I Love You

My goodness I have been suffering from something between writers block, cat-got-your-tongue and utter speechlessness lately. I have so much in my head and I was saving up for one big post about loss, love, grief and family and I just can’t get it together.

I also couldn’t get through an hour of writing without succumbing to tears and having to go sit in a quiet room to rock back and forth. So I will just start where I am and you can join me in this heartbreaking story. It may take a few posts before we get through it all.

My niece passed away on December 14, 2019, just 13 days before her 49th birthday, leaving behind two kids aged 13 and 11. The magnitude of her loss to them, as well as to the rest of us who knew her, is unfathomable. After losing her ability to really communicate day to day, I was able to talk to Maigen on the phone on December 4th for 2 minutes and 13 seconds from Marrakech. Thanks to Alison for making that happen. It was EVERYTHING to me to hear her voice even at just barely a whisper. I could hear HER and her smile and it relieved a big ball of angst that had built up inside me.

When I realized that it was the cancer progressing, and not the chemo doing damage (with hope of recovery), I made plans to get to Canada.

Maigen went into palliative care on a Monday, as I was flying to London. I arrived home Tuesday, rented a car, bought some warm clothes and went to see her on Wednesday. She knew me right away. She smiled that bright big smile that just radiates love and happiness. Then she gave me a sad frown. And then another smile, all the while communicating to me, “I’m so freaking glad to see your face, but I don’t think I’m getting out of here, and I’m thrilled you came all this way, holy crap I’m going to miss you.” All we really said out loud though was “I love you,” and “I love you, too.”

In the end it all just became a matter of sheer helplessness. There was a freight train bearing down on us with no escape plan and nothing left to be done.

I knew when I talked to her by Facetime at family Thanksgiving that we were in trouble. We stopped talking about our business then. Something she and I had been working towards for her future, we just set that down and didn’t go back to it. That was partly how I knew things were moving in the wrong direction.

We started talking about legal matters and practical things. I started to sense a shift in her. I started to panic and grieve and worry and cry. A lot. There was a lot of crying from October through my return home.

At one point we talked very frankly about what was happening. I had sensed that she was scared and she was surprised that I “got that” from so far away. She was terrified for a while but she got through it and in true Maigen fashion, she turned it around, made peace, and carried on to the home stretch with the most positive attitude. For my part, I started to cry and I’m not sure if I will ever really stop.

Eventually I took to texting her “I love you” every day. From way over there in Morocco, with nothing else I could do and words becoming harder to come by, all I could do was to tell Maigen that I love her, every single day.

I wanted her to know that she was on my mind. Every minute of the day I was thinking of her. Most days she would manage to text back, “I love you, too.” Texting was becoming harder for her so I would wait, and cry and wait for a reply.

One day she texted back “Have a safe flight”.

That was the last text I got from her, before she just couldn’t manage anymore. That text broke my heart, because I was flying home to say goodbye and I didn’t know if I was going to make it in time.

Maigen, my niece, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. I can’t really grasp the concept of her passing. It is too catastrophic for us.

The summer of 2018, I was able to come back in time to go with her to her last chemo. We drove the kids off to camp that week, and then spent some time just the two of us. Laughing and giggling and talking. And laughing. Man, we could laugh together, she and I.

I was able to be with her in the hospital after her mastectomy. And I spent a night with her later during her recovery. We spent some wonderful time together this past summer too. And we talked a lot over the months, planning our business together.

It’s hard to understand everything that happened that week she died because of jetlag and a culture shock and my fuzzy mind. I was 24 hours off a plane from Africa and driving along icy roads in a snow storm, following my nephew for safety, with brand new mittens and my head spinning. I spent those few days with her kids, her mom and Ian, and her twin brother, my nephew, Drew. And then we all just came back home, retreated to our corners, and waited out Christmas. CHRISTMAS, of all things. The holiday I already hated so much I moved to a Muslim country.

Maigen and I had a unique relationship. She was born when I was 6 years old. Closer in age than my own sister, Maigen and Drew were the littles at family holidays. They came with my brother to Christmas and birthdays. They called me Kaffi and made me laugh in the silly way kids do.

When they reached the age of 18, Maigen came out to Banff on a friends trip and we started into the next phase of our relationship as friends. We went on a few trips together – to New York City and San Francisco. She would come to Toronto and visit with me when she met her future husband and we had some really great times together then. She chose me to be her Maid of Honour and boy, what an honour that was. Once she was married and had her kids we moved on to another stage of our relationship as adult women.

Related. Forever bound together by family (drama) but more than anything bound together by friendship and love and a mutual admiration for one another that is rare to come by in this life. She was so much to me. She was one of my best friends, my business partner, my confident, my favorite person at any family event (sorry guys, but you know it’s true), She was my brothers’ daughter, someone for whom I needed to always be a role model, to protect, to guide, to cherish, to look up to.

Maigen took to sending me cards in Marrakech, filled with cinnamon hearts and crystals. She never missed the chance to send a hand written thank you. Never. She was everything to me. She was my person.

And now she has gone and I am living between stunned disbelief and heart breaking tears. When my father died in 2008 I decided as I stood at the family grave site that I was home free. I had suffered my fair share of loss in this life and there would be no more. Apparently I was wrong. Fate wasn’t having it.

I miss her. I will never know a love in my life like the love I had for her. My family grows smaller and smaller and more precious with each day. But I will never spend a day without her on my mind and in my heart. She was such a special person and the world is a little less because she is gone.

Everyone around me “feels” her, or has a song, or a number or something that makes them feel her nearby. I don’t. When my brother died, and when both my parents died, I felt SO deeply connected with them that is was almost spooky. But not with Maigen. I think she’s waiting till I’m ready for her. Because I still can’t grasp her passing. She’s waiting and she’ll come back to me one day, in a most unmistakable way to say, “Hi Kathi. I’m here. I’m with you now.” Until then, I’ll just try to come to terms with it all.

I do know this: It was the greatest honour of my life to be her Aunt. I am better for having known her. Things she said and did in this life directly impacted who I became as a person. I will always, always be a better person because of her.

Man that was tough. Thanks for sticking it out with me.