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Month: April 2019

My Mother’s Death and How it Affected My Family

Posted on April 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

In April 2007 my mother became very ill. In the few days before Easter she had what seemed like a normal cold. When she showed no sign of healing and actually got worse we knew something was wrong. She was spending more time in her room not wanting to get out of bed. She did not even want to go to bingo which had been her routine to go several times a week for what was going on years.

When Easter came she gathered her strength and made it through a family gathering for more than one event. We were hosting Easter dinner, my sons 2nd birthday and the baby shower for my unborn daughter all in one day. Towards the end of the day my Mother said goodbye and went downstairs to her room to lay down. After all the friends and family had left our house I went down to her room to see how she was doing. No improvement, her condition actually seemed to get worse. The next day she was coughing up thick bright green mucus so I told her that I wanted to drive her to the emergency room. She agreed to go and on april 09, 2007 in the late hours of the night about 10 pm we made our way to Sutter Roseville emergency room.

By the time we got there my mom could barely stand or walk on her own. she was shaking like a wet dog.
The staff got us back into a room very quickly and the proceeded to take blood from an i.v. add fluids to her system and take chest x-rays. They then discharged us very quickly. Told us that my mom had bronchitus and gave her a prescription for some cough syrup and antibiotics.

We stopped by sonic burger and got some drinks and tator tots. My mom kept saying to me “Thank you so much Tati if you hadn’t taken me to the hospital I could’ve died.” She kept repeating this over and over saying how much she appreciated me being there for her when she needed me to be all these years. Our next destination was Walgreens pharmacy on Madison Ave and Dewey Dr. in Fair Oaks. When we got there and turned in the prescription they informed us that the antibiotics she was prescribed were not covered by her insurance so they would call the hospital and find a suitable replacement medication for her so we walked around Walgreens until they got it cleared up. At this time it was about 1 am. After all the confusion we were on our way home.

The next day the weather was very nice and sunny outside. My mom was feeling much better so we decided to go out and do a little yard work together.. well i did the work and my mom sat on the porch keeping me company. At this point I should not have been doing to much physical activity considering i was about 6 1/2 months pregnant. I remember the sun was so bright and warm that i got a tan line between my shirt and my pants on my back, which is unusual because I never tan not even in a bathing suit out in the sun for 6 hours. After a few hours outside we decided it would be best to go inside so my mother could rest.

The rest of the day was unlike any other but my mother spent it in bed watching tv and visiting with the family. I cooked dinner that night and put the kids to bed for my mom since she was not feeling well enough to do it herself. I then visited with my mom for a while telling her goodbye and I love her before I made my way out for the night. That was the last time I spoke to her ever. I made it home very late that night and when I did my mother was asleep for the night which was normal.

On April 11 the very next day, when I woke my mother was still asleep. She stayed asleep for several hours which led us to believe that she was sleeping off whatever illness was taking over. We left a glass of fluids by the bed which seemed to emptying throughout the day so we assumed that she was waking up to drink then falling back asleep. The whole day she was sleeping she was breathing loudly almost snoring so we thought she was ok.
At about 7 am I was woken by my moms boyfriend who was saying to me “tati help me wake your mom up i cant do it” at that exact moment I knew something was terribly wrong. I went in the room and the bottom half of her body was purple, black and blue. She had brown fluid leaking out of her nose and mouth. I called 911 and the tried to tell me how to preform CPR. I could not understand in my state of panic and shock. I rolled my mother onto the ground from the bed and tried to resuscitate her but i had no luck.
When the paramedics got to our house they tried to save her, with medication and i.v.’s and a defibrillator. They loaded her up in the ambulance and took her to mercy san juan hospital. I followed in my car.

When I arrived they led me to a small room with 2 chairs and a small couch. Then told me to wait and someone would come see me soon and explain what was going on.. It seemed like forever in that small box of a room. Finally a nun came to see me and she told me that my mother had passed. I was so filled with horror and sadness. It seemed like a bad dream I was going to wake from soon. But no such luck. The Doctor came out and told me that they tried to work on her and save her but the best they could estimate was that she was already dead when the paramedics arrived. they said she had passed sometime in the night. Then they handed me a bag with all her jewelry she was wearing upon arrival.

I was then faced with the horrible job of calling everyone in my family and telling them that my mom had died. When you have such a large family its a daunting task. I first called my best friend so she could come to the hospital and support me in the task. I then had to call my grandmother and my sister, then my brother and they all came to the hospital. We were allowed an amount of time to see her body and have much needed closure. Believe me sometimes you just have to see it to actually believe it.

I think one of the worse sickening things I had the responsibility of doing was telling my youngest brothers and sister that mommy was not coming back ever. Soon after I got home and had to deal with that, many of my family members came by to support us,with food and telling good memories. There was a lot of crying just as I am as I sit here and write this now. You never realize how close your family is until a tragedy happens. That was by far one of the worst days of my life. I look back on it now and the only comfort I have is to know that she passed away peacefully in her sleep without pain and suffering and she is in a better place now guiding me and watching over my family.

It has been really hard without her and I miss her every day.. Sometimes I am angry with her for leaving me unprepared and it ripping my siblings away from me but I know there is a greater purpose for all of us and these things happen exactly how they are supposed to.. you know in the greater scheme of things.
I like to think that she is helping me every day do the right thing and make the right decisions for my family.

A Terrible Beauty

Posted on April 12, 2019 in Uncategorized

“Ryan, this is good work that speaks well to your creativity and ability to put a project together on a deadline. That said, I’m not sure, however, that it’s outstanding work, that clients would be willing to pay top dollar to receive. I mean it’s okay? It’s even good? But mediocrity comes in many guises, you understand.” The hiring manager at Johnson Westbury Advertising Agency, Judy Calder, a woman in her late forties, looked across her desk, over her designer, blue framed glasses at the aspiring candidate who was eager to gain a spot on the advertising firm’s copy writing team. After scanning his ten-page project for less than five minutes, it seemed her mind was summarily made up, not without a hint of malice. Judy had never had a serious romantic partner, much less, a husband. Family was not her thing. Her forté and battleground was the business world and she revelled not so much in building value and creating opportunity, as she did in demoralizing and defeating others.

Ryan Avery had been out of work now for twenty-four weeks, two weeks shy of the maximum term he was eligible to receive benefits that were woefully inadequate to meet a family’s needs, while cabinet ministers and senators of the federal government who make the laws gorged themselves at the boundless trough of Canadian taxpayers. At home, there was a quiet, but growing desperation brooding among his wife and three kids – two daughters and a son, aged from seven to twelve years. Prior to his unemployment, he had worked for the local daily newspaper in the advertising department for nearly ten years. With ever increasing competition from online advertisers, revenues had declined sharply at the paper over time, and inevitably, eventually, staff had to be let go, including Ryan.

“If Dad doesn’t find a job soon, what will happen to us, Mom?” asked Emily, their youngest, immediately after Ryan had left that morning. She had her arm around her pal Lucy’s neck, the family dog, like she was speaking on behalf of the two of them.

Her mother sighed, hesitating to address a seven year old’s valid concerns. “He’ll find a job, don’t worry. Come on, let’s feed Lucy.”

Ryan needed this job badly, and had just spent nearly three weeks on a mock assignment from Judy to create a project that would showcase his creative and writing talents. Now this matronly, mean-spirited, passive aggressive, woman, who had sent him on a wild goose chase three weeks ago, was feigning a warm smile and offering false encouragement, a perfect setup for the kill.

“I would suggest that you fine tune and develop your abilities further and approach us again in six months or a year. You’ve clearly got some native talent. Now we need to get a sense of your persistence, determination… your stick-to-itiveness, we like to call it.” She raised a clenched fist for emphasis. “But you’ll have to scoot for today, I’m afraid. I’ve got another meeting in five minutes. Best of luck to you.” She raised her eyebrows and smiled, as if victorious in abruptly dousing another person’s hopes.

Ryan tried not to look defeated, although inside he was simultaneously enraged and disgusted by her condescending posturing. He felt like a fool for playing into her phony little try-out game. He wasn’t auditioning for a part in the community theatre. He needed a job now, to pay the bills, to provide for his family, to buy food and clothing, to make the mortgage payments; and he certainly wasn’t about to go back to the drawing board at this spinsterly, bespeckled, old crow’s beckoning to toil away again for months on end for another pointless interview. Who the hell do they think they are, playing with people? he wondered internally.

“Miss Calder, in six months I’ll probably have been working for some other firm for around five months, possibly one of your competitors,” Ryan shot back, unable to contain his anger. “Best of luck? I’m not relying on luck, never have. I’ve got plenty of drive, rest assured. If you’re not prepared to find me a place on your team, I’ll work just as hard to land a position on someone else’s. Sorry, this was a big waste of time, especially mine.” He stood and made for the door as she sat there wide eyed at his audacity.

“Well if you think that kind of attitude,” she started… However, Ryan closed the door behind him and kept on walking, right past the receptionist and out into the corridor.

Once in the car, he sat blankly, dumbly, bewildered at his predicament. He started the engine, then turned it off, unable to continue. Now he was going to have to go home and face his wife, tell her he didn’t get the job, again, after months of trying. She would try to be sympathetic, as usual, but after six months of applications, interviews, scanning dozens of job boards on the internet, meeting with personnel placement firms, and desperately trying everything imaginable to find gainful employment, he wondered if even she was losing faith. How many times can you get turned down before you begin questioning your own worth? His eyes welled up and he put a trembling hand to his forehead. “Can it get worse than this? I’m supposed to be the provider. My wife, my kids, my family, our house… Oh, God!”


It was the middle of June and the weather seemed to be in sync with Ryan’s dark mood. Heavy, rain laden clouds bubbled up almost daily and dumped a deluge of water on the city, sometimes just for an hour or so, but other times for most of the day, until pools of water lay on the lawns and streets that were slow to drain away. In late spring, soggy weather was not unusual, but this year it seemed worse, if only perhaps, because of the string of bad luck Ryan had faced in recent months. First, the recession had lasted much longer than anyone would have predicted; the worldwide economy was still mired in debt and restraint and companies everywhere faced cutbacks and austerity measures; Ryan couldn’t find work anywhere; and he sensed a growing estrangement between he and his wife due to their financial troubles.

By the time he arrived home, his wife, Julia was finishing up folding laundry that had just come out of the dryer. “Well?” she inquired, with evident anticipation.

“No cigar,” he replied dejectedly. She looked on with an expression of despair and impatience.

“You’ve got to be kidding. So you worked on that silly assignment for nearly three weeks and they sent you home without an offer?”

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up,” Ryan replied matter-of-factly. He was beyond trying to put a positive spin on another turn-down.

She threw down the remainder of the clothes she was handling and marched into the kitchen. Ryan followed.

“What’s for dinner?” he asked, attempting to pivot the conversation to something more positive.

“On our budget, it’ll be something along the lines of canned Chef Boyardee, or sardines on toast with a side of steamed frozen vegetables,” she snapped back. “It’ll pair nicely with a classic jug of vintage ice water – for the whole family. Milk for the kids is just on weekends now.”

“Look, I’m trying,” Ryan replied. “I’ll find something. This can’t go on forever. Lots of good people are out of work.”

She paused and looked back at him. “I know. I’m sorry. Maybe I could ask my family for a loan. They’d understand.”

“No,” Ryan shot back emphatically. “We’ll get through this on our own.” He was too proud for that. As a young man, when he and Julia first married, he never doubted for a moment his ability to make a good living and provide for a family. It was how he was brought up. This was just a run of bad luck that would pass in time, he tried to convince himself. He walked into the family room and turned on the TV. It was five-fifteen and the evening news was on.

The weather segment was just beginning and the affable weather man was explaining the forecast with the aid of a large map. “And to our South, we have a high pressure system developing that is rotating counter clockwise in our direction. This is out of keeping with our usual weather patterns, which normally come from the west. The system approaching is a big one and we can accurately predict that it will bring rain, and lots of it,” he said, cheerfully. “So wherever you’re heading for the next few days, make sure you bring an umbrella, because this system will be with us until at least the end of the week, perhaps longer.”

“Perfect,” Ryan mumbled to himself. “That should help cheer everyone up.”

That night, by ten o’clock the rains began falling at an unrelenting rate that seemed to increase by the hour, all night long. It pounded against the bedroom window and hammered the roof above. Trying to get some sleep, all Ryan could hear was the constant whoosh of water running down the eves and all about the house.

“God, when’s it going to let up?” Julia whispered, pulling her pillow up around her head.

“Not ’til next week, according to the forecast,” Ryan said, still wide awake himself.

“You’d better check the basement. Remember, that crack by the window leaks when there’s a lot of water,” she reminded him.

“Ya, good idea,” he acknowledged, and threw back his covers. Once downstairs, he snapped on the lights and sure enough, a steady trickle of water was in progress down the concrete wall from an almost hairline sized crack. It was nothing serious however, and it was being channelled straight towards the drain in the floor. He’d deal with it tomorrow.

For now, he had to go to his young daughter who was always frightened by storms and was crying out from her bedroom. “Daddy,” Emily sobbed. “Is the storm going to wash us away, like in the Wizard of Oz?”

“No, honey. It’s only rainfall. It happens every spring and summer. You’re safe, don’t worry. Daddy’s here, and I love you. And so is Lucy, and she loves you too.” He held his little angel tightly to his chest as a loud clap of thunder echoed across a blackened, starless sky. Lucy growled at the thunder.

“Can I come, get in with you and mommy?”

“Sure. Then we’ll all be safe and warm together until morning,” and off they tip-toed like midnight bandits down the hall. Lucy followed along faithfully.


By morning, however, the rain was falling even harder. It was unimaginable how much water was pouring down from the sky. Like waves of storm surge that you see pounding the shorelines from a hurricane, it was falling to the streets from an angry, blue-black sky. Ryan turned on the morning news and that same weatherman was at it again. This time he was not so cheery about the developments.

“Well folks, we said it was going to rain and you’ll need no convincing that the rains are, indeed, upon us. So much so that Environment Canada has issued a flood alert. If you think it’s raining here in the city, it’s even worse in the foothills and at higher elevations in the mountains where the snow pack may suddenly melt and overwhelm all the river systems that head straight into Southern Alberta. That happens, there is a real possibility of flooding, so stay tuned for updates as they develop.”

Julia looked genuinely concerned. “Oh good lord, I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve lived here all my life. Do you think we’ll be alright if there is a flood?”

“Ryan thought about it. “I’m sure we’re safe here. The river must be a mile away. These weather people exaggerate the case to build a better story, encourage viewers to keep watching. It’s good for advertisers.” In truth, he was not nearly so optimistic as he pretended.

“Boys, finish up,” Ryan’s wife encouraged Zack and Jeremy, as they fiddled with their cereal bowls. “Dad will drive you to school today.”

“There is no school today,” said Zack, aged twelve. “It’s in our email. They got no electricity.”

“Yaaay!” chimed in his younger brother, Jeremy. “School sucks, anyway! The teachers are dumb.”

“Jeremy, I told you never to use that disgusting expression,” Julia admonished her young son.

“Well, it’s true… And what’s wrong with dumb?”

Distracted by a reminder that they had a leak in the basement the night before, Ryan pushed away from the table and proceeded downstairs to check on it. What he found was more than a leak by now. That minor crack in the concrete wall was spreading open like a fissure in the earth from a geologic tremor. Now it had widened to more than an inch and water was spurting in like a water line behind it had ruptured. A little river was running across the basement floor straight to the drain where it was being swallowed up like water running down the sink.

Ryan thought first of calling a plumber. Then he realized that the job required a concrete mason to fix the wall. After looking at the wall further, he noticed that it was slowly tilting inward, opening the crack ever wider. This problem was structural, and a general construction contractor would need to be hired. It would be an expensive fix. And I’ll pay him with what, Canadian Tire dollars? Ryan wondered.

Just then he was startled by a frantic scream from his wife upstairs. “Ryan, Ryan come here. Where are you? Water, water… Oh my God!”

In about three steps Ryan ascended the stairwell to the kitchen, where water was now coming in under the back door. Only weeks earlier had he put new weather stripping all around the doorframe to keep out drafts and bugs. But it was not enough to stop the torrent of water that was now assailing its lower perimeter.

“Towels, get me some towels!” he shouted to the boys.

“There’s beach towels in the hall closet,” Julia added.

Moments later Ryan had a half dozen towels in hand, which desperately packed all around the base outside the kitchen door. The rain pounded down with menacing intensity. When he re-entered the house a few moments later, he couldn’t have been more soaked than if he had stepped, fully clothed into the bathroom shower.

“What are we going to do?” Julia demanded. That water coming under the door had been slowed, but not stopped. Ryan gave no answer.

By now, the news had gone to round-the-clock coverage of the storm and, as predicted, the snow pack in the mountains had succumbed to the relentless, pouring rains and the rivers had become raging torrents of unbridled and unstoppable floodwater, and it was heading straight for the city. Residents were advised that a flash flood was on its way and to prepare for emergency measures. A water crisis was imminent.

Outside, Ryan noticed that the lawn was no longer visible and that a pool of water, perhaps a few inches deep covered the entire front yard and street. Water was flowing out of the storm sewers onto the street. The rain continued to pelt the ground at an astonishing velocity.

Lucy, their Sheppard-Lab cross, hadn’t been out of the house since yesterday and she huddled under the table, refusing in dog language to go anywhere near the door. Little Emily sat down beside her doggy and stroked her ears. “It’s okay, girl. You can wait in here with us. We’ll protect you.” The water was rising.

The weatherman continued. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we are advised that the Bow river has breached its banks and water is spreading to the surrounding areas at an alarming rate. As well, if it hasn’t already, the Elbow river is certain to do the same, and that translates to an imminent flood, the severity of which we can only wait out at this point. Emergency responders advise that evacuations will be likely so anyone in low-lying areas is advised to gather your essentials – medications, identification, cash, and the like, and be prepared to leave your premises if ordered to do so.

Julia: “Ryan, that’s us. We have to get out of here. Look at the rain coming down. It’s not letting up. This is definitely a low-lying area. “

Ryan replied, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. The river is a mile or so away. It couldn’t flood this far inland… Could it?”

That day the water pounded down relentlessly from all directions. It seemed to be coming from the sky, from all sides, from the ground, from every direction. Like refugees waiting out an invading army of marauders, they huddled together as a family and watched the watery storm outside their windows.

Julia’s parents had called and offered to share their house with them as they were situated on higher ground, but non-essential travel was not advised by the authorities as the streets were awash with now waist-high water in many places. As a family, they slept all together in the master bedroom. The boys removed the mattress off one of their beds and pulled it in to camp out on the floor. Kids can make almost anything fun. All night the water thundered against the walls and roof like a great flood of biblical proportions was being re-enacted. The water was rising.

The next morning after a sleepless night, Julia wandered down the stairs to put on some coffee, try and shake off the grogginess. When she reached the bottom stair, without really looking where she was going, she stepped ankle deep into floodwater pooling on the main floor of their house.

“Aahhhh!” she sighed at the surprising, cool wetness on her feet. She waded over to the kitchen door and looked downstairs. The basement was gone. It was now a sea of water to the top of the stairs, and it was still pouring with demonic ferocity outside. Overcome with frustration, she wept uncontrollably, “Oh, God, no, no, no!”

Ryan heard her crying from their bedroom and loped down to see what was wrong. “What is it now?” he almost plead.

“The water, it’s everywhere!” Julia sobbed. Now Ryan was on the bottom floor as well and he too was standing in water half way up his lower legs.

He reached for the light switch and flipped it on, as he had a thousand times before. At once there was a snap and a flash and he was thrown back against the wall. He fell to the floor, stunned by the jolt of electricity that had just surged through his body, before the power went off completely.

“Ryan! Oh, God, are you alright? Talk to me.” She held his head up out of the water. His body began convulsing and he coughed weakly. Miraculously, perhaps, he had survived what might well have been a death by electrocution.

“Is Dad okay? What happened?” It was Zack, standing at the top of the stairs with his arm around each of his younger siblings: Jeremy and little Emily, now bawling herself.

“Zack, call 911,” Julia barked out. “Dad needs medical help. Hurry!”

Outside, Julia heard heavy machinery coming down the street. She looked out. Amidst steady, unremitting rain, a procession of emergency vehicles was coming – fire trucks, ambulances, a bull dozer, a dump truck, a school bus, all of them slowly wading through at least three feet of water. Emergency responders were going door to door. A full evacuation was underway.

Zack returned. “The phone don’t work, not even a dial tone,” he advised, militarily.

Moments later someone was banging on the front door. Emily opened it and the rain showered in like a fan from a movie set was driving it. A torrent of water a metre high spilled in, bringing even more water into the house.

“Time to go Ma’am,” a man in a fireman’s yellow rubber garb ordered. “It’s a full-scale flood. You and yours can hop on that school bus. We’ll get you to safety. What’s the matter with him?” He looked down at Ryan, sitting on the stairs holding his head in his hands.

“Just a little accident. I’ll be alright,” Ryan spoke for himself.

“Kids, come on. We’re going, now!” Julia shouted up the stairs. “Let’s get going, hon,” she said to Ryan. “It’s our best chance to get to safety. The rain pounded in the front door like a scene from James Cameron’s ‘The Titanic’. The water was rising.

At once there was a groan and a sickening cracking sound from way below. The fireman jumped back, sensing imminent danger unfolding. “The house is moving… Everybody out now, now!” he demanded. “Your foundation is giving way. The ground is too soggy to support the weight of the structure.”

As ordered the family quickly exited the building and splashed their way through the watery street to the waiting school bus filled with other evacuees. Ryan and Julia looked back at their house from the bus just as it listed heavily to one side and the torrent of moving floodwater eased it off its footings. As if in slow motion, it disassembled itself in the murky water and drifted off in pieces. Their house was now completely destroyed, washed away like discarded lumber. Eddies swirled around pieces of remaining roof jutting out of the water.

“All gone,” little Emily said with a child’s innocence and sadness.

“Yeah, baby, all gone,” Ryan replied. He wondered how his life could have dissolved into such chaos and cried openly in front of his family and other onlookers.

Julia closed her eyes also and shed tears of unimaginable loss and grief: All their life possessions, hundreds of photos of the kids growing up, family, vacations, all their furniture, including her grandmother’s dining room suite passed down first to her mother, and then to Julia, her wedding dress, all of Zack and Jeremy’s sports memorabilia – trophies and awards, little Emily’s entire collection of teddy bears and dolls, all their legal documents, their appliances, their home theatre that Ryan was so proud of, everything. She had never thought of herself as a materialistic person but her sense of loss and defeat was overwhelming beyond imagination. Now what?

“Daddy,” little Emily tugged at her daddy’s sleeve.

“Yeah, honey?”

“What about Lucy?” Emily’s big blue eyes were fixed on Ryan’s.

Ryan and Julia looked at each other in horror.

“Oh, God,” Julia put her hand to her mouth, biting back tears even harder now.

“Daddy?” Now little Emily’s voice was registering heightened anxiety. She wanted an answer about her pet.

“We can’t worry about Lucy right now, sweetie. We have each other, and Lucy might be okay.”

“But she was in the house,” Emily reminded him of the obvious. And along with the rest of her family, Emily just saw the house disintegrate and float away.

Ryan looked at his young daughter, realizing that without lying outright, there was no satisfactory answer possible at this time. He put his arm around her as she sobbed quietly, and he felt another sense of failure. He should have remembered the dog and gotten her out of the house too. And he failed.


Hours later, the family was sitting on rolled out cots on the floor of a school gymnasium wrapped in blankets and towels supplied by the Red Cross. If nothing else, they had the assurance of sleeping someplace warm, dry, and safe tonight. Still, the shock and sadness of their loss was overwhelming and they were silent and grief stricken beyond words. A soup line had been set up at the far side of the gym and people were shuffling over in pairs and small groups to relieve their hunger and thirst. A pall of disaster hung over the evacuees and people were crying and talking softly in every corner of the building. How could something so devastating have happened in the course of two or three short days? The magnitude of loss and destruction across the city was beyond comprehension.

Now, the newscasts were reporting and filming the effects of the flood in virtually all corners of Southern Alberta. The City of Calgary and many surrounding towns were in ruin. Mud, debris, overturned cars and dumpsters, uprooted trees, and the wreckage of buildings were everywhere. Over 65,000 Calgarians had been displaced from their homes, many of which would never be salvageable. The drinking water had been compromised in most places and truckloads of bottled water were being distributed. The electricity had been completely turned off or destroyed throughout downtown and around other parts of the city. The transit system was out of commission. The site of the famed Calgary Stampede, billed as “the greatest outdoor show on earth” was completely submerged in water and mud. The home of the Calgary Flames and site of every major concert event that came to the city, the Calgary Saddledome, was filled with water to the tenth row of seats, and all the mechanical and electrical systems within it destroyed and irreparable.

Major roadways and traffic arteries were covered in mud and had been washed away in sections resulting in their closure indefinitely. Animals had been evacuated from the city zoo. Parklands and green spaces had been reduced to fields of soupy mud and silt. Southern Alberta was in a state of paralysis. Surveying the city of Calgary now, it was doubtful that it could ever be restored to any semblance of what it was three days ago. Mother nature had demonstrated once again the awesome destructive force she can casually unleash on mankind and how powerless we are to mount a defense. William Shakespeare had put it, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”

The City Mayor, Provincial Premier and Canadian Prime Minister had toured the destruction by helicopter (because roadways were impassable), and were now making statements and pledges of support and a commitment to rebuilding the entire region. The cost would be well into the billions and the Premier announced that it would take at least a decade for the province to recover financially.

Droves of volunteers sprung into action almost immediately initiating a cleanup effort. Complete strangers numbering in the thousands were working side by side helping others in any way possible to recover from the disaster. Companies large and small were pledging donations, some in the millions of dollars toward disaster relief. Banks were suspending mortgage, loan, and credit card payments so people could pay for emergency needs. The military had been brought in and young soldiers were working with shovels, sand bags, and water pumps aiding the civilian effort. In times of crisis like this something calls people to action, prompting them to pull together and set aside all other differences. The words of the late Irish writer William Butler Yeats, “A terrible beauty is born,” were cited by one reporter commenting on the massive cleanup effort underway.

And Ryan Avery and his family had lost every single thing they owned in the world. There would be no relief from any insurance they held because this was categorized as an “act of God,” and therefore did not qualify for compensation. Ryan had no job to go back to, and his employment insurance would provide only two more weekly payments.

Julia exhaled heavily and asked the rhetorical question, “What on earth are we going to do now? We’re ruined.”

Ryan had no answer that would provide any comfort. He stared at the floor.

“I’m going to live with my family,” Julia announced. “I’ll take the kids.”

Ryan still had his pride. “No, there has to be some other way we can get through this. Look around. There are thousands of other people in our shoes. We have to stay together.”

Julia would have none of it. “And stay together where? We can’t live in this gymnasium forever. Our house is gone. We have no equity in a house that’s no longer standing. We have no money to rent someplace else. We’ll need to eat.”

She paused, lost in thought. “The kids and I will go to my parents’ house. If you’re so determined that we can build a new life someplace, then go get it started. Let me know when you’re back on your feet and we’ll talk about it then. I wish you luck, Ryan… I really do. I’ll always love you and I want to see you thrive again in life, and business, and family. But right now we are desperate and we literally have nothing left in the world. My options right now are my parents’ house or the women’s shelter. Which do you think I should choose?”

Try as he might, Ryan couldn’t build an argument to counter her plan. He was speechless.

Julia stood, gathered the kids around her, and gave Ryan a pat on the shoulder.

“I love you.”

“Love you too… “

She and the children walked out of the gymnasium.

After watching them leave the building, Ryan looked around at all the survivors and decided that he was down but not out. His own father had once made a remark to him that stuck in his memory ever since boyhood, “Every man gets knocked down, son. But not every man gets back up. Show the world that you can take a punch.”

Ryan walked over to the volunteers at the soup line. He found the woman who seemed to be in charge. He approached her and she looked at him sympathetically.

“Hungry?” she asked.

“No. I’d like to help out.”

A Surrogate Mother’s Story

Posted on April 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

I want to share a story about a remarkable woman, who single-handedly re-calibrated my definition of generosity. It’s a story about my girlfriend and her journey through surrogate pregnancy. It’s about how our experience opened my eyes to some unrealized heroes in our society, who literally put their lives on the line.

A few years ago, Hailey decided to become a surrogate mother after looking into the possibility of carrying a baby for a close relative. That particular need didn’t come to fruition, however, the idea led to curiosity. That curiosity led to the love of my life scouring the Internet for facts and touching stories until the early hours of the morning.

The more research she did, the more she learned about countless women who were desperate to fulfill their destinies as mothers, but couldn’t due to circumstances beyond their control. It touched her on an emotional level that I, as a man, couldn’t even begin to fathom. Her sincerity and sympathy made my heart warm, and I felt myself fall in love with her a little more.

She decided she wanted to find a couple that couldn’t have a child naturally, and deliver one for them. This was one of those times where we agreed to disagree, at least in the beginning. She was adamant in her desire, while I felt leery about the whole idea. I didn’t want her taking on the burdens and responsibilities of pregnancy… for complete strangers.

I was also concerned about disrupting our lives on that level, injecting unnecessary stress into our relationship, and exposing our young children to such a confusing situation. I carefully expressed my thoughts, and told her I honestly did not want her to do it. I also assured her, that I would ultimately stand by any decision she made. I promised to support her and help in any way I could from beginning to end.

Hailey quickly found a couple who needed help, made the commitment, and began setting things in motion almost immediately. I was beyond scared. Everything was happening so fast, but I stayed true to my word, and backed her up every step of the way.

The process was intense, and involved a plethora of screening devices designed to gauge and examine everything from your mental and physical health to your lifestyle and the roots of your family tree. Both of us… poked, prodded, interviewed, and analyzed.

We gave blood and urine to eager nurses, and described what we saw in inkblots to attentive psychologists. We took tests, check-marked boxes, and signed our names hundreds of times. We vowed that we never shared intravenous needles, tortured animals, lit forest fires, or had sex with extraterrestrials.

They were thorough.

The clinic even called one afternoon demanding I explain why I tested positive for opiates. It was a legitimate prescription for Hydrocodone. I’d just had surgery on my leg and really needed them… I had to prove that immediately though, and I rushed out to fax them the papers. Eventually they declared Hailey fit to carry, and I was deemed capable of providing sufficient support.

The arduous series of events dragged on for months, and involved several trips from Providence to Boston. There were awkward meetings with the hopeful couple over “get-to-know-you” lunches and, of course, the mandatory group counseling sessions the four of us had to participate in.

There were painful nightly injections in the stomach and a menu of vitamins and supplements for Hailey to withstand and consume. With great discipline in her prescribed routine, she manipulated her hormones into an environment conducive to pregnancy. I imagined what it would be like to put myself through such things, and I knew two things were true.

One… I would never put myself through anything like this to help someone I barely knew.

Two… my girlfriend is, genuinely, a better person than I am.

Hailey’s resolve never wavered during the whole experience, and I started to feel like I was part of something special. I was fascinated and impressed by her. I was in awe and I was in love, as my eyes and heart opened to an immense and perfect mixture of generosity, courage, and strength. I was still uncomfortable and nervous about what she was doing, but I remained completely supportive.

It did turn out to be difficult… far worse than her three natural pregnancies. For the first few months, she could hardly be on her feet for more than a few minutes. Exhausted, she would sleep twenty hours a day, and always felt sick when she was awake. I did the best I could to make her as comfortable as possible, while she continued to amaze me and reiterate something I’d known for a long time… the love of my life was a very strong and special woman.

There were no complaints emanating from her often-dry lips, as one might rightfully expect. There was no second-guessing her decision to sacrifice her body and lifestyle, for the better part of a year. She shouldered the burden admirably in her effort to enrich the lives of this family. In spite of everything, when she was awake, she usually had a smile on her beautiful face.

Things did get a little better during the second trimester, and Hailey was able to function a little more, but this was a short-lived reprieve. The weakness and lethargy came back even more debilitating than before, and eventually led to doctor prescribed bed-rest for the last several weeks.

The harsh pregnancy, of course, was just a prelude to the excruciating physical pain of actually delivering the baby. The pain, in this unique experience, accompanied by the emotional perplexities of handing over the life you’ve nurtured for nine long months. Somehow, she got through all of that! Somehow, she did it!

A healthy little girl was born.

My aura defined proud in that delivery room… seeing the pure and contagious bliss on the faces of these parents, who had bonded with us through the preceding months and become our friends. I was elated. I thought our long and difficult journey was over… but I was wrong.

The day after they released her from the hospital, Hailey’s heart rate and blood pressure escalated to dangerous levels. She was dizzy and hot, sweating profusely, and her vision became a kaleidoscope of blurry colors. Scared to the edge of complete panic, she called 911… an ambulance rushed her to the emergency room.

They admitted her into the hospital immediately, and when I arrived with our five-year old son, to join her side by yet another hospital bed, it was obvious she was in some real danger. There was a quiet intensity in the air, as doctors and nurses alike kept a close and constant eye on her vital signs… trying to control them. She was genuinely scared, and icy horror started rushing through me. Now, I was feeling dizzy myself, and thinking…

“I’m going to lose my love.”

They diagnosed her with Preeclampsia, and told her she could have died. It was a living nightmare for both of us. Hailey was needle-fed magnesium through a steady, hypnotic drip, and wondering if she was going to live or not. She cried… imagining her own children growing up without their mommy, and her heart broke for them.

Every second that ticked by yanked our emotions in a new direction. I spent every day by her side, consoling her, and telling her that everything was going to be all right, even though sometimes I wasn’t so sure. When it was time to leave every night, I’d linger. I’d rub her hair and give her soft kisses. I’d hold her hand and tell us both, that nothing was going to happen to her. Our fingers would slip slowly apart, as I’d back out of the room, hoping I’d at least make it to my car… before the tears came

After five unbearable days and nights filled with troubling thoughts, her treatments were a success. Hailey regained her health steadily, and returned home to some very relieved children… and me.

We went through this ordeal, because she understands the infinite joys and rewards of motherhood, and she felt an irresistible need to share that. Hailey knows what a special gift it is to be a parent, and raise a child. She sympathizes greatly with those who desperately want that magic in their life, but can’t make it happen on their own. She made the bold decision to help and followed through with the most selfless display of sacrifice, conviction, and bravery I’ve ever witnessed.

I admire her. She’s a wonderful mother, an amazing woman, and an impressive human being. To me she’s a goddess. She followed her heart, and brought a happy, healthy baby into the world. A loving family is complete because of her, and that’s a gift very few people would be capable of giving.

Think about it.

Would you be willing to make such enormous sacrifices for the benefit of others… for people you don’t even know? Would you disrupt your life for the better part of a year, and endure such pain and discomfort for so long? How many of us would really put our own health and lives on the line to such extent for the causes we feel passionate about?

It’s this author’s belief, that surrogate mothers are heroes in our society, and I’m sure the countless families that have benefited from their unique generosity would agree. Women like Hailey, and countless surrogate mothers like her, are pillars of strength, beacons of inspiration, and harbingers of good will.

We’re both proud of what Hailey did, and there has never been any regret, but we have to acknowledge the fact that she could have died for her cause. With that said, we both agree, this was a one-time experience for us. So, if you or your partner ever consider involvement in a surrogate pregnancy, you should both take time to understand the full extent of the beauty… and the risks.