Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, and good riddance

1) What did you do in 2014 that you have never done before?

- Gave birth to my second child, a boy, in June.
- Had five articles published in the Edmonton Journal in November.


2) Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will you make any more next year?

No, and yes. I think Dagmara Dominczyk said it best yesterday:

This year I am making New Year's Resignations. As in, I resign myself to the fact that I love French onion dip.


3) Any major life events happen in your life?

- June 1, my son was born
- October 4, my father-in-law passed away
- December 12, my mom passed away


4) Where did you travel?

To the hospital and back. Repeatedly. As in, I was on a first-name basis with the nursing staff at two major hospitals for the last eight months. And now, just 'cause 2014 wants to continue kicking me while I'm down, I'll be spending New Year's Eve alone in the hospital with my 7-month-old son, who was just admitted last night and will be on IV fluids for a few days.


5) What did you lack in 2014 that you would like more of in 2015?

A healthy self and a healthy family.


6) What dates from 2014 will remain etched in your memory?

See question #3.


7) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

See question #1.


8) What was your biggest failure?

Not telling my mom how much I loved her and how thankful I was for all that she did for me.


9) Did you suffer illness or injury?

I did, while pregnant, but it's hardly worth mentioning anymore.


10) What was the best purchase you made?

The health aids that made my mom's life a little easier towards the end.


11) What things / people inspired you the most?

My mom and my husband.


12) What things / people disappointed you the most?

The health care system. There's a lack of communication between nurses, doctors, patients, and family members. I often felt the doctors treating my mom were completely in the blind when making decisions and, because of this, I feel mistakes were made in her treatment. Repeatedly.


13) Where did most of your money go?

- Mortgage
- Daycare
- Hospital parking


14) What did you really get excited about?

Finally giving birth and relieving all that pressure on my bladder.


15) What song will always remind you of 2014?

Meanwhile Back at Mama's, by Tim McGraw




16) Compared to this time last year, are you:

- Happier or hardened? Hardened. I'm downright bitter these days.
- Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
- Richer or poorer? Poorer.


17) What do you wish you'd done more of?

Been more physically active.


18) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Simply existing in a sedentary lifestyle.


19) Favourite film this year? Least favourite?

Really enjoyed Philomena. Really did not care for American Hustle.



20) What was the one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Good health for me and the people I care about!


21) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Maternity wear. Even now, seven months after my son was born.


22) What kept you sane?

My husband, for being my rock. And my kids, for forcing me to get up in the morning.


23) Which celebrity / public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least?

Andrew Ference, the Edmonton Oilers captain, has such a great perspective on life, and he makes me want to go out for a jog or something.

The Kardashians, on the other hand, are his polar opposite.


24) What news story fascinated you the most?

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 on March 8, 2014.

Seriously. WHERE. IS. THAT. PLANE.


25) What sports moment did you like the most? Hate the most?

The best sports-related event from this year came when my husband actually took interest in the Sochi Olympics and looked forward to reading all the #sochifails tweets online.

The worst moment involves the fact that the Oilers continue to lose.


26) Who is your 2014 Person of the Year?

Hands down, my husband.


27) Who do you miss?

My mom, obviously.


28) What do you look forward to in 2015?

Better health for myself and all those that I love.

I'm just so ready for 2014 to come to an end.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family is a haven in a heartless world

I'm devastated and angry and filled with regret.

My mom's suffering ended at 5:00 pm on Friday, December 12, just as my daughter was finishing up her Christmas Concert performance in the school gym with her daycare friends.

I wasn't in attendance, but my sister-in-law -- who flew in from Phoenix -- recorded it for me on her smartphone.

Instead, I was in the ICU at my mom's bedside, holding her hand as she took her final breath on earth.

The day before, on the morning of Thursday, December 11, the nursing staff found my mom unresponsive in her hospital bed. She had stopped breathing, and then her heart stopped beating.

Emergency medical staff were called in to perform CPR. They got her heart beating again, likely breaking a few ribs in the process, I'm told. And then they put a breathing tube in place to keep her alive.

What they didn't know is that, the night before when I last saw my mom on December 10, she told me she didn't want to have surgery done to remove her colon. I had made it clear to her that, without the surgery, there was nothing else doctors could do for her. And she accepted that. She didn't want to suffer anymore, and she was ready to die.

So when the staff got her heart beating again the next morning and brought her down to the ICU on life support, they were unknowingly doing so against her will. (She had signed a Personal Directive back in May stating that, if there was no hope for survival, she did not want to be hooked up to any machines and be artificially kept alive.)

The ICU doctor explained to me that, in light of this information, it was considered abuse to keep someone alive on machines against their wishes. The doctor instructed me to advise the family of her situation and then, when I was ready to consent, they would remove the breathing tube.

I did notify the family, and our parish priest was called to give her the last rites. But I just couldn't give consent for them to remove the tube. I know it's what my mom wanted, but I wasn't ready to make that call.

The doctor said that they could slowly wean her off the tube overnight instead, just to see if she still had some fight in her and could breathe on her own.

But the next morning, on December 12, they told me she struggled to breathe when they were lessening her dependence on the breathing tube, which essentially meant there was no hope for survival without it.

The doctor reiterated to me that I needed to gather the family and make the final call to remove the tube completely.

It's worth mentioning that, when taking someone off life support, it's nothing like what you see on TV. It's not as though the doctors just flick a switch and the patient quietly and peacefully appears to drift off into an eternal sleep.

In real life, it can be horrifying.

While on life support, my mom was still suffering. She kept trying to tell us something, but of course she couldn't speak with the tube in place. And there was a lot of fidgeting on her part, as she kept trying to remove the tube herself, which is why they had to tie down her arms overnight.

So many images exist from those days that I'll never forget and will never be able to properly articulate in here.

And it was devastating for everyone, including my 85-year-old uncle, who is my mom's only living brother. He fainted in my arms at my mom's bedside.

It seemed as though the entire ICU medical team rushed to his aid at that moment, with my mom completely oblivious to what was happening right next to her.

The stress of seeing his younger sister like that was just too much for him, and he had to go home and lie down.

Finally, with some family members present, I made the call to have medical staff remove my mom's breathing tube at 2:30 pm on December 12. They had given her some morphine, but she was definitely still in a lot of discomfort when they removed all the tubing.

Without the apparatus in place, she again tried to speak, but nothing coherent came out. Surprisingly, though, she continued to fight and breathe on her own for another 2.5 hours. By that point, though, they had given her so much morphine that, I'm told, she hadn't been able to feel anything for quite a while.

I knew her final gasp for air was coming, but it was still devastating.

Even though I had already been mourning my mom for months prior to this moment, nothing had adequately prepared me for these events.

The doctor ruled her official cause of death as being Clostridium difficile Colitis.


My mom, with the loves of her life, Marina and Wyatt.
June 4, 2014

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The Obituary:

On December 12, 2014, Mrs. Adua Marghella (nee Barone) of Edmonton, formerly of Italy, passed away at the age of 78 years.

Adua is survived by her daughter, Giovanna (Steven) McGowan; grandchildren, Marina and Wyatt; sister, Filomena Miceli; brother, Raffaele Barone; stepchildren, Joe (Emma), Toni (Tony) Baviello, Mike (Fran), Josephine (Joe) Chiarello, Anna (Victor) Chiarello, Teresa (Rob) Cerisano; and Ida (Scott) Collingwood and their children and grandchildren. Predeceased by her husband, Attilio.

The family would like to extend their thanks to Dr. Dina Kao at the University of Alberta Hospital and the nursing staff at the Misericordia Hospital.

Prayers Wednesday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m. at Santa Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church, 9110 – 110 Avenue.

Mass of Christian Burial Thursday, December 18 at 9:30 a.m. at Santa Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church. Reverend George Puramadathil CFIC officiating with entombment in Holy Cross Mausoleum.

In lieu of other tributes, donations may be made to:
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada
3100 246 Stewart Green SW
Calgary, AB T3H 3C8

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The Eulogy (as read by my husband):

On behalf of my wife and family, as well as all the Marghellas, Micelis and Barones, I’d like to thank you all for taking the time today to recall the life of my departed mother-in-law, Adua Marghella.

Adua was born Adua Barone, in Lago Cosenza, Calabria, Italy on July 5th 1936. She was one of a set of twins. She lost her twin sister Libya in infancy.  She grew up in the Italian countryside, and it wasn’t until she was in her mid 20s that she immigrated to Canada.

Once here, she met and later married Atillio Marghella, a widower with a large family.

When her daughter, my wife, Giovanna, was born, she became known to one girl in this world as Mom. Twenty-nine years later, I would take her daughter’s hand in marriage, and I would come to call her Ma.

A eulogy is meant to be a final praise of the life of the departed, so I’ll start with an apology for my inability to deliver this in her language – mi dispatche, ma non e pausibile per me cause – that’s the extent of my Italian, mea culpa.

However, there is more that I should be sorry for. No matter what somber words I could deliver to you today, they simply cannot equal the testimony to her love of family that your presence here provides.

That being said, I’ll try.

Adua Marghella was the cornerstone of our family. Some of you here today know well the joy of her home for a Christmas Eve feast, or the Christmas afternoon lunch. It would be most inappropriate for me to brag, but I’ve enjoyed her cooking and her care for nearly a decade, and it shows.

Adua was happiest when the children were visiting – when Victoria, Spencer and Taylor were playing games and laughing in her living room or basement.

She found joy in being hospitable. She loved to serve her guests, and she delighted in hearing stories about how everyone in the family was doing.

Like most Italians of her generation, she kept a massive vegetable garden, of which she was very proud. She and her older brother spent countless hours over the years tending to their harvests. I’ll confess that when I met them, I couldn’t understand why they were so devoted to gardening. After all, why would someone work so hard when they can simply buy vegetables at a grocery store? Yet I learned from Adua and her brother what most of you here today have known for years; that once you’ve experienced a home-grown tomato, a grocery one simply will not do.

Adua will certainly be remembered in countless ways and for innumerable things by each of you, yet what I’ll remember most about Adua is her love. When her daughter invited me to move to Canada, it was Adua who opened her home to me. It was Adua who made sure that I was well fed and well looked after so that I could pursue my education and become a teacher. She was a beautiful, selfless and caring woman who taught me more about love, about family and about faith than I could have ever hoped to learn.

When my daughter Marina was born, Adua joined us at the hospital. Of course, she was barely able to contain her excitement at being able to immediately meet her neputa, yet even so, she saw it as her responsibility to be there for me. Was I going to be okay? Did I have enough to eat? Was I ready for what was to come? Adua was there to support us, simply because that was who she was most.

When I lost my father this year in October, Adua was under the care of Misericordia hospital. When I went to see her, and to tell her about my father’s passing, she told me how sorry she was, and she asked me if there was anything she could do. Even in her hospital bed she wanted to be there for me, to comfort me, to take away my pain. Even then, she was more concerned about mothering me, and protecting me, than she was for her own well-being.

Adua was a devoted, doting Nonna to Marina and Wyatt, so much so that when her health started failing, and it was clear that she would have to come live with us, Marina was overjoyed. Really, who could blame her? Her Nonna would be with her all the time. What could possibly be better?  I know that I have always found the greatest joy in moments when she was there.

Adua was so vital to the happiness of our family that we simply would not take our vacations without her. On numerous trips aboard Caribbean cruises, we saw Adua truly at peace on the balcony of her stateroom, taking in the afternoon sea air and the sunshine while dutifully praying her rosary.

In Cozumel, Mexico 
April 22, 2011

Her faith was important to her. Some of us have been known to tell people, in jest, that she worked as the Pope’s spiritual advisor – and yet, I find peace in imagining that perhaps now she has moved on to looking after the spiritual needs of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Often, the words we offer at a funeral can be words that are spoken too late. Yet it is in this that I can draw some comfort, for I had learned from my father the importance of always telling people how you feel about them and how much they matter to you. It was because I knew this that I told Adua, many times over the years, that I loved her. Joanne and Marina also shared their feelings with her.

Although Wyatt was too young to verbalize his feelings, the smiles that graced his face when his Nonna held him conveyed the love he keeps for her in his heart. But even if you didn’t say it directly, if you spent time with her, and you enjoyed her company, you too expressed your love.

The deepest regret I hold today is, in looking back, I’m certain that, though I told her how I loved her, I didn’t thank her nearly enough.

Ma, thank you for giving me my beautiful wife, for caring so deeply for our family. Thank you for your patience, for your strength, and for your faith. Really, thank you for my life. Thank you for everything, Ma. Our lives have been blessed because of you, and your passing leaves us deeply grieving. I know you are at peace now, but selfishly, I wish you were still here with us. I want to hear your laugh with Marina, see your smile while playing with Wyatt, or simply sit with you in silence and enjoy an espresso while reading the newspaper.

In closing, because of my own Irish-Catholic heritage, I would like to offer words that are often delivered at Irish funerals, and I hope that, as you hear these words, you can find some solace in them.

A Death Has Occurred

A death has occurred and everything is changed.
We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again,
That yesterday is over,
That relationships once rich have ended.

But there is another way to look upon this truth.
If life now went on the same,
Without the presence of the one who had died,
we could only conclude that the life we remember
made no contribution,
filled no space,
meant nothing.

The fact that Adua left behind a place
that cannot be filled is perhaps the highest tribute to her.

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost,
but never after the loss of a treasure.

By Paul Irion

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The Online Tributes:

December 23, 2014

As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
~  Joe & Emma

December 19, 2014

To all the immediate family: Adua was the most wonderful person I have met. It breaks my heart to know that she is gone. Our deepest sympathy go out to all of you. We are sorry we could not attend. We are thinking of all of you in our thoughts and prayers.
~ Love Gina Pino Valentini and Family

December 18, 2014

Sending you our deepest condolences on the loss of your mother, grandmother and friend. Remember the good happy times you spent together. She will always be in your heart. She will be your Angel looking down on you and protecting you.
~ From your Comare Maria, Anna,Vince Josie Cristello. God Bless!

December 18, 2014

La mia piu' sentite condoglianze a tutti in famiglia. Siamo vicini nello spirito e nelle preghiere. Che Dio via dia la forza di superare questo periodo molto difficile.
~  Antonietta Cristello, Edmonton, Alberta

December 18, 2014

To all of the families and relatives, we send our heartfelt sympathies and condolences. Our hearts go out to you all in this difficult time of sorrow of losing a Mother, Mother-in-Law, Sister, Zia and Nonna. She will always be in your hearts and watching over you. Take comfort in your wonderful memories.
~  Josie Saporito & Family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 18, 2014

Our deepest sympathies Joanne, Steven, and family, and all of the Marghella families. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
~  Harold, Jean, Corey, Shelley and family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 17, 2014

Steven and Joanne,
We are deeply saddened by your loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you an your families.
~  Knights of Columbus Santa Maria Gorretti Council 12836, Edmonton, Alberta

December 16, 2014

We are sorry to hear the loss of Zia Adua! She was a wonderful woman and will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you!
~ Love Rosaria and Luigi Cuglietta and family {cousins}, Kamloops, British Columbia

December 15, 2014

I am so sorry for your loss. Take comfort in the memories that will be with you forever. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family xo
~  Giuliana Vecchio, Burnaby, British Columbia

December 15, 2014

Zia Adua's gentle loving way lives on in all those who love her.
~  Tiff Pino and Family, Edmonton, Alberta

December 15, 2014

Thoughts and prayers to you and your family during this sad time. I'll always cherish all the great times we shared over many big delicious meals at Zia's house. Take care xo
~  Concetta Vecchio Britton, Airdrie, Alberta

December 15, 2014

We are sorry for your loss
~  Love Bonnie, Brad, Kennedy, and Dallas Scott, Spruce Grove, Alberta

December 15, 2014

We are so very sorry for your loss Joanne and family.
~ From your friends at HSLAS.

December 15, 2014

Heartfelt condolences to all of the family at this very sad difficult time.
~  Kerry Cuglietta, Edmonton, Alberta

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The above publicly-posted online tributes are only a fraction of the condolence messages our family received. We also heard from people via private messages, cards, phone calls, and home visits. Friends and family also brought food to our house and had flowers delivered here and to the church. Additionally, a number of people also donated to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation in memory of my mom.

 She would have been touched by the outpouring of love.

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"If you ever decide to leave me, I get to keep your mom."
- My husband, speaking in jest over the years. Sort of.

Snorkeling expedition, Cayman Islands
May 5, 2009