Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my mother, Elizabeth Linda Payne (nee Austin). We held a celebration of her life a week after her passing in London, Ontario and recorded a video of the speeches given that day, but I have not done anything with the video since. The time has come for me to once again remember my mom and to now share this video.
At the celebration, three speeches were given to honour my mom’s life as a colleague, friend, and mother. The speakers were Irene Kanurkas (speaking for Maureen Dey, as a colleague), Ian Underhill (long-time friend), and lastly, me, her son, Grant Spiller. Special thanks to my son, Ben Spiller, for recording and editing this video.
My mom’s passing hit me hard. Full of life and always looking forward to what’s next, mom did not notice anything amiss with her health until September 2019, when she was diagnosed with an undetermined, stage 4 GI cancer. Always optimistic, Mom was prepared for a fight, but this cancer was aggressive and by December 2019, it became clear that we didn’t have much more time with her. My Aunt Joanne (my mom’s sister) flew in from out west and joined Lisa (my wife) and I to spend the last weeks of my mom’s life at her bedside.
Although it was a very difficult time, there were treasured moments where we reminisced about family, the future, and her wishes. Together, we planned her Celebration of Life and made sure that we knew of her final wishes . I am grateful for that time spent with Mom and her sister, Joanne, between moments of rest and the ravages of this horrible disease. When she passed, it still came as a shock. Death feels so final.
Writing my speech for Mom’s Celebration of Life, and getting ready that day to present it, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am not overly comfortable speaking in front of crowds and found it especially difficult at a time when I was still grieving. As much as I tried to speak clearly and calmly, you can hear the emotion in my voice at points during my speech. Watching the video today, two years later, I am amazed that I got the words out as well as I did, and although it made me teary, it also made me smile, and I think I did Mom proud.
I find it both ironic and strangely comforting that my mom passed on the anniversary of my father’s death over 20 years prior. My father, Aidan Spiller died on January 5, 1997 from complications related to a brain tumour. Part of me hopes that my dad was there for her when she passed. Certainly, I know my sister, Allison, who we’d lost to cancer 3 years prior, would be there for her.
Last night, Lisa, my Aunt Joanne and I had a video chat to remember my mother. As we did the day we said good-bye two years ago, we toasted Linda Payne, to a life well lived. Cheers!