From the day I was born, until her death on February 24, 1998, my mum was there with me every step of the way. When my parents split up when I was 5, she and I moved to Belleville Ontario for a year. She worked hard to provide for me and I loved the time we spent together. As a result, we were even closer when my parents reunited and we moved back to Toronto. In the years that followed, I told her everything and our relationship blossomed. She was always there cheering me on at dance recitals, public speaking competitions, musicals, Brownie/Girl Guide events, school concerts and anything else that I was involved in. She and my dad worked hard to ensure that I was able to take advantage of every opportunity and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams.
When I was in the 7th grade, I suffered a concussion. We were doing low impact aerobics in gym class and for whatever reason, I fainted and hit my head pretty hard on the gym floor. My principal drove me home and I recall my mum tending to me and being pretty freaked out by the whole thing. She let me nap and woke me up every half hour or so to make sure I was ok. The 3rd or 4th time she woke me up, I couldn’t talk. An ambulance was called and I spent the night at Sick Kids. I remember her telling me later how scared she had been and worried she had been to lose me.
I lost her a little more than a year later.
In the 13 years that she’s been gone, there have been so many moments where I just wanted to be able to call her, ask her for advice or just have a hug. There have been countless times when I just wanted her to be there, like when I graduated from high school and musical theatre school, landed my first leading role, got engaged or subsequently broke up. While I have surrounded myself with amazing role models and wonderful friends and family, it’s never been the same as having my mum around to rely on.
In the fall I realized that I was still feeling this void around the time of mine and Ashley’s cabaret. Ashley and I both landed auditions for the Shaw Festival. It was really exciting and we both felt great walking out of the audition room. We were having lunch later that afternoon, recounting our experiences and getting excited about the cabaret. Ashley’s mom called and she spent the next couple minutes sharing the details of her day. Somewhere in the midst of that phone conversation, I started to feel really sad. I became very quiet and withdrawn and was doing everything I could to hold back the tears that had welled up.
I would have given anything to get that phone call from my mom.
When she got off the phone, Ashley asked what was wrong and the tears started to stream down my face as I tried to explain how I was feeling. It seemed selfish and weird, but I couldn’t help it; I missed my mum so much in that moment and desperately wanted her to call me and share in the joy of my audition and get excited about the cabaret. While surprised that I was still feeling her absence so intensely, I realized that those feelings will never go away and that there will be times in the years to come where I’ll just want my mum to be there.
When I land my next big stage role.
When I’ve had a bad day.
When I need to make a big decision.
When I want to talk about ‘girl stuff’.
When I get married.
When I become a mother.
Any time something exciting/sad/happy/extraordinary/mundane happens, I know I’ll wish she was around to share it with me. I’ve never felt angry at her for taking her own life, but at times I can’t help but feel that she’s missed so many more things in the years that have followed her death. Depression is an incredibly scary illness and it makes me sad to know that she couldn’t see beyond the feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation to hold out for a few more years to follow my life into adulthood. She had countless people who loved and cared for her and so many things to live for, but her mental illness cast a dark shadow over those facts.
It would be easy to wallow in sadness over all that we both missed out on as a result of her premature death, but wallowing isn’t really my style. Her suicide has been hard to understand and challenging to accept, but I’ve never truly felt angry at her because in her 13 years on earth, my mum taught me a lot. My mum taught me about compassion and how to be a great listener. She taught me about unconditional love. She taught me to laugh loudly. She taught me to be tough and stick up for myself.
And her death taught me more about myself than anything else so far.
I know that I am who I am because of her and the moments we spent together. For the rest of my life, February 24 will come and go and I’ll be reminded of the beautiful woman that she was. I miss her every day and whenever I think of her, I’m thankful for the 13 years of my life I had with her and everything that she taught me.