It is more than two months since Mom died. Life isn't over but I am still snatching at thoughts as if they are moths circling my head. Other than a couple of emails, this is the first time I have written anything.
Family Caregivers' Network put a piece in their July newsletter, honoring both me and Mom. This is the link:
My sister, Nancy, and I traveled through BC last week. I had itchy feet and just wanted to go. While on that trip, I saw for the first time the destruction of the pine forests. The mountain pine beetle has run rampant through the province and will continue munching its way across Canada. It was a sad sight. So, my first writing attempt circles around death. Not surprising.
"My mother died on May 3, 2009 and I am struggling with my feelings. She shared her memories with me until I glowed with her life, suffered her pain and carried her with me.
Her death was relatively fast but her life was long. She stood like a lodgepole pine in a forest of elders.
When she died, the first thing I wanted to do was get into my car and drive. My sister and I did just that and drove through our province. Imagine my amazement when I found reasons to grieve for both my mother and the province she loved.
The mountain pine beetle has always lived in the lodgepole pine forests of British Columbia – the female chooses the already sick or damaged trees, exudes pheromones to attract other beetles to the tree. Her larvae live on the phloem, the bark of the tree. The tree responds with toxic pitch but the beetles are tricky. They carry spores of a blue-stained fungus, which are released as they bore into the tree. The fungus puts a stop to the spread of resin and allows the beetles to keep tunnelling. The tree ultimately dies.
Mom's killer arrived in the form of pneumonia. We responded with antibiotics, our personal toxic pitch but her killers mutated, spreading their own form of blue-stained fungus. The host died.
The pines' memories live on in the seeds in the cones – which need fire to germinate. The dead pines looming above the cone, which waits on the forest floor, are the fuel. Lightening – fire – cremation – new life.
Now the mountain pine beetle has taken the forest over. Our fire suppression program and our warmer winters have allowed the destruction of our pine forests to spread and run rampant. I saw the photos, I read the newspapers, but I had no idea what the death of an ecosystem looked like.
I gazed up at red-needled branches, blackly twisting against the sky. I thought of my mother – how I had my hand on her chest when she took her last breath. Her death signaled the need for her batch of seeds to take over."