Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Mother/Myself

My Mother/Myself is the title of a series of photographs that I created several years ago with some of my mother's dresses. In this series, I gave visual representation to my deep sorrow at having to bare witness to my mother's suffering from the later stages of Parkinson's Disease. 

My Mother/Myself 1 by Ingrid Mida 

My mother Magdalene Masak passed away on August 13, 2014 and her obituary was published in The Globe and Mail. I take much comfort from the fact that her suffering has ended and that I was with her for the last hour of her life. 

Magdalene Holzhaus Masak (about 1950)

This is the text from my tribute that I will give this afternoon at her memorial service:

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who came today to honour my mother as well as those who have sent their condolences. A special thank you goes to Reverend Claudine for being here with me shortly after my mom passed away to give her blessings on my mom’s journey to heaven, as well as for her beautiful service today.

If you knew my mom or spent any time with her, you knew that she was very particular and wanted things to be just so…. I suppose I’ve inherited that trait from her, and it doesn’t make us easy people to love. So a heartfelt thank you to all of you that loved my mom and that were patient and kind to her.  

My mother was born into difficult circumstances in Germany in 1931, but rarely spoke of the hardships she knew as a child. She never knew her father and she grew up without her mother’s presence or love, and suffered from both privation and starvation during the war. She came to Canada with the hope of a better life and learned English while working as a nanny to a family in Montreal. It was in Montreal that she met Frank Masak at a dance and the rest is history as they say.

Privation during the war made my mom very thrifty. Nothing was ever to be thrown away if it could be reused or recycled. She was green, before that even was a thing.

Education was especially important to my mom since she was denied the opportunity to go to university. She remade herself at age 40 when went back to high school to earn her diploma and then studied at Seneca College to become a library technician. She paid Tom and Peter to cook dinner and we all adjusted to having a working mom. After the arrival of her 7 grandchildren, my mother took a keen interest in their studies and loved to share the news when one of them brought home a stellar report card or a prize. She seemed particularly proud when I told her about my upcoming book and that I would begin my PhD studies in art history this fall.

My mother loved music. She took me to concerts as a child and we stood at the back of the concert hall or up in the rafters listening to classical music whenever and wherever we could. She took much joy in the musical accomplishments of her grandchildren, in particular Jon, who played piano as well as cello for her often.

My mother’s life was profoundly altered by Parkinson’s Disease. Sadly it was less than two years after my father died of complications of Parkinson’s Disease that she was diagnosed with the same cruel fate, and it robbed her of many joys that she might otherwise have partaken with her beloved grandchildren. She was deeply embarrassed by the tremors and she avoided joining in on family celebrations if she was having a bad day. Mike, Jon, Conrad, Glen, Matthew, Gaby and Geneva were deprived of her smile, even though she was feisty and spirited until the end.

There are so many people that deserve a special thank you. This place, her final home, was a good place – filled with people who showed her much kindness and patience. There are so many of you who ministered to her with such love and tenderness, including Violet, Sangeetha, Angela, Fely, Emily, Citas, Isah and Lina. I bow my hat to you for being so gentle, so kind and so tender with her. You were her angels on the ground – giving her the special care that she needed and the love that she craved.

I would also like to give extend my deepest thanks to all those that helped support me through this difficult journey with my mom, especially my dear friends Guela, Linda, Tracy and Maura. Thank you to my sons Mike and Jon, who were ever so patient with my mom and would visit her on their own, something that brought her much happiness, especially when Jon spoke or read to my mom in German, her native language. And I must also thank the love of my life, my husband Dan, for loving me through it all and holding me up when I did not think I could continue to bare witness to my mom’s profound suffering.

Not long after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I promised my mom that I would be there for her in the end. I found that journey over 13 years to be very difficult at times, but I am so grateful that I could be with my mom at the end for her last hour of life here on earth. I read Psalm 23 and her other favourite passages that she had underlined in her bible, and I whispered to her that we loved her and that it was time to join Peter and my father in heaven.

Her parting words to me on Saturday were “I love you more than you know”. It is those words that I share with you today, for although she might have said them sparingly, it was love that lived in her heart and that is her legacy. Her love lives on in each of us.