They say people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Mary came into my life to help me, stayed for a few seasons and will remain a friend for a lifetime.
When I first found her on Kijiji over four years ago, Mary was one of the few Filipino women who responded to my ad. My requirements were specific, and she wanted me to change them. Her English was not the best and she came across pushy. Despite that I decided to meet her, and ended up hiring her.
My mother, in her late eighties moved in with my brother, late-sixties, because her Alzheimer’s made independent living impossible for her. But my brother had started having mini-strokes, which combined with other factors gradually eroded his health, both physical and mental, and he became unable to take care of himself and mom.
Enter Mary, relaxed, loud and bossy. She came in the afternoons, after her day-cleaning job, and take over the household. She prepared and served light dinner, cleaned and tidied up, made sure everyone took their medications, took mom to the bathroom, cleaned her up, put her to bed and left. She kept an inventory and let me know what was needed and when –consolidating my grocery and pharmacy shopping for two households – and reported on any undesirable situations.
A year later, when my brother suffered a cardiac arrest, spent three months in the hospital, and was transferred to a nursing home, mom moved in with me. It was a pleasure to have someone reliable, capable and positive to lean on at this difficult and heartbreaking period in my life. Between my job, and biweekly visits to a nursing home 45-minutes away from my house, I had little time to spend at home with mom. Mary was there in the afternoons and evenings to take care of her, and me, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, suggesting changes to keep mom – with her worsening physical and mental impairments – safe in our two-storey house. She even encouraged me to get away for a few days to rest, which I was able to do, only because I had Mary’s reassurance: “Don’t worry Nora, I’ll take care of everything.”
And she did.
When I was away, she slept at our house – answered mom’s calls in the middle of the night – served her breakfast, and went to her day-job from our house.
When it became too unsafe for mom to stay at our house, and she moved to a nursing home, Mary went to the nursing home punctually every afternoon, to spend the evenings with mom, help her with eating and generally make sure everyone there did what they were supposed to do. Her texts arrived like clockwork. “Mom finished her dinner.” “She in bed. I’m off now.” I had a job, and two loved ones with deteriorating health in two nursing homes that were over one-hour driving distance apart. Time became more and more scarce. But I knew I had Mary, who I could depend on to be with mom, rain or shine.
Mary and I became like sisters. We talked and shared our problems. She had her share of issues, and listening to hers sometimes made mine look easier. But Mary refused to be a victim. When the going got tough at her son’s house where she was living, she moved out.
No nonsense and decisive.
When mom needed to be taken to the dentist, podiatrist or optometrist, I made the appointments in the afternoon, so Mary could help me. She was an expert in getting mom in and out of the car; and into and out of her wheelchair. We even took mom to visit my brother a couple of times: a long and arduous task, which Mary did stoically.
Mary had a keen eye in noticing problems as they started – a cold coming on, a urinary tract infection, agitation, constipation and a million other things our flesh is heir to – and nipping them in the bud. She would solve the problem herself, or alert the staff and request appropriate action.
She even became an advocate for other residents and their rights, and fed them when their loved ones weren’t there, and the staff was too busy.
When my brother passed away Mary consoled me. When I moved, she helped me.
She had mentioned to me over the years that she wanted to go back to the Philippines to see her daughter and grandchildren, but had never bought a ticket or given me a date.
Until she did.
In January she told me she had bought her ticket for February 18th.
For over 4 years Mary worked two shifts a day, one shift of cleaning houses in the morning and another shift of care giving to my mom in the afternoon and evening, six days a week, through statutory holidays, snow storms, ice pellets, freezing rain, heat waves and smog advisories. During these four years she took a total of maybe 10 days off: four Christmases, a couple of day trips, and a few doctor’s appointments. She always notified me a few days in advance of her upcoming absence. She was dedication incarnate.
I was Mary’s main employer. She was my best friend. And now she’s gone.
I should be grateful she came into my life. But right now I’m sad she left it.