of a heart attack while watching sports in his easy chair. I would be the last grandchild to see him alive.
In 1987, my oldest brother Rick called to wish me a Merry Christmas. I was married at the time and remember telling my wife how uneasy I felt after saying good-bye to him. I said, “I think I need to go and see him.” Rick was living in a small town north of Edmonton and it was quite a trek to get there. Something nudged me to make the trip. It would be the last time I saw him alive. He died in March of 1988.
As a boy I was teased for being sensitive. As a closeted gay boy the story I made was that only sissy’s were sensitive. I got pretty adept at masking my sensitivity with an athletic, more masculine persona. I used the jock part of me to hide my sensitivity. To that I would add never feeling safe enough to tell anyone about this ‘sense’ I possessed.
Darcy was the first man I ever met who was living with hiv. His strength astonished me, as did his courage. It was early 1991 that he shared he was going home to visit his family and wanted to know if I would meet him for a tea before he left. Before accepting his invitation, I remember sensing that this might be the last time I saw him. Shrugging off the feeling, I quickly said yes to our tea date. A week later his former partner called to tell me Darcy died at home while visiting his family.
This ‘sense’, so I thought, was supposed to be relegated to family. Clearly, I was wrong.
It would be within the confines of therapy that I would feel safe enough to explore what this ‘sense’ was connected to or what I thought it meant to me. I distinctly remember the first question my therapist asked me relating to this dynamic in my life. “Is there anyone, you can remember, who told you in some way you possessed this strength?” First, he called it a strength and next I remembered my grandmother telling me, as a little boy, that I was special.
As my life has progressed and right up to only recently I now know how to use this sense, strength or specialness, as Grandma called it, as a way to be present with those I love. It is also empowering to share this story perhaps as a way for others to also relate to a specialness they possess. It helps me remember that I am not alone.
Today, this sensitivity is one of my many strengths. Listening to this sense has gifted me with seeing some friends and family for the very last time and never feeling regret for not showing up with them. For as much heartache as I have endured saying good-bye, I have been equally blessed with knowing I showed up when I was called. My gift through all of this is peace.