Your life is the story you are leaving behind for others to read. Make every word count.
On January 7th, my mother-in-law passed away. Shirley May will be very much missed by the May/Broger clan. At the funeral visitations, many “Shirley” anecdotes were shared. As we drank tea and ate small sandwiches, many of us had a tale to tell. After all, our lives are composed of a series of stories, connected by time. When we leave this earth, our stories remain. It is our family and our friends who will fondly retell them to future generations. Funerals are sad, but people always recall the funny situations. Laughter brings people together. Humour enfolds us like a hug.
My Shirley Story:
In the spring of 1982, I was attending teachers’ college in Toronto and living in a small dorm room at the corner of Bloor and Spadina. My year of training was almost complete. I was engaged to be married to Darrel. All was good in my world.
But then, I awoke one morning with a crushing pain in my chest. I staggered to the phone and called my mother. I gasped into the phone, “Mom, I’m having a heart attack.” “Come home on the subway,” she suggested. “I’ll meet you at the Islington station and I’ll take you to see a doctor.”
I was dumfounded by her senseless recommendation. How could I possibly make it all the way from Bloor and Spadina to Islington and Eglinton? How would I manage to live that long? I would surely perish en route. I would die a quick and painful death, surrounded by strangers.
Somehow I managed to crawl to the subway station and collapse into a seat. I could feel my arteries slowly constrict. My breathing became shallow. I was rendered helpless – pale and clammy. It was the longest subway ride of my life!
My mother met me and we raced to Etobicoke General Hospital where I was seated in the waiting room with several other people. But it soon became obvious to me that they did not have the kind of life-threatening emergency that I did.
The desk attendant called for a person with a sliver. Next she called for a person with a rash. Meanwhile, I had only minutes to live! What kind of intake system was this? The pain in my chest was continuing to spread through my entire upper torso and my breathing was becoming alarmingly erratic. I could not find my pulse. Cardiac arrest was imminent.
I looked up and there was Shirley (my future mother-in-law) walking toward me, concerned but calm. She was an angel on the horizon.
I watched with trepidation as she went behind the counter and whispered to the staff. I hoped she was using her clout as a long-time emergency room volunteer to explain that her son’s girlfriend was in dire straits. She must have worked her magic because immediately my name was called!
I was so relieved to know she would be by my side. She would surely talk to me while they hooked me up to all those tubes and wires. She would hold my hand while the doctor used a defibrillator to administer electric shock to my weakened heart. I knew she would reassure me that all would be well. (As I recall, my own mom had gone back home by then.)
Approximately ten minutes later, Shirley and I exited the emergency department. I was clutching a sample-sized bottle of liquid antacid to help to alleviate my heartburn. I’d been advised by the doctor to stay away from spicy food for a while.
Shirley and I went out for a cup of tea and that was the end of that.
Our world will be very different without Shirley. We will remember her fondly and we will ensure her stories live on.