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Saturday, August 31, 2013


Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be a Debbie-downer post. However, it does deal with very personal and very honest feelings of grieving.
It's been quiet on my blog this summer and not due to lack of writing. In fact, I probably have 4 or 5 written and half-written blog entries that I have yet to post (including my next in my "Everybody Lies (and other simple truths)" series).  But there has been a lot going on in my heart and my head this summer and I felt like I was brushing it under the mat if I kept choosing to blog my other blogs before I blogged about this.
I have a half-written post and numerous casual references about my Aunts passing that happened this past March. But I have yet to fully address it in my blog because I didn't know how, or why or what to say. But I feel like it's time. For my own heart to heal, I feel like I need to speak out about her death beyond the four walls of my home. Because it has been so, so much bigger then that to me.
So here goes.
As most know, my Aunt passed away this March after a 4 year journey and very courageous fight with cancer. I can remember so clearly the day that my parents showed up at my apartment in Riverview (surprised us none the less) to deliver the news to me that she was diagnosed.
I was shocked. This was my Aunt Net. There was no way that she could have cancer, let alone to the magnitude that she was diagnosed. It was impossible. But it was true.
However, for the next four years I, as well as Aunt Net and my family were given the biggest gift. And that was the next four years. Yes, there were obviously struggles and really challenging times in her health. But for the most of that time, she lived a relatively normal lifestyle - which in and of itself was a true miracle. She had a very aggressive cancer and her original diagnoses was fairly grim. Despite that, she fought. She continued to live on her own, she was able to do a bit of travelling, and remained pretty much the vocal centre of all family gatherings (and I say "vocal" centre, because if you knew her, you would know just how many octaves the volume goes up at family gatherings when Aunt Net was present). It was wonderful. And it completely clouded my perception of her health. I thought for certain she would go into complete remission. I thought for sure, this was just a little blip in lifes journey and she would bounce back. I thought for sure I would, as promised, be visiting her at her Seniors home one day. Maybe I was in denial, but I never ever believed that this was the start of the end.
Fast forward to 1 year ago today. The fall of 2012. Myself and my family had finally moved home. And I was so happy. I felt like so much time had been lost and I had so much time to catch up with family after living away for nearly 10 years. This Monday is Aunt Net's birthday and this time last year I wanted to celebrate her birthday with her. So we invited my grandparents, my brother and his wife, and my Aunt over to my parents house. I made delicious cookies and cream cupcakes (because she loved cupcakes) and we enjoyed each others company. And I thought to myself over and over this is why I moved home. Family. It felt so right just to be living the normal, everyday life with my family again. And I loved it.
But then she started to not feel so good again. What was an amazing check up at the start of the summer turned out not to be amazing by the start of fall. The cancer was back (and when I say back, I only mean that because her last check up the cancer was so very minimal that she was probably as close as she could ever be to remission). She was immediately started again on chemo (which is something she only took for a very short period of time at the very beginning). Honestly, it was crappy, but I still never thought a whole lot of it. I felt like, it was just another hiccup and she would get through it. We would all get through it.
And then I will never forget the night that I heard the news. I was home alone with Gabe. I had just finished putting him to bed and Jason was out at work for the evening. I put some water on to boil and was about to make myself a poached egg for supper (I remember so vividly that I was looking forward to that poached egg like nobody's business for whatever reason). Then the phone rang and it was my dad. Him and mom were at my Uncles cottage for a few nights so I was happy to hear from him.  And then he told me Aunt Net was in the hospital.
That's ok. I thought, she was struggling with her breathing again and had been in before, so I was certain she would get everything taken care of and get back out.
Then he told me it was bad. The cancer was spread to her brain. She was never coming back home. She had 24-48 hours to live.
My world stopped. 20 minutes later my brother was at my door letting me cry into his shoulder.
She lived from that October until the very beginning of March. Much beyond the 24-48 hours she was given, but still not long enough. Those months consisted of many emotional roller coasters and we watched her seemingly get better (but were warned it was just the drugs). But I am so grateful for that time. The time that I could visit with her and be certain that she knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt my love for her. Even though it was never in question.
I ran my half marathon in February to raise money for cancer research. 100% motivated by my Aunts journey with cancer, I wanted to do something bigger then myself. Crossing that finish line, knowing I had accomplished that was one of the biggest highs of my life.
The next weekend was the biggest low of my life. She passed away. Although it was coming for months it still felt like it happened so suddenly. I was at work when my husband called me to tell me this was it. It was the end, for real this time. I walked into my managers office with a very brave face and just crumbled. He very graciously sent me home. I found courage I did not know that I had to sit with her in the hospital as she struggled through some of her last hours of life. And then, just like that, she was gone.
My Aunt Net was gone. My Aunt Net is gone. It still does not feel real.
She was and is so much more then an Aunt to me. Since I was potty trained (that was always her pre-requisite) her and I have had many many sleepovers and memories and outings together. Just me and her. We were pretty tight with many inside jokes and many heart to hearts. She never had kids and always told me when I was little that she was actually my birth mother (it was quite the elaborate story she would lay on me). I felt like I, was well as my other cousins, were her kids. And she did too.
She was my friend. My sister. My confident. My second mother for sure. My Aunt.
I was so looking forward to Gabe being another one of her children. He is crazy, just like her and I know they would have gotten along so well. Their time together was so short. The fact that she doesn't even know that I am pregnant again is painful. She would have been beyond thrilled offering advice and insight that only a nurse would know.
I miss her everyday. I think about her everyday. There are nights when I close my eyes and I am still scorned by the image of sitting with her in her dark hospital room. I can still feel the fan blowing on my face as it broke the silence between her laboured breaths. I can feel her unresponsive hand holding mine as I sat beside her crying and telling her how much I loved her. Angry that this was happening.
Like I said, her birthday is this Monday. And I think that is why I felt so compelled to write now. There are some days and weeks when all I know of it many countless happy memories with her. But there are other days and weeks, like this one, where I still struggle with the heartache of the loss.
I am selfish. I often think about how unfair it is to me. My time with her was stolen. I need to go have coffee with her, call her, talk to her. I moved all this way to be with family, and she is a huge part of that, now gone. I so want to make her a green birthday card this year. And red velvet cupcakes.
I know that time, and God, heal all pain. All broken hearts. But I do not think that can ever stop your love from missing someone. From wishing they could still be with you. And while my own grieving comes and goes in waves and I have so much joy in my life around my to fill my tank everyday. I still wish she was here. And I think I will.
Every day.
For the rest of my life.
Three years ago this past July. Pregnant with Gabe and with two of the most amazing women in my life. My mommy, me and my Aunt Net.



  1. This is so beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for being vulnerable. May you find peace as you lean into God and seek healing.

  2. Pregnancy makes it extra hard, doesn't it? I know that it was heartbreaking knowing that Dan's Dad would never get to know Gavin - never get to know that even existed. You just want to share your joy with these people who mean the world to you.

    I am so sorry that this weekend is going to be extra hard for you. I am sure that she would be honoured to know how much her life meant to you. xo

  3. A beautiful (difficult) post, Candice. Praying peace for you and the rest of your family as you carry on...

  4. Thank you so much for sharing, Candice. You have written such vulnerable, candid and beautiful words. I am so thankful to have even gotten a taste of what an awesome woman Aunt Annette was. Hoping that you find peace as you write. It can be so therapeutic, huh?
    Sending lots of love your way, friend.


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