When Mother’s Day isn’t ‘Happy’


Mom insisted that I send no Mother’s Day flowers this year.  I can’t blame her if she can’t look at thday the same, not yet anyway.  The cruelty this year, in particular, stems from the fact that this second Sunday in May, May 9,  was the day in 2007 when Mom’s first-born, Craig, died of his injuries at the Montréal Neurological Institute, days before he would have turned fifty-two on May 13.  The cards-and-flowers day first lost its shimmer even earlier with the death, on May 4, 2002, of Mom’s best friend – my Dad – just a couple of  months shy of their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

It’s all just a little too much. 

It is of little consolation that Craig and I, when things were different, did not expect to live beyond the 1990s.  We were all getting gratefully accustomed to the change in health outlook for HIV/AIDS.  Craig had even survived several years of angina, stents and – not much more than a year before his fall – quadruple bypass surgery.  It was the suddenness of Craig’s freak accident, and the immediate rush to unconsciousness, that is so painful to reconcile.  Now we know, because he showed absolutely no agitation for two weeks, that he was not in pain. 

A consolation, yes.

Just like when Mom looked out in the garden and saw Dad, digging lightly one minute and sprawled dead on the ground shortly thereafter, he didn’t suffer. 

More consolation.

The very least one can say when words fail. 

But Mom’s history of being thought of as “strong” wears thin when it is equated with her being consistently okay, like some unfeeling rock which just buffets any and all lashes.  I can see and hear her weariness, as she fast approaches eighty, better than perhaps I wanted to in the past.

On the phone today, Mom told me about her drive out to the cemetery this afternoon.  Tulips which Claude – along with our niece and nephew, my sister and me – planted last Thanksgiving were blooming today.  They weren’t all white, as Claude had thought, but Mom says they show that both Dad’s and Craig’s graves are important to us - nothing artificial, no kitschy decorations.

To anyone whose mother has died, or to a mother who has also lost a child, you might be tempted to wish the day would just be over with – like my Mom this year.  I can understand this, through seeing her grief.  You might also use the day to celebrate your very best memories, as I’m sure we all can, whether this year or some other time.

Although I fear the day when she may pre-decease me – but we know not to assume that – Mom, in the meantime, remains a rock to me. 

A crystal, perhaps, like a rose quartz or amethyst.

Craig’s death – one year later (updated May 15, 2008)


Friday
It was one year ago today (May 9), while my sister Lynn and Craig’s partner Claude slipped out for a bite of lunch, that Craig took his leave from us in his Montreal hospital room.

This has been an amazing week for Mom, Claude and me as the inaugural presentation of the Chaplin Memorial Award was made at Convocation ceremonies of McGill University’s United Theological College.

I spoke first, then Claude did so in French and then the recipient, Jim Loney, was introduced and his suitability for the award well-articulated. (To read the text of his address click here.)

Here’s how I introduced the proceedings:

On behalf of Claude and my mother Madeline, both here today, and my sisters Lynn and Janice and their families, I would first like to thank the college for choosing this Affirming congregation, where Craig served with such enthusiasm, and was held in such love by the congregation, as the venue for today’s ceremonies.

In 1995 Craig made the request of UTC that, upon his death and with a gift which he would provide, the College create an award recognizing the powerful and passionate ministries of gay and lesbian persons throughout our church and beyond. This would be an opportunity to “honour those whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear embodiment of such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice and a sustainable environment, and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.” It was also, unapologetically, a way in which to raise up gay and lesbian role models to give hope, particularly to young gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. UTC has chosen to name this award in memory of Craig for which, of course, we are most grateful.

When Craig first conceived of the award he had no idea that he would live long enough for the list of potential recipients to grow as long as it was – and will be for some time. However, when we heard that James Loney was to be this inaugural year’s recipient we knew that Craig would be so pleased, humbled even, considering the world-renowned faithful, courageous witness and, may I say, the social justice gravitas of Jim.

This week marks the first anniversary of Craig’s death.

For even a part of Craig’s spirit to live on in you through this award, James, is an honour for those of us who loved him.

Claude followed, speaking in his native French language, and described Craig’s feelings that the closet might kill him before HIV/AIDS. Craig was determined to lift up the potential of people of faith who were, or saw themselves as, marginalized as a result of their sexual orientation.

Even as laws in Quebec and Canada have evolved favourably there are still too many suicides, too much discrimination and homophobia. Claude said how proud he was of The United Church of Canada for its welcoming policies which remain light-years ahead of other faith communities, and that his love of Craig could be publicly honoured.

It was a wonderful afternoon, the award being only one part of the convocation ceremonies, and we met old friends, became acquainted with new ones, and felt Craig’s influence, presence even, as we often remarked, “Wouldn’t he have loved (this or that?)”

To my left: Claude, Jim and his partner Dan

I spoke to Mom this evening. Back home in Perth now she ran some errands today, trying to keep busy. As per a special request from Claude, she also laid flowers at Craig’s grave. It’s only six years ago this week that Dad was buried in the adjoining plot.

The first part of Mom’s May is full of memorable – most not happy – dates: Dad’s death on the 4th (six years ago), his burial a few days later, Craig’s death last year, his birthday (the 13th), his memorial service the next day, and burial on the 15th.

Saturday

I’ve added the picture of a bouquet I put together Saturday afternoon. They’ll be placed in Craig’s memory at the front of my church tomorrow. White irises were Craig’s favourite and I’ve added the Birds of Paradise because they reminded me of the flames of Pentectost, which we celebrate tomorrow.

Craig hated having his picture taken – hated it – but this was one he consented to with his late, beloved terrier Wesley. I took this picture of his picture along with a vase full of his favourite flower – the white iris.

I found this reference by Dominique to Craig’s award and am very happy to have another link of interest to put on my blog.

Tuesday, May 13

May 13 was Craig’s birthday. He would have been 53 today. On this day last year (which was a Sunday – Mother’s Day) my sister and brother-in-law, and my young niece and nephew, drove Mom and me to Montréal from Perth. Another sister and Joslyn and Claude were waiting for us. The next evening, the 14th, Craig’s memorial service was to be held.

Craig’s birthday…Mother’s Day…is it any wonder Mom wanted it low-key this past Sunday?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jim Loney’s Convocation Address has been added to the UTC site. (To read the text of his address click here.)


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