On January 16, 2020 at Elim Springs Retirement Residence, Etobicoke, my sweet mama passed away in her 95th year. Although I am broken, I feel relieved and grateful that I was able to be with her to the very end. This tremendously brave lady is now without pain and at peace. Predeceased by Stefan Dacko (2006), her husband of 45 years, survived by her only daughter, Nadia.
Mom was born in Bila, Ternopilski Region, Ukraine to parents Karol and Anna Zelenyj. She overcame many obstacles throughout her life - she lost her mom at a very young age and had to learn to face life’s challenges with little support; she survived life in a labor camp; she was a single hardworking mom; and in 1957, she packed a bag of clothes and bundled me up and made her way to Poland. She made many sacrifices to ensure that she gave me, and herself, a life filled with opportunity and freedom. In 1961 she met and married Stefan and in 1962, mom and I made our way (with a trunk full of clothes this time) to join him in Canada.
She wore many hats in her lifetime, far too many to mention. She was the best perohy (pierogi) maker on earth. Her patychky (city chicken) had a lot of followers. And don’t get me started on her love for KFC. Always had a cup of coffee at hand (four sugars and lots of that milk). She was smart, kind, funny, stubborn, fearless, the best listener, gave the wisest advice (although I sometimes doubted it), the biggest hugs always followed by “I love you my kitten”. She loved her garden and her home on Beresford Avenue and you could always find her out there cutting those hedges or sweeping that walkway! There was not a creature around that she didn’t love or that didn’t need her help. And believe me, there were many. Well, doesn’t that raccoon look hungry to you? And that cat just wants to come in for a minute (or more) and maybe he should stay a while (or forever). And that squirrel needs some cake, just look at her sitting there at the window. Oh, and look at that bird, he needs some cake too. And that dog needs me to stop and say hello and have a chat (no matter where or when). I was blessed to have her as my mom and my best friend throughout my whole life. She told me a couple of months ago that I was the love of her life. She was, and will always be, the love of mine.
My sincere and heartfelt thanks to Oksana Mikouliak and Stepan Bojagora of Elim Springs Retirement Residence for giving my mom a home when she had to give up her own, and becoming a family to her, and me, throughout her stay. To Dr. Harvey Pasternak, for always being there as my sounding board, for his honesty and compassion and for being my biggest advocate regarding my mom’s care. To all the irreplaceable caregivers at Elim Springs that looked after my mom throughout her stay there, I am beyond grateful for every moment that you dedicated to care for her. To Nicole, my LHIN(CCAC) care coordinator and Valary, my care coordinator at LHIN Palliative Care and the wonderful Care Partners Team 4 nurses who helped with my mom’s well-being in the last few weeks of her life, much gratitude for all that you did for her and all the support you offered me.
To Gita Lakhanpal at The Reitman Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, thank you for saving my life. By providing me with the tools, the information, amazing group support, you and the incredible team at The Reitman Centre guided me and gave me the strength to take this difficult journey with my mom. For helping me to understand that there is more than just anger, helplessness, sadness and grief when caring for a loved one suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. There are joyous, funny, precious moments and many life lessons along that journey.
Thank you to my small but powerful circle of angels, my beautiful friend Kim, for being my rock and for just being; my friends Baubie and Bruce, my family next door, for their comforting presence in my life; Stacey and Roger for their unselfish kindness and friendship; and to my friends April, Julie and Shari for giving me courage and wisdom to keep going.
My mom’s wishes were humble, and in respecting them, there will be no visitation and a private graveside service will be held at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery in Oakville. Arrangements entrusted to Turner & Porter Yorke Chapel Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, and if so desired, donations can be made through Mount Sinai Health Foundation to The Reitman Centre, The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, or a charity of choice. But I also know that my mom would have appreciated any simple act of kindness given to others. Or maybe just taking in every stray animal on the planet….