Today is September 3, 2018 and would have been Natalie’s 43rd birthday. Before she left us, she tried to write her last blog but she simply ran out of time. She asked us to write one last blog for her.
What would Natalie want all of you to know? I think if we are to remain true to this blog, she always gave everyone an update on her health, then she’d leave us all with some hope and something to think about so we would really embrace our lives.
In January Natalie started to experience pain in her side and back which as the weeks passed, we eventually found out were bone metastases. Truth be told Natalie always thought this would be the most difficult experience. We remember her talking about meeting people who were living with bone mets and how she would be telling them that was her worst fear about cancer and then they would laugh and tell her that they always thought brain mets would be the worst. I guess there is always going to be something that we fear in anticipation but when these things become part of our journey we just move on day to day as we always have. We never know how we’ll handle something until we are faced with it. Natalie handled this like everything else, with grace, humor and love…..and the occasional shot of Jaeger or her new found favorite….salted caramel Baileys Irish cream for a night cap. Natalie continued to care for her family and enjoy the little things in life.
In February we started to care more for her, first at home…..she did plan and orchestrate a lovely picnic for the girls for Valentines Day. “Any excuse for a picnic” it didn’t have to be nice outside. Shortly after that lovely day she moved into the beautiful palliative care room at Stonewall hospital. She quickly made it feel like home with her meditation corner with space for her dolls from Callanish, her Himalayan salt lamp, special stones form YACC retreats and her diffuser. Everyone commented on how nice her room smelled which just illustrates the power of our sense of smell and the connection it has with our memories. We remembered our Grandma from the smell of Avon lipstick or moth balls!! Natalie’s favourite was the peppermint oil she would dab along her hair line to help with the headaches. Many of us will be flooded with memories from a whiff of peppermint oil and can’t help but smile. So many friends and loved ones sent texts, videos and love from across Canada as she lived those last days. Her boys were able to visit often, sneaking in for cuddles in the middle of the day, because she was so close. Jeff and Natalie continued to show us what real love can achieve. Through the craziest of times, there was still laughter and such love. She had family movies playing on her television and lovely music in the background and her room was filled with love from family, never alone. On March 14, as the sunlight filled her room, Natalie took her last breaths in a loving embrace of her family. It was as she had pictured it, soft, peaceful and surrounded by love.
Natalie never stopped living. Up until her last few days she was trying to make plans, for herself and for us. She would plan meals. When the mystery fish arrived on her hospital tray, she looked at dad and said; “You know what would be really great?... pickerel.” Everyone laughed, but when the health care aid came in, she said, “You can take my tray, we’re having pickerel tonight.” So off Dad went for fish and chips. She planned most of her Celebration of Life. When she was choosing the music and the food, she had a huge smile and said, “It’s going to be quite the party, I wish I was going to be there.” When choosing the music she said you need to dance. We told her, “There will be no dancing that day, but maybe in the days to come.”
And there has been joy since that day. Natalie had spent time learning how to really live amongst all this chaos on this cancer journey. She taught us how to appreciate and participate in this life we’ve been given. So as we move forward we are feeling such sorrow but are still able to find joy in our lives. We know one of her greatest fears was that we would not be able to put one foot in front of the other. She worked very hard to make sure we were not going to let that happen. Natalie had participated in a process called ‘Dignity Therapy’. She left us a legacy of her hopes and wishes for her family. We try hard to move forward in a way that respects her wishes for us and reflects all that we have learned over the last eight and a half years. In so many ways we feel that she is present beside us as we move forward.
On August 18th we interred Natalie’s ashes at the Stonewall Cemetery.
Mom wrote the following words which Dad read out that day:
Natalie is always with us.
She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street.
She’s the smell of baking cookies and cinnamon buns.
She’s the cool hand on your brow when you don’t feel well.
She’s the sound of the cheering at the hockey game.
She’s the beautiful colours of rainbows and dragon flies.
She loves Christmas and the sound of our laughter.
She’s always beside us, helping us along our way.
She is our loving angel.
She’s in our hearts forever.
We do feel Natalie's presence, continuing to be a part of our lives and hope that you open yourself to feel her presence in the lives of all she loved.
We'd like to leave you with one of the last wishes she left for us:
Find your peace and breathe.
It's that simple.
Natalie had chosen the following songs for her celebration of life:
Laura and Christine