When I was a little girl, I would sneak into my parents’ bed every morning and cuddle cuddle with my Mum before starting the day. And though I may be all grown up — and their queen-sized bed was not made for 3 adults — I still find every opportunity possible to cuddle with my Mum whenever I’m home. We are self-acclaimed cuddling superstars.
But yesterday, our cuddling was different. I held my Mum in a bed at Toronto General Hospital as she shook from an intense fever. I cradled her in my arms as tightly as possible and rubbed my arms against her back, her legs, kissed her head, anything to make her chills go away.
As I held her, I thought about one of our favourite childhood books, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Story goes a mother spent her entire life looking after her son. Whether he was a teething 2-year old, a hormone-driven teenager, or a grown man, she would sneak into his bedroom at night, cradle him in her arms and sing: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be”. And this went on for years and years, until one day she had become too old and frail. And so, the boy held his mother in his arms and sang to her: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my Mommy you’ll be.”
My Mum has held me through everything – more times than I can say here. But yesterday, it was my turn to hold her, to keep her warm, to keep her safe, to tell her everything would be okay. It’s tough. Seeing someone you love more than life itself suffer – and feeling like the only thing you can do is hold her for dear life, praying her cancers will go away.
When her fever finally broke, and she kicked off the 5 blankets on her, she immediately snapped into Mom-mode and asked me about my dinner date, and coached me through my work, and talked to me about the importance of leaving a legacy. I have seen these cancers make my Mum incredibly weak and vulnerable; I have held her hand as they stripped her of her hair; I have watched the pounds fall off of her. But what they haven’t done is touched her spirit, the stuff that makes her who she is. If anything, these cancers have made her even stronger, even more certain, even more beautiful.
As I sit here at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam waiting to board a flight to Nairobi, Kenya to finish up some work deliverables, my heart aches to be with my Mum. I am counting down the days until I can hold her again and sing to her, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my Mommy you’ll be.”