Her Final Days

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By David Blaikie

Seneca House Books
Ottawa, Canada © 1990


This small book was written in memory of my mother, Eva Ella Blaikie, who was born at East Mines, Nova Scotia, on April 5, 1910, and passed away at age seventy-nine on July 4, 1989, in a home for the elderly at Halifax. She died from the complications of AIDS. In 1985 she was among several patients infected by contaminated blood in hospital at Truro. Only she knew the pain and undeserved shame she felt as she went through the advancing stages of the then misunderstood disease and died in the end from its ravages.

Yet it was an experience that all in the family shared, in particular my sister, Karla, a nurse, with whom my mother lived until a few months before her death. As the only family member who did not live in Nova Scotia, I was less affected by her ordeal than my sisters. Yet even I felt seared by it. Perhaps others who have shared similar experiences may find some value in these recollections.

The poems include several references to a meditation group I belonged to for thirteen years. During that time I made frequent visits to New York, where students gathered twice each year from around the world. I am certain the spirit I experienced in those years was also with her in her final days.

Her Final Days - Download PDF

David Blaikie
Manotick, Ontario
February 2009

June 23, 1986
August 6, 1986
August 8, 1986
August 11, 1986
May 13, 1987
June 3, 1987
June 10, 1987
October 23, 1987
December 25, 1987
March 17, 1988
June 10, 1988
September 19, 1988
November 15, 1988
November 25, 1988
December 16, 1988
December 17, 1888
December 18, 1988
February 1,1989
February 19, 1989
March 20, 1989
March 26, 1989
March 27, 1989
March 30, 1989
March 31, 1989
April 1, 1989
April 2, 1989
April 5, 1989
April 9, 1989
April 15, 1989
April 29, 1989
June 11, 1989
June 20, 1989
July 2, 1989
July 3, 1989
July 4, 1989
July 5, 1989
July 6, 1989
July 7, 1989
July 8, 1989
July 9, 1989
July 11, 1989
Her Final Days - PDF

As the invader has passed
invisibly over the border
into her veins, the news
now slips
without resistance
though the telephone
and stops in my ears:
the blood she got last year was bad …
 one of eight
infected by a single donor.
So far she is only a carrier,
Karla is saying,
no sign of the disease.
I struggle
to absorb the words.
Five years maybe …
research …
seems confused …
When she comes on the line
she cannot hear and
I have to shout I’m sorry.

Next August 6, 1986

The white Chrysler appears
at the airport and I put
my bags in the trunk.
We drive in a sultry sun
to the country,
Karla, my mother and I,
past fields that are green
and dotted with Holsteins,
through leafy turns in
the woods.
“I’m doing good,” she says,
“So nice to have
the summer at home.”
The trip is fifty miles
with a stop for fruit
at Milford. Not once
does she mention AIDS.

Next: August 8, 1986

She sits by a window
reading, and watches
the cars go by, knowing
the neighbors know by
her car in the yard
that she is home again.
It is the best of times.
It is the worst of times.
She can no longer live
here alone,
not even in summer.
The house passes to Fran
in September.

Next August 11, 1986

The old Johnson
place across the road
has become the manse of
the new Baptist church.
It sits on a hill
the family church
down the road by the mill.
She looks up from a book
as a man in shorts
comes out to mow the lawn.
“They say Pastor Gary
is nice enough,” she says.
“Good at getting money
out of people anyway.”

Next May 13, 1987

May 13, 1987

The news gets bleaker
with each phone call.
My sister
grows slowly desperate.
All the nursing homes
are sympathetic.
None will take her.

Next June 3, 1987

June 3, 1987

The plane
that brings us home
settles like a bird
with expiring breath
on the long black
runway at Halifax.
Angela asks whether
Grandma will die
while we are there.

Next June 10, 1987

We eat Chinese food
on Spring Garden Road,
a ceremony of clinking
forks, rustling napkins
and eyes that betray
with silence all that
cannot be said with words.

Next October 23, 1987

Each week I scan
The Record
and wonder how long
it will be before
her name too
appears in
its grim little
page of obituaries.
Each name I recognize
pulls the moment closer.
Today it is a
long-forgotten teacher,
the one who
beat the Wright kids
so cruelly.

Next December 25, 1987

Her voice is
surprisingly strong
this Christmas morning.
To my astonishment
she can hear
almost everything I say.

Next March 17, 1988

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