Dear Momma: Here’s what happened in 2018

Hi Momma.

I know we talk a lot, but I wanted to take some time to lay out everything that’s happened since the beginning of March. It’s been such a busy, heartbreaking, extraordinary time.

Most mornings I wake up and forget that you’re not here.

Sometimes you’ll have visited me in my dreams – your way of stopping by and saying hello. I get glimpses of your life in New York or you’ll tell me about the old classmates of yours that you’ve decided to haunt.

I see your smile and hear your laugh and I when I touch you, it’s real.


Momma, I feel like I could pull you back into life.

Your magic, it burns brightly, everywhere.

You died on Thursday, March 8th. International Women’s Day.

I was holding your hand while Suzan Maclean held the other. I think that she, like me, doesn’t really believe in a world without you.

The day I flew back home, I took a lot of your clothes. I took your light blue jean jacket and your tight black pants. That striped heart sweater that you bought in Brooklyn and your gray crop-top turtleneck.

A few of your sweaters still smell like you. Sometimes I hold them and breathe deeply.

Because I wear your clothes every day, all of my friends are obsessed with your style.

Many of them also have your postcard pinned up in their offices. They tell me that you inspire them to take risks, to wear colour, to try something new.

Hearing this and writing this makes me cry.

In April I joined a gym to learn how to get strong. You would have laughed because when I went in for my assessment, I couldn’t even do one squat. But working slowly and intentionally with my trainer Jules I have developed a new-found respect and appreciation for my body.

And I am getting strong.

Last week I deadlifted ninety kilograms. That’s one hundred and ninety-eight pounds! I know you’re probably thinking, “I just got her to stop running marathons through the mountains, and now she’s doing this?”

But you know that it’s your spirit that drives me.

Thanks for that Momma.

I am sorry to say that I’m still not doing yoga but I do keep your beautiful bag in my office so that I see it every day. When I do start a regular practice, you will, of course, be the first to know.

I’ve started seeing a wonderful grief counsellor who has helped and continues to help me so much. I was seeing her every week and now go about once a month. I also have an amazing “grief community” here in New West, made up beautiful, strong and inspiring women.

You would love every one of them.

They are often who I call when I’m can’t drive because I’m crying too hard, or when I’m paralyzed by grief in some grocery breakfast aisle, or when just the thought of living in this world without you is too overwhelming for words.

Their love helps me.

So does that of my friends. And of Kate and Jessi. Marc.

They all hold me close when all of my pieces are breaking apart.

I cry almost every day.

I hope this doesn’t make you sad. Because I know that the only reason it hurts this much is because of the depth and the beauty of our love.

I think a lot about this when I run. There is a tree down at the river boardwalk here in New Westminster that I call “The Momma Tree”. It reminds me so much of you because of its vibrant colours and delicate leaves. Every time I run by it, I whisper a hello to you and high-five your branches.

Your magic, it burns brightly, everywhere.

This November I ran the Fall Classic 10k and placed ninth. It was one of the harder races I’ve run because I had just had gum surgery two weeks prior and couldn’t exercise at all in the lead up, because it might disturb my graft and slow my recovery.

Not to point fingers, but this gum recession is definitely genetic and it’s definitely from your side of the family.

At first I was so disappointed and I cried at the finish line. I’ve been chasing the elusive sub-40 time for so long and I felt so tired of trying and failing. But Marc held me and helped me.

I know you’ve always loved how delicate he is with me.

Here are some other things that have happened this year, so much with our strength and love:

  • In May, I attended my first New Westminster Community and Social Issues Council Committee meeting. That same month I also started working on my first municipal political campaign, helping my incredible friend Nadine Nakagawa get elected to city council.
  • In June, I presented at Pecha Kucha and spoke about you and grief and love and compassion. Marc and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary.
  • In July, I filmed my favourite story of the year at the Sharing Farm in Richmond. In total this year, I wrote over 70 stories for United Way and shot 15 videos.
  • In August, we welcomed beautiful Loic Stewart to the world, and I have loved every moment of being his aunty. I pour love into him. Just like you did with us.
  • In September, I joined the New Westminster Hospice Society’s board of directors. I was the first woman up Grouse Mountain for United Way’s Tech Grind, even though I couldn’t officially compete. (Yes Momma, I am that competitive.) I hosted a fun night of improv with a local feminist collective, MCed a wedding with twelve hours notice and managed to take another selfie with my mayor and council after presenting about United Way Day.
  • In October, I moderated the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce’s All Candidates Debate which was exhilarating and if there is just one thing I wish I could have had you there for, this was it. I started my Compassionate City Crew training with New West Hospice and hosted a very fun Halloween dinner party. You would have loved Marc’s and my costume – I was a lawyer and he was the devil, so we were The Devil’s Advocate.
  • In November, I took a stand against racism in my city, attended the annual civic dinner, completed my hospice training, moderated a panel on brand building and philanthropy, shared a story at The Flame about my absurd decision to get eyelash extensions and hiked around Whistler with Marc for our anniversary.
  • This month there are story performances and holiday get-togethers and both Kate and Jessi are making your gingerbread and I can’t stop crying whenever I sing along to the Barra MacNeils’ Christmas albums.

Just know that I think about you every day. I miss you every day. I see you in a soft rose gold sunset. In the wind that blows the hair from my face. In my dark roots that always grow in no matter how often I dye my hair blond.

You’re the blood in my veins, the green in my eyes. My smile. My laugh. My long legs and cold hands.

Momma, I carry you close.

And I will never stop missing you.

I wrote you this letter even though I know you know all of this.

Because you’re in the sky.

Sea. Land.


Mommm. Momma. Momma.

You and your magic are everywhere.

Oh, my heart. My heart.

I like knowing where others have been.

A woman’s perfume that lingers. The faint trace of a cigar, long-extinguished.

It makes me think about all of the lives I may never know.

All of the hearts I may never touch.

This morning I woke to a stretching sun. A ball of bleached blues and sherbet hues, melting its way across the frozen skyscape.


Before the herald of the first alarm, I silently stole from my scattered dreamspace, and crept into the cool dark of the house.

Nymeria yawned and quietly mewled from her corner of the chesterfield, her eyes squinting in discomfort as I turned on one of the small side lamps.

The soft light illuminated the many discarded tea mugs and half-finished books populating the table space of the room.

(Hallmarks of a busy workweek and my inability to ever finish a drink.)

I drank a demi-cup of sugary, dark coffee, and read from one of the books, marvelling all the while at the stark beauty, ablaze, across the New Westminster waterfront.

I then slipped into my beautiful new running pants, laced up my runners, and set forth to immerse myself in the golden glow of a world, seemingly reborn.

There are times in my life, where I am unable to stop myself from crying. Tears stream easily, unencumbered from the corners of my eyes. They are fat pearls of emotion – of happiness beyond equation.

Beyond compare.

And this morning I cried.

Racing time.

Racing an untameable sun.

I felt as though I could keep moving forever. That I might blend my body to my path, eternal.

Returning home, I caught a fragrance of a women. And for that moment, I breathed a life; a mind, body and soul – now vanished, or perhaps vanquished – within the thrum and hum of a waking day.

And I was hit with a sense of nostalgia so strong, I quaked.

I was five and cuddled up next to my mother as she read aloud to me on my bed; I was ten and exploring my grandparent’s basement bookshelves, as the dust swirls sparkled in the amber light; I was nineteen and working late closing shifts, experimenting with eye contact and fake names; twenty-four and riding my bike down Hagley Road under the muggy, Brummy sun; twenty-nine and dancing my heart out, my hair stuck to my back, and my calves like two hot rocks; thirty-five and forty-four, and sixty-seven; I was past, present, and yet-to-be present.

Who are we all?

Why are we here?

From where are we going?

Infinitesimal sums of beauty and strength, of wonder and light, of magic and marvel, of love, of love, of love.

So just keep breathing.

And let in the light.

These summer nights

I am seventeen years old.

My hair is very long, and its natural chestnut brown fights a never-ending battle against the bottle red I desperately want to be.

My sister is fifteen years old.

She also has long hair, much thicker than mine, into which the sun has burnt beautiful blond streaks, evenly, so that it reflects both a silver and gold shine under the street lamps, at night.

It is the last week of May, and the time of day is so late that it is now in fact early, and I am not sleeping.  I haven’t slept properly is many weeks.

To keep the insomnia madness at bay, I am reading in bed, curled tightly around myself, like a croissant.  My bedroom door slowly opens, and Jessi tiptoes into my room.  She is wearing tight jeans and a man’s dress shirt, oversized on her tiny frame.

Tonight her hair sits tucked under a stained trucker hat that she insists on wearing, and indeed loving.

She looks stunning.

“Let’s go for a drive,” she says, as she crawls over my blankets to lie down next to me.  I close my book and turn over, facing her.

“Where do you want to go?” I ask.

“I don’t care.”  Jessi pauses as she snuggles down into one of my pillows.  She rubs her face aggressively into it, like a cat.  “How about the airport?”

“Sure,” I say.  The airport is a good choice.  It means highway speeds and the opportunity to gawk at the perverse grandeur of the wealthiest neighbourhood in Vancouver.

I sit up and put on my glasses; lean over and pick up the sweater lying on the floor next to the bed.

“What are you reading?” Jessi asks.  She gets up and walks over to my closet, absentmindedly flipping through shirts and skirts.

“Dracula,” I respond.  After I put on my sweater, I pick up the book and offer it to her.  She shakes her head.

“Is it good?”

“Yes,” I tell her.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I say.  Come on, let’s go get the spare set of keys.”

The warm, wet air whips around the car as we trace the lines of the Fraser River.  Jessi has her feet pressed up against the glove box, her knees scrunched up under her chin.  Tiffany blasts from the CD player and she and I sing as loud as we can, belting out the lyrics with a zealous, almost manic energy.


I know the words much better than she.  She mumbles her way through the bits she is unsure of, only to sing twice as loud during the chorus. I call that “pulling a Mr. Bean.”

“It’s not that I don’t know the lyrics,” she tells me as she shifts herself around in her seat, tilting her face up, so she can meet the rushing night winds and the rushing night, head on.  “I just like mine better.”

She cracks herself up.

It is in these moments that I feel what can only be described as complete love for my sister.  I want to wrap up my soul with hers and drive on, keep moving past the trees, mountains, water, and stars, until we might float up and away.  Away from our earthly bodies, gravity-bound, held down.

Growing up, our mother would always tell us the story of how when we were small, she visited a psychic with a friend.  The first thing the woman told her during her reading was that she had borne twin girls.  When my mother told her no, the woman was confused.  Instead of continuing with the reading, the woman reiterated her previous statement.  In response, my mother stated that she had three girls.  Her two younger daughters, born two years apart, almost two years to the day, who were birthed at the same hospital, on the same floor, in the same room, assisted by the same doctor.  The psychic nodded and smiled. She now understood.  These were her twins of which she had spoken. 

We were her twins. 

One of us had just waited a little longer to come out and play.

As we pull up to the international departures drop-off, I look over at my twin, a girl sewn up in a beauty intricate and rare, bronze skin, eyes of onyx, fingernails of jade, and all I want to do is tell her that I love her.

She looks at me, smiling, her voice feverish.

“I never want to go to school again,” she says.  “I wish we could just do this forever.”

I put the car in first gear; slowly ease my right foot off of the clutch, while gently lowering my right onto the gas.  I look at her and smile back.

“Where to next?”


To the night, to the trees

I am eighteen.

It’s summer.

I have just finished a closing shift and am walking home because I have no patience to sit around and wait for the night bus.

My legs are tired after eight hours on my feet, but walking feels good; I am exorcising the ache from my limbs.

The sidewalk is shaded by old elms that whisper to each other in the late-night breeze.

The moonlight is splintered by these long-armed giants, so my path is guided by the soft glow of the streetlamps.

It always feels so much more romantic than I think it should.

I take off my tie, and unbutton the top of my blouse.

Roll up my pants.

I like the feel of the light breeze along my collarbones, my bare wrists.

And I think of a boy.

I imagine him saying my name.

When I get home I change into clothes as light as air.

My bedroom is still hot from the now-lost sunshine; the memory of its heat has settled, and nestled itself in every nook.

A phantom warmth.

I open the windows as far as they will reach. I take a deep breath, and smell the sweet scent of night.

My sister is away for the weekend, so I am alone.

In the kitchen I look at the photos taped to the fridge; it’s like my family has been blown far and away by Aeolus’ winds, and my heart tweaks.

I make peppermint tea, and sit in the quiet of the living room. My cat Sophie perched at the window sill, her copper eyes brilliant, but still.

She too is listening to the whispering trees.

I want to pick up the phone and talk.

I would like to talk to the boy.

Feel his hand on mine.

Time passes.

My tea cools, and my eyelids start to droop.

I leave my mug, half-drunk on the floor.

As I walk about to my bedroom I realize I have once again forgotten to water the plants.

Tomorrow, I think.

My room is cool, and smells of silence.

I close the window, but not entirely. A sliver of moonlight shines through my curtains – a bolt of lightning etched into the centre of my bed.

Under the blankets I let out a small sigh.

Tomorrow I will eat cherries for breakfast, I whisper.

To the boy.

To the night.

To the trees.


I can be your hero baby

When I was in grade five, I was singled out as a “gifted” student.

Because of this, I was shipped off every Thursday to room 320, in order to spend the day away from my friends with the biggest losers I had ever met.

(Or at least the biggest losers in my highly-evolved eleven-year old opinion.)

And no doubt, all of those kids were looking at me in the exact same light.

The condescension hung heavy in that classroom, let me tell you. Like a really snotty cumulus cloud.

We were all there to participate in a program entitled “COW: Changing our World.”

This was horrible.

I was missing double gym to spend my day talking about environmental and political actions that, sure I cared about, but didn’t really care about.

Not more than kicking ass in frisbee death anyway.

One afternoon, after emptying our juice boxes and wiping the peanut butter from our mouths, Ms. Marvin asked us to sit in a circle and tell the group about our heroes.

I panicked.

What kind of question was that?

I can remember wracking my brain for strong female icons that I could proudly say were my heroes.  I admired Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedman, but they weren’t mine. But I admired them to such an extent that they were pratically mythological, made-up figures and they existed for me because of everything my mother had told me about them, and the few books I had found in my library.

The same for Roberta Bondar and Nancy Green and Nelly McClung.

My beauty mom and beauty sis. Two women I admire greatly.

Each name stuck in my throat like a ball of hair; I could feel my tongue trying to push words to the front of my mouth, but nothing would come but nerves and peanut butter breath.

I cannot remember whom the first three students named.

Perhaps this is because of the enormity of Justin’s (number four’s) pick.  He sat there in his green club-med sweatshirt, tapered jeans and classic bowl cut, so confident, so ready.

He was more than prepared to announce to the world his hero.

I remember he even inhaled before speaking.

“My hero is Jean Chretien.”

I want to embellish here and say that I came close to passing out upon hearing this, but it’s not true.  I might have been a drama queen, but I knew where to draw the line.

But still – Jean Chretien?

How could anyone in their right mind possibly say that he was their hero?  It certainly didn’t make things better when the girl next to him (I’ve since forgotten her name) declared that her hero was Kim Campbell.

The only thing running through my head was: WHO ARE THESE WEIRDOS?


From library and archives Canada
The usual suspects. HILARIOUS side note: when my mom was working in Ottawa in the early 90s, she was walking down the street one night and a woman yelled out "There's Kim Campbell!" This has kept me laughing for years.


Now to be fair, in retrospect, I can (kind of) understand the reasoning behind an eleven-year-old girl’s decision to pick Kim Campbell.

Being the first female prime minister of Canada definitely propels you into a certain category of individuals (despite the fact that her party had already been decisively trounced in the elections).

But didn’t she listen to Double Exposure? They made fun of her all the damned time!

I do not recall the way the rest of the day panned out; I was too unsettled, too shaken up.

As I walked home, scuffing my tennis shoes and tripping over their laces, my mind raced with makeshift answers.  Justin was not the athletic type – his legs were even skinnier than mine (and I was of such a stick-like nature that I could see my heart beating every time I emerged scrubbed-pink from the bathtub), so it was acceptable that he wouldn‘t pick a sports figure.  He didn’t seem one to idolize film stars or literary giants.

And because of this, I began to question the defining qualities of this commonly used label.


If someone could say that Canada’ twentieth prime minister was their hero, what did that mean for the term itself?  Could just about anyone be a hero?  What were the specific requirements and did they all have to be met?  How could Jean Chretien be so special to one little boy?  It was obviously not a choice born out of passion.

But then again maybe he was just a HUGE fan of the Constitution.

Looking back, the best that I can come up with was that this choice was one of utmost pragmatism.

On the first day of class Justin had said that he wanted to be a politician; somewhere along the line he must have realized that in order to accomplish this, it might be good to look up to someone who had already achieved this position.

And now of course, I know that there is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, if I could go back in time I would say party on Justin.

(Liberal) PARTY ON.

But that night I sat at the dining room table with my feet tucked neatly into the folds of my knees and slowly mashed my tofu around my plate.  My mother, used to my pickiness, sat across from me and told me to stop molesting my bean curd.

“It’s not the tofu,” I said.  Because in fact it wasn’t the tofu, as I really liked tofu (and still do to this day.)


“Well then what’s the matter?”  My mother crossed her arms and looked at me, cocking her head to one side, making the dangly parts of her earrings knock together like wind chimes.

“Some stupid idiot in my class today told everyone that Jean Chretien is his hero.”  I rolled by eyes.  My fork clanged onto the plate as I let it slip from my fingers.  “Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?”

I knew that my mom didn’t want to laugh.  But she was one with whom I would listen to Double Exposure on the CBC. She also read Frank Magazine (in fact she had been lampooned herself in the rag) and like her daughter, thought that this was just too much.

My mother let out a wallop of a laugh.


Her whole body shook like an oversized maraca.

So I let loose too, laughing with an intensity that felt unnatural, but I felt like if I laughed hard enough the uncomfortable pit buried deep inside of me wouldn’t sprout leaves and grow into a tree.

As long as I laughed I could think Justin as a strange anomaly and continue to think of heroes as easily definable, realistic beings.

But eventually, I stopped.

And I, on this day, April 30, 2012, would like to extend an apology to both Justin, and the unnamed Kim Campbell fan.

In an age of Jersey Shore and Kim Kardashian and Twilight – I’ll take their choices.

But I”ll probably still need that juice box.

Because although I might take it, it’s still not going to go down any easier then it did the first time around.

And for that I blame Double Exposure.

(And my mom.)