Once upon a time, I met a woman named Gil. She was an unexpected addition to my life, an add-on to a cherished relationship. I was polite during our first meeting. I behaved as graciously as I could, considering I didn’t trust that she would stick around. She was my Dad’s new girlfriend, and while my Dad was a handsome and charming fellow most times, he also hosted a dark, brooding side. When he slid into that state of dispiritedness, the demons that haunted his past eventually escaped into the present, and he would become a miserable man. I knew from experience it would take a strong woman to put up with this type of episodic behaviour. So, when Dad brought Gil into my life as an unexpected gift, she was a gift I didn’t ask for, and one I thought was fleeting at best. Boy, was I wrong.
My mom died twenty years ago, and in her absence, she has missed watching my kids grow up and graduating, she has missed chiding me over my tattoo’s, she has missed encouraging my pursuit of writing, and she has missed meeting her great-grandchildren. My mom missed so much by dying too young. Yet, despite the absence of my mom, I was fortunate enough to share all of my family’s milestones with a wonderful woman named Gil.
This once upon a time stranger, became a treasured friend enriching my life with her never-ending wisened words and exuberant laughter. Our relationship deepened even further when my Dad became housebound with cancer. After his treatments were done, and all hope for recovery was gone, the only wish he had left in his heart was to die at home. Gil made that final dream come true, and while I often went to help, it was Gil that bore most of the burden. She never complained, and her empathy for him was inspiring. It is only in the most difficult of circumstances that we finally come to understand the true nature of people in our lives. During this terrible time, Gil was a stone of strength.
So, it is with great sadness that in the midst of this chaotic world today, the best gift my Dad ever gave me became tattered and worn, a thin shadow of her former self. She was diagnosed with cancer, and in only a matter of months, it had extensively invaded her body, and quite soon after, death rapidly spirited her away.
Gifts, as I have learned, come in all shapes and sizes, in all styles and wrappings, in all colours and patterns, and the best ones are people. In honour of my step-mom, Gil, I hope that you become one who steps forward to offer themselves as a friendly soul in difficult times.
It changes lives. God bless you, Gil.