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In Memory of My Mother

Eileen Dorothy O'Brien Duc was born on January 8, 1939, in Montreal, QC, Canada.  She was the natural daughter of Margaret Elizabeth Pratley and Roger Hammerbeck of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

She wasn't born into wealth or comfort. Being the product of a relationship that was not the norm in 1939, she began life the hard way, and seemed to pass much of her life that way.

Mom married Kenneth Henry Duc on May 09, 1955, in Long Point Military Chapel, in Monteal, Quebec, Canada.  She was 16 years old at the time!  I came along a year later.  She really was juat a child when she had me, so we learned together.  We were friends, confiantes, and most importantly Mother and Daughter.  We'd share late-night giggle-fests, and midnight baking fits.  I'd cook and she'd wash up.  She was always there when I needed to talk, have a good cry, or just needed a sounding board.

We did not know it until 1974, or so, but she had and was the genetic carrier of Steinert's Disease, a form of Muscular Dystrophy.  She grew up with one half-sibling, her brother Bob.  My Mom was a strong woman.  Many would have thought otherwise; but, they'd have been wrong.  She raised two boys who had severe symptoms of their M.D.  I was lucky being a girl and the first-born, I didn't inherit the gene or the disease.  Aside from the three of us, she had four other pregnancies 3 of which were full-term stillborns.  She never complained.

My youngest brother Christopher Stephen Fred Duc born July 12, 1960, in Montreal, was so physically and mentally handicapped that he could never be toilet trained.  She changed his diapers for 18 years. Until September 21, 1978, when he left us.  Our Dove flew home to rest.  He'd fought the hard fight. He was never supposed to have survived a year, let alone 18!  He was a fighter too!  I thought I'd lose my mind when we arrived at the hospital that day and I could hear my Mom all the way from the front door to where she sat wailing in the Emergency Department, "My baby's dead!!!"  Parents are not supposed to live longer than their children.  It's just not right!

I was 7 1/2 months pregnant at the time, my daughter Kristy Monika Carrie Duc was born about 1 1/2 months later.  That seemed to help Mom.  She had a new grandchild, her only grandchild,to focus her love and Kristy filled her with so much love, and the need to go on. The drive to keep on fighting.  Battling against life's tragedies.

Her marriage wasn't ideal.  She spent years with a man, because she loved him, who at that time was bad to her, and us.  I never understood her devotion to that marriage.  Things seemed to have worked out better for them these last three years. Imagine spending only 3 out of 43 years happy?!  I can't. But that was Mom's choice and she made it.

After the Ice Storm of 1998, here in Quebec, Mom seemed to have caught a daught in her lower back.  She complained of the pain frequently and I kept asking her to go to the doctor, and she'd refuse.  She kept getting more and more ill.  I had just had major surgery and was laid up with an infection in the surgery.  Usually I'd go over to Mom's daily to check on them. Unfortunately, being ill, I could not go over for a bit.  When I did get over there, it was to find a Mother that was very ill!  She'd slumped over in her chair and wasn't all that coherent.

I immediately asked my Dad what had happened to her and why hadn't he called me.  He was distraught and I just ran next door and got my things to go to the hospital with her, after calling 911.  We didn't have to wait in the Emergency Room they brought her right inside.  They inserted a catheter and drained 2,000cc's from her.  She'd not gone in a while it seemed.

That night when we left she was talking, albeit weak, and giggled with us.  The next morning I was awakened to a call from my Dad saying the hospital had called and that Mom had gone into respiratory arrest and they'd had to resussitate her.  When we arrived there she was on a resussitator and completely comatose.  They moved her to Intensive Care.

For a week, I found out what it is to live in a hospital.  I'd get there with Dad at 7 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m., when they'd kick us out.  I'd have slept on the floor if they'd have let me.  During that week we visited Hell and Heaven respecitvely.  Mom crashed twice and they coded her and she'd be resussitated and brought back.  (Dad couldn't let go at first and then neither could I!

At one point, about the end of the week, I was alone in the room with her. I tried to get her attention, and leaned closer to say, "Listen Mom, I want you to stay. To get well and come home.  But if you have to go, it's O.K. We'll be O.K. I'll take care of Ken-Ken for you!" They were the hardest words I'd ever said!

Finally, the doctor asked us to make a decision regarding resussitation.  He wanted her off of life-support.  I knew she wouldn't make it, but prayed she would.  The morning of April 24, 1998, we got there early.  Mom was concious and happy that they were going to take out the breating tube.  She had tubes in every place possible, I could understand how relieved she be to have one out!  They took out the breathing apparatus at about 9:00 a.m.  Mom was even laughing with us!

Once she'd had some time to accustom herself to no tube. She talked to us.  Asking who was at the hospital.  I brushed her hair and told her she was beautiful.  She was.  She smiled and nodded.  She was surprised to hear that my husband had taken the day off of work to be there.  I think at that point she realized how serious this was.

We'd made an arrangement with the doctor that should she begin to experience difficulties breathing, he'd medicate her so she could pass on peacefully.  At about noon, we'd sent Dad home for a rest at eleven o'clock, I had to call Dad back because they'd had to medicate her.  She'd begun thrashing about and was obviously in bad distress.  We again watched those monitors, as if they could give us some good news.  But it only got worse.

At 1:60 p.m. Mom seemed to gasp and left. Just as she was gasping I grabbed her hand more tightly and said, close to her face, "Go into the light, Mom. Christopher is there waiting for you." And she did.

I've never known such emotional pain was possible.  It even eclipsed the pain I suffered when we lost Christoper!  And I'd thought that impossible.  I'd lost so much that day.  At least she's not suffering anymore.  Neither of them are.  Now they're together again.

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