My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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a life

A day of fog and grief – and family and love. Blessed, truly. Two days ago, May, a friend of Mum’s, was at the hospital visiting her and called here, and I had my last talk with my mother. She was distressed, going on about being moved and asking May to check the number of her hospital room. I could hear how upset she was; it was heartbreaking. She had had enough.

It is terrible not to be there, to accompany a parent on her last journey. I was there with – for – my father. But the fact is that even if I’d been in Ottawa, I would not have been in her hospital room at 3 a.m. We talked two days ago, and I told her once again how much I loved her and that I’d be there soon. And she said she loved me, and to check her room number before I came.

One of the many blessings of today is that it has been years since both my children slept under this roof at the same time – and today, here they both were, offering their solid, warm comfort. And particularly, of course, my Eli, mesmerizingly cheerful, the pleasure of holding that strong, wriggly body, watching him absorb the world. Another blessing is that for the first time ever, we had decided not to cook a turkey and do the full Xmas thing – so we had little to do this difficult day except open presents and eat. And watch the Bob Marley documentary Anna had brought, which was wonderful. “No woman no cry… Everything’s gonna be all right.” What a fine musician and man.

The best moment of a very emotional day – after our Chinese take-out supper, during which Eli sat on a blanket on the floor nearby chewing on and waving about his new toys, my kids got down on the floor to play with him. He sat between them, waving his new Fisher Price hammer – yes, he has his own hammer now, and his own multicoloured cell phone – and his mother and his uncle played with him together. This moment of harmony, after all this family has been through over the years, was balm to my heart.

A few interesting things: yesterday, I happened to see the obituaries in the “Star,” and noticed the ones for December 25. Then I thought it was a bad idea to leave this life on Christmas Day, but now I don’t – because we will always be together to honour my mother on this day.

But also yesterday, I was determined, suddenly, to see the film “A Late Quartet.” Though it has been playing for a while and will continue to do so, it was urgent for me to see it yesterday, required juggling my friend Ron’s visit and other obligations. But I got there. It’s a spare film about a string quartet that’s falling apart, centred on their playing of Beethoven’s dark and haunting Opus 131. On my parents’ first date in Oxford England in 1944, my father took the stunning six foot tall Englishwoman to an apartment he’d managed to borrow where there was a record player, and they listened to records and wept together over the late Beethoven string quartets – my mother the pianist and my father who played the violin and viola. I owe my existence to Beethoven’s string quartets. My father played in an amateur quartet all the years of my growing up, though they were humble enough not often to attempt late Beethoven.

So I spent yesterday afternoon sitting in a cinema thinking of my parents, of their musicality and life-long commitment to making music. More than anything else, their love of music united them. A year ago, I would have taken Mum to see the film. I was going to ask her, today, if Dad’s quartet ever attempted Opus 131. I will never know.

Thank you, my mother, beautiful Sylvia Mary Leadbeater, for all you gave me – including my own love of music. You could have given no greater gift.

P.S. Friends who’ve read my blog or received word have been writing such kind notes. A Christmas of gifts and sadness.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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