My neighbour Evelyn died last evening. She’d been feeling unwell for a couple days. I’d planned to drive her to a medical appointment yesterday but she cancelled, fearing she’d collapse.
I’ve been driving her to errands and appointments for awhile now. But mostly, I’d pop in just to visit with her. She was 12 years older than me, and the strength of her character is reflected in how she overcame challenge after challenge in life. Ultimately, her failing heart proved to be too difficult to surmount.
I don’t have a photo of Evelyn. This is her cat.
She was born in rural Saskatchewan to Metis stock. There wasn’t a lot of money. She married when she was still a teenager and had her son at age 20. Her husband proved to be abusive, especially when drunk and angry. Evelyn had the baby’s cot by her bed and slept with her hand resting on his small body. She eventually left her husband and was determined to raised her son on her own. She went to nursing school and became an operating room nurse, working regular overtime under the reign of bossy male surgeons. She told me of the time she spoke back to a surgeon as he was closing up a patient, telling him he’d left a sponge inside the patient. He argued that he certainly did not, but another look proved Evelyn was right.
She was never afraid to speak up against authority. This independent spirit led her to leave nursing and go to law school. She worked for years in administrative law.
She had a strong faith, and often went to sleep counting prayers with her rosary beads. She prayed mostly for her son, who throughout his life struggled with health and other challenges. She took pride in her role and mother and grandmother. At the same time, she kept many of her own mother’s possessions close at hand because they reminded her of the love she’d felt as a child.
Evelyn and I both share an independent spirit and a desire for control. We don’t like to ask for help. We have strong views on certain issues. We have faith in the goodness of humanity, but the idiots really piss us off.
When I heard the fire truck rumbling outside my home last night, I thought it was for my other neighbour who has dementia. Then I saw the two ambulances outside mine and Evelyn’s place, one an advanced care unit which is for heart patients. Evelyn’s son’s truck was in her driveway. I waited outside. Her son came out and said Evelyn had called him a half-hour before to say she needed to call 911 but was unable to get out of bed and unlock the door.
He and I watched as she was taken past us on the gurney. I was ready with a quip about how much male attention she was getting but her eyes were closed. She looked really sick. Then, as they prepared to load her into the ambulance, she lifted her head and her eyes opened. She saw us standing nearby. We both gave her a little wave. She waved back.
A short time later her son texted me, saying “Mom is gone.”
I keep thinking of her waving goodbye. Goodbye Evelyn. You left too soon.
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