Visiting my mom was a reminder of what’s important — her wellbeing is mine, too

Utilizing IndigiNews’s wellness initiative funds to go home meant I got to see the person I care about most, and made me think about how we can be there for each other
Helen Deleon Hemens, pictured at home in “Ottawa” on Sept. 10. Photo by Aaron Hemens
Helen Deleon Hemens, pictured at home in “Ottawa” on Sept. 10. Photo by Aaron Hemens

During our team’s weekly Head and Heart check-in a few weeks ago, I got emotional as I spoke about my mom and her wellbeing. I’m usually pretty good at keeping my composure, but I couldn’t contain my emotions as I shared how I’ve been watching my mom’s physical and mental health deteriorate.

That morning — and the days leading up to it — I was dealing with a variety of feelings: guilt, regret, sadness and frustration. My mom hasn’t been doing well; she’s been experiencing loneliness, health scares and physical pain for quite some time now. For days-on-end, the only form of support that I could offer to her was FaceTime calls from thousands of kilometres away.

My colleagues encouraged me to go home and visit her. After the check-in wrapped up, I started looking for plane tickets back home to “Ottawa.” Before I purchased anything, Eden Fineday, IndigiNews’ Growth and Revenue Aunty, gave me a call. To my surprise, she told me that the Aunty Council had quickly and unanimously agreed to use funds from our wellness initiative to help finance my trip home. The wellness initiative is a pool of funds set aside that are used to promote and maintain the healthy wellbeing of our team when needed, a resource that, quite frankly, every workspace should have.

I’m so thankful that the Aunty Council was able to see the value that I hold for my mom. The swift action taken by the Aunties to look after me and care for me meant a lot to me — it still means a lot. I’m grateful for their kindness, compassion and generosity and for making my wellbeing an immediate priority for them. To know that I’m cared for and looked after by the people I work with, to the point they’re encouraging me to visit home on a trip they’ll help cover, makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger.

For just longer than a week in September, I was able to spend quality time at home with my mom and my family. As a stay-at-home parent, she likes to keep busy by cleaning every nook and cranny in the house. When she’s not doing that, she’s taking care of her plants and her garden, or she’s preparing meals for three hungry bellies.

Mom and Ate (older sister) Sara sharing wellbeing through laughs at the dinner table. Photo by Aaron Hemens
Mom and Ate (older sister), Sara, sharing laughs at the dinner table. Photo by Aaron Hemens

During my visit home, I spent my days chatting with mom and keeping her company as she worked around the house. To her dismay, I occasionally took some candid pictures of her, just to preserve the moment and her memory. 

The purpose of my visit was to be there for my mom. Her wellbeing is my wellbeing. She’s been through a lot and continues to fight an uphill battle with her health — every single day. I wanted to take her mind off of all the stress and pain she endures on a daily basis.

In 2008, when she was only 42-years-old, she suffered a severe stroke that almost took her life. 

I still remember that day. I was in Grade Six and it was right outside of my elementary school. My younger brother was feeling ill and he had asked mom to come and pick him up from school. I had a view of the school’s entrance from my classroom and I remember watching mom drive our family’s green Dodge Caravan up to it. I never saw her pull out of the entrance. Seeing her lying in a hospital bed in the emergency room later that day, in the most horrific state I’d ever seen her in, is a memory forever etched in my mind.

Mom on her laptop, scrolling through Facebook. Photo by Aaron Hemens
Mom on her laptop, scrolling through Facebook. Photo by Aaron Hemens

She spent four months in the hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in the back of her head. She never regained her ability to properly walk, she was never able to drive or go back to work. To this day, she still suffers from dizziness. She walks slowly and cautiously. She has to take a plethora of medicines daily. Every other week, she has to get her blood checked.

“I miss the old me,” she often says. “Why me? Life is unfair.”

To this day, I can’t fathom why my mom continues to suffer the way that she does. She doesn’t deserve any of it. But I’m grateful that she’s still here and that I got to spend time with her. She’s an amazing mom who cares about nothing more than her four kids. She continued to take care of us, even after her stroke. As she gets older and faces new health risks, it’s important for me to be there for her.

My mom is — and always has been — the most important person in my life. She brought me into this world and the best way to honour her is to make the most of the life that she’s given me.

Mom silhouetted in her room. Photo by Aaron Hemens
Mom silhouetted in her room. Photo by Aaron Hemens

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