Therese, also known as Mom, Nana, Teresa, Tess, and Thez, took her last breath on Sunday, August 14th in North Vancouver at Berkley Care Centre. This was her home of the past 9 years and where she shared a room with our dad, Mario. She died at age 81 from the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mom and her twin sister Anne, were born in Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland on October 5, 1940. Mom was 1 of 6 kids in a devoutly Catholic family. Though she was bright and a fast learner, her school days were not easy. She was taught predominantly in Irish, a language she barely knew and she was independent-minded and outspoken in a time when these characteristics were not nurtured in children.
She grew up during World War II rationing and often told the story of the day her mom excitedly proclaimed that the twins were so lucky, they were going to get a ‘banana.’ Mom described herself as disgusted when the banana was presented. She, always the big dreamer, was convinced her mom had promised them a piana.
Mom completed her schooling in grade 10 and before she married and had children, she worked as a clerk in a butcher shop, a dental practice and a realtor’s office. When we were young adults Mom returned to the paid work world with a part-time job at Zellers. She was an excellent provider of customer service.
When we think about mom’s curiosities and aptitudes, we can imagine her having a career as an operating room nurse, a geriatric specialist or an engineer. In our family, mom was the one who used her wisdom and common sense to research ailments, navigate the healthcare system, program the VCR, fix the toaster, manage the finances and keep the books for our dad’s small business. She also coordinated and drove us to our plethora of extracurricular activities … all in the days before Google and GPS.
She told us that as a young woman she couldn’t imagine a future in Ireland and that she always knew she would marry a man named Mario. In 1965 Mom immigrated to Vancouver, following her oldest brother, Bob. She soon met our dad at a CP Express and Transport company dance and within a few short years they married, bought their family home just down the street from this church and had their two children.
With most of our relatives in Ireland and Italy, Mom and Dad created community and connection with several families and neighbours with whom we shared many, many, many festive occasions. Mom created for herself and for us, the village she left behind in Blackrock.
Mom was resilient, kind, fiery, frugal and devoted to those she loved. She was fiercely, though quietly, proud of the dreams she fulfilled for herself. She had a beautiful home, a healthy family, and she succeeded in creating for her two children endless opportunities to learn, explore and live with the privileges she was not afforded.
Her journey with Alzheimers began more than 15 years ago. It has been devastating to witness her illness and to juggle her care with that of our own families as well as supporting our Dad’s cognitive decline in recent years. It is heartbreaking to accept that Mom was robbed of her dream to be a doting Nana to her three grandchildren, Mia, Luca and Tecla.
Alongside the sorrow we’ve lived with over the years, there have also been gifts. We have learned about the beauty and importance of moments of joy and moments of connection. We have learned to accept what is so. We have learned who and what matters most.
Her death, dying and funeral planning has been a village-making event. Many hands and hearts have supported mom, Mario, me and our families, with Mom’s transition from her life on earth to the peace she now has. Thank you.
Mario and I appreciate all your heartfelt condolences. The past several years have been hard. We want you to know that this final goodbye to Mom is a release. She is finally at peace. She is free.
It is with sorrow and thanksgiving that we say goodbye.
All donations to Lions Gate Hospital will be going to support Margaret Fulton Care Centre as it was a big part of Nana’s care.