In tribute – Kam Wan Seto

I started writing this post nearly a year ago now. I didn’t quite have it in me to finish at that time, and so here I am, a year later, finally putting this up.

My dear, beautiful mama passed away a year ago today.

We lived somewhere between hope and despair for weeks, shuttling between home and the ICU.  Different futures flashed in front of us as the situation changed. I learned a lot about comas (Glasgow Coma Scale), strokes (infarcts), and things which I have no wish to describe publicly, about what death looks like.

There’s a lot I continue to feel sorrow over and process. I wish I knew her better as her own person rather than my mama only. Wish I learned her story, hopes and dreams. Knowing how much she gave of her life to my sisters and I, through periods of great scarcity, wish I had done better for her. Wish she was there for all the future highs and lows yet to come.

But I am grateful to my family for coming together when we needed to and supporting each other through this journey. I am also grateful to the friends and extended family who were there with the love, support, food, texts, any and everything in our time of need, then and now. I have a new found understanding of the universality of human emotions like grief and the sorrow of losing loved ones, of how to sit with pain, and how to feel with others. And for all the lost time, I have time, and the new-found lived knowledge to cultivate as strong a relationship as possible with my family now, not later.

There are so many more infinite details to say and share, but maybe the most important going forward. Be present in your life, and those of your loved ones. Take time. Make sure they know how much you care, and try to show them as best you can.  You never know what might happen. In honour of her life, I want share my tribute speech from the memorial, below. For obituary, please go to:

Family 005

Hi everyone.

I want to echo my sister’s words in thanking everyone for being here. Although these past weeks have been some of the most difficult of my life, I can’t tell you how appreciative my family and I are for your love and support, all the food and groceries, the car rides, everything.

I just wanted to add a few short words here today.

One of the things I’ve consistently heard over the past few weeks is how strong a lady my mom was.

I’ll have to agree.

Yes, she was a strong lady. In multiple ways, in fact.

First off, she was literally, quite strong. As Colleen mentioned, she was a regular yoga practitioner. When she first started, it was one way to help get stronger because the doctor was saying her bones were getting thinner and weaker. But at her most recent appointment, her bones were much stronger and back to normal. Not only that, but she could hold a 90 second plank – something that people half her age struggle with! Yes, she was a strong lady.

But mom’s true strength was as our family glue. She held our family together, teaching us and taking care of us through the ups and downs of life.

I don’t know what it could possibly be like to raise four children in a new country. The sleepless nights and long hours.

 What I do know is the memories I have, ones that demonstrate how much she gave to me, to us.

There were the little things, like walking home from school with my sister Irene on a bitterly cold winter day in Calgary. We’d be bundled up in our winter jackets and snow pants, boots and scarves. Every afternoon, without fail, Mom would have hot chocolate piping hot, ready for us the second we walked through the door. I remember wondering and actually even trying to calculate how she knew exactly when we would come because it seemed like true magic.

There were the times I would come crying to her, because of a skinned knee, or when I lost something, or if one of my older sisters was being mean. Whatever it was, she was always there with a big, gentle hug, telling me it would be OK. She was my safe place.

When we were sick, Mom was the one who would be up for us, rubbing Vicks Vapo-rub so hard into our chests it hurt.

There were the things that demanded consistency, day in and out. Every night growing up, mom made our family dinner and we all ate together around the table. My sister Irene and I used to moan and grumble about it. It wasn’t until I was much older, had moved out and could barely feed myself most days that I realized how lucky we were that she made sure we were always together for dinner – and hard it was to do, day in and out.

When I was a teenager and in my rebellious phase, I tried breaking all their rules, about curfews, sleepovers, parties – you name it, I broke it! Once, when I was so mad about all the rules and how unfair everything seemed and wanted to leave home, mom was the one who asked me to stay. And I did. For her. And she must have known something I didn’t, since it all worked out in the end. She was our glue during those tough times. A strong lady, mom was.

In fact, many of the gifts mom left us I have only realized much later, and these past days and weeks I’ve only learned more. I’m sure I will only continue to discover more secrets of her love and sacrifice for us. My mom devoted her life to raising the best kids she could. She had a hard life in many ways, a lot harder than anything than I have had to go through.

I can only hope now, to live and try to be the best I can in order to live up to and pay forward all she put into her family.

She gave so much to us, as her daughters, and I can’t thank her more for it.

 Thank you, Mom. I love you.

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