Oops! That moment when you accidentally phone a total stranger to announce the death of your own mother.
My mom passed away on March 20. I tend to be super sucky with dates—birthdays, anniversaries, death days are beyond my ken. (Speaking of ken, let’s spare a thought for Uncle Ken, my dad’s younger brother and now the oldest Snowsell left standing. I grew up fearing Uncle Ken because he was not a Christian. My dad discussed him with us only as a hopelessly lost sinner who rode motorbikes and chased the wind and/or women. He was a bogeyman I saw once every ten years. During the months that my dad lay in hospital with the soon-to-be-fatal pancreatitis, the Christians hardly came at all. Ken came pretty much every day. No one spent more time with my dad at the end than his younger brother Ken. Rode up to the hospital on his motorbike, like, literally almost every day, sometimes twice a day, and spent hours by his big brother’s side.) I remember my Mom dying in March because it came just two days after my dad’s birthday on March 18. My mom was already in palliative care on March 18, when my dad took my brother and I out for his special dinner, which he’d organized himself. Palliative care knew about my dad’s birthday and told us that we could eat all the food, any kind of food, in my mom’s room if we wanted. My dad didn’t want to move the party from the restaurant to the hospital: mom’s body needed rest, he said. He’d had his favourite restaurant--Mano’s in Saskatoon—special order lobsters for the occasion. I ate mine, and my steak, and I drank all the wine my dad poured. It was his birthday and his wife and if this is how he wanted it…
My mom died two nights later, oh around two in the morning. I was alone with her when she passed. You get so distraught in a moment like that that your brain actually does misfire. The nurses had left me alone with my mom. They said I should take my time and all that. I sat holding her hand for awhile but then you just get to feeling that maybe you should do something. I phoned my mom’s best friend. It was like 3 a.m. Her husband answered.
I blurted out, “My mom’s dead,” and then there was a lengthy pause.
“I’m really sorry,” he said.
I didn’t learn until ten years later that it wasn’t my mom’s best friend’s husband who answered the phone. It was her son. Her son is Ryan Boldt, singer and guitarist for The Deep Dark Woods, the alt-country band from Saskatoon (that's him pictured above). I cringe a little that the first person I told about my mom’s passing was a total stranger. Still, what I needed, in that moment of intense shock, when I didn’t know what I was doing, was a friendly voice and a kind word. Ryan, who I didn’t know at all, gave me that. There was so much empathy in his voice when he said those three words. He wasn't mumbling at me. He got what was going on, and in an instant somehow he knew how to help share my pain. I’ve still never met him, but I like his band a lot. I saw The Deep Dark Woods play at a bar in Kelowna. I have a story about that show, too; but maybe some other time.